Cleaner, more sustainable and more inclusive: that’s what Building Back Better looks like, according to Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
At its annual conference this week, which took place in the digital space, chairman Bob Beveridge said: “This conference comes at the end of a year in which our focus has been on survival and recovery.
“But now it’s time to look forward to the next stage: renewal and growth.”
“We know that the economic impact of Covid has disproportionately effected young people, women, and those working in some of the sectors that keep our community alive, like hospitality, retail, social care, and support services.
“The future for Berkshire must be a future for everyone, reflecting and respecting our diverse community.
He noted that “while Wokingham is probably the UK’s most prosperous local authority, Berkshire’s five most deprived areas are actually among the most deprived in the whole country.
“And while there are good jobs for the highly skilled, many in our workforce find themselves in poorly paid, insecure roles, so in-work poverty is a real issue.
“As Berkshire moves forward we have to simply have to level up and address these issues so that no-one is left behind.”
Chief executive Alison Webster, whose first day in the role was on the first day of the first national lockdown, set out the LEP’s role for “a connected, collaborative, and skilled Berkshire” with a future that is “better than it was before – more sustainable and more inclusive.”
And on the government’s Levelling Up Fund, she said: “Whilst we recognise that levelling up in essential for the UK, it still important that more thriving areas like Berkshire are supported to stay at the forefront of the UK’s competitiveness.
“Areas like Berkshire need to succeed to enable the UK as a whole to succeed.”
To discuss inclusivity, the keynote speakers were Deborah Campbell, Nicola St Louis, Emma Gardner, all from Born Equal Consults, which helps businesses become more sustainable and inclusive.
A panel including Sarah Atkinson, director of environmental, social and governance at Newbury-based software business Micro Focus, Sonya Barlow, founder of Like Minded Females, Emily Orme, head of housing at housing association Housing Solutions, and Maurice Minette-George, acting deputy headteacher at Brookfields SEN School, discussed ways in which employers could open doors to more women, and to workers from ethic minorities, poorer backgrounds, or those with disabilities.
Maurice said five percent of adults with learning disabilities were in work, while 75 percent wanted to be. “Employers need to leave altruism at the door,” he said, and treat people with educational needs as an untapped solution to the recruitment crisis.
Sonya, meanwhile, urged business leaders to “listen to the next generation of workers.”
Next month, the LEP celebrates its 10th anniversary. The chief executive said that in that decade the LEP had invested over £186 million in infrastructure – which had leveraged a further £250 million of private money.
A video celebrating some of the LEPs achievements over the past decade can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1F84dCs7Us