by Coun Nick Worth
Portfolio holder for commercialisation and growth, South Holland District Council
At our most recent business breakfast one of our main topics for discussion was the government’s consultation on their industrial strategy.
Feedback from our local businesses is that for more rural areas such as South Holland a focus on transport infrastructure needs to encompass rail and bus services as well as the physical network.
The historical disparity between investment in London and the rest of the UK clearly needs addressing. South-East Lincolnshire business leaders are intending to form an influential lobbying group on issues such as infrastructure, skills and the labour shortage which is already forcing them to look more at automation and robotics. They will be meeting with the elected MP for South Holland and the Deepings soon after the General Election in June to ensure their concerns are addressed.
It was also noted that the school education system has little or no linkage to the world of work.
There is no effective national system to bring employers into the classroom. Meaningful work experience opportunities for teenage school children are rare, Holbeach Academy and Spalding High School are notable exceptions.
Further support for the agri-food and food production sector forms a substantial part of the economy. Further support for this strong sector would be our priority.
The National Centre for Food Manufacturing in Holbeach is a good example of a response to these issues. NCFM specialises in part-time further education and higher education for the sector and is viewed as a national exemplar. It is at the forefront of research with a focus on robotics and automation. Some 250 businesses support approximately 1,800 employees on courses annually.