Meet the Board Directors – Andrew Cleaves
Andrew Cleaves has recently changed his role on the LEP Board from ‘Improving Connectivity’ to ‘Improving Skills’. Andrew spoke to us the challenges ahead and the achievements he is most proud of.
What is your role in the LEP?
I have recently changed my role on the LEP from Transport and Digital Connectivity to leading the Skills agenda. I see the issue of providing skills that lead to jobs as probably the biggest issue facing GBSLEP. We have a vibrant economy and a wonderfully young, diverse and talented population, but we are not giving enough people the skills they require and businesses are seeing a gap in their ability to recruit. With a number of great companies choosing to come to our region and with the game-changer that is HS2 which will bring tens of thousands of jobs, there’s a real need to bring education and business closer together, so that we can increase the quality and quantity of skills provision, with an eye all the time on employability. I hope that the LEP, as a broad partnership between local authorities, business and the education sector, can enable that gap to be bridged.
What LEP achievements so far are you most proud of?
Working on the transport brief I am proud of two things in particular. Firstly, it is great that the GBS team won a competitive bid to get the National College for High Speed Rail located in Birmingham. We are now working to build and staff the new college that will provide high level skills to thousands of people, with the likelihood of long term, challenging and well paid work for many years to come.
Secondly, I have been pleased to have been involved from the start in the creation and development of Midlands Connect, which is a midlands-wide initiative to get an economically-driven plan for rail, roads and air, working with all the relevant agencies like the airports, Highways England and Network Rail. It’s a really exciting opportunity to make our mark by putting in place a masterplan for transport and has been supported by the Government with £5m of funding. I have high hopes that we can make a real difference for future generations by getting a coordinated, long-term view of transport needs that will bring in much greater investment.
What is the next big challenge?
For me, increasing and improving skills provision that gets many more people into jobs is the big challenge. It’s exciting and daunting, but is critical if we are to realise our potential. I believe that we need to involve businesses (large and small) much more closely in the process of education and I hope that the upcoming Apprenticeship Levy will encourage just that.
Why are you involved in the LEP?
I think the LEP is a great way to bring business, education and local authorities together in a powerful way. Our partnership in Greater Birmingham and Solihull has yielded impressive results and, I think, contributed to the increased inward investments and the buzz that is around the region. There’s more to go for, but I feel the LEP has contributed to a growing momentum.
What’s your favourite place in the LEP area?
My favourite place is the canal system around Birmingham. I love the fact that this extensive network is now mostly well kempt and that you are able to get round the city along canal paths. It’s fascinating that you always get a different view of the city from the canals as they are 5m below street level. I’m also a big fan of the Botanical Gardens.
What is your favourite piece of music and book?
My favourite book is an easy choice as I love Catch 22. I remember reading it for the first time in my teens and I was bowled over by the irreverent humour and happy/sad take on human foibles. Even today I think it has relevance to the way we approach the impossible choices we can face in our lives. I couldn’t possibly say what my favourite piece of music is as I enjoy a range of music so much. I suppose the big challenge in your 50s, as I am, is to keep an open ear to new music and not get caught in the past.