Learning and skills vital

20/4/11  ''Aerial views of Portsmouth and the surrouning areas viewed from one of the Portsmouth Naval Gliding Centre's Motor Gliders.'Pictured is the M275, tipner and the Port Solent tip''Picture: Paul Jacobs (111408-42)
20/4/11 ''Aerial views of Portsmouth and the surrouning areas viewed from one of the Portsmouth Naval Gliding Centre's Motor Gliders.'Pictured is the M275, tipner and the Port Solent tip''Picture: Paul Jacobs (111408-42)
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History will probably best remember 2011 for the Eurozone crisis, but the ramifications will certainly continue into this year. And the tough world economy will mean that it is even more important than ever to make 2012 a year in which we focus on jobs, education and increased skills to improve our global competitiveness.

So I was pleased to tell the recent Open for Business conference in Portsmouth about the exciting plans there are for the city with £1bn of infrastructure projects earmarked.

These range from the redevelopment of Tipner to the city centre and down to the seafront.

The business people I talked to at the conference were very encouraging about the city.

A survey by The News found that two-thirds of people think the city is better than it was 10 years ago. The aim over the next decade must be to improve it still further as a great place to live, visit and work.

I believe the future for the city is in high technology, high ‘value-added’ industries and jobs. And it is good news that we have the UK headquarters of IBM, the university and companies like the space technology firm Astrium. Further good news on this front is that another space company has recently announced that it is relocating to Portsmouth.

Average earnings in Portsmouth are now higher than in the rest of Hampshire. But it is essential that we equip our children with the skills to be able to take these jobs. The announcement of an extra £2.5bn for city schools under the Lib Dems’ Pupil Premium policy is therefore welcome. There are now an extra 100,000 apprenticeship places too.

But youth unemployment is always a problem in a downturn, so I was also pleased with the announcement of £1bn package by Nick Clegg to help tackle it.

This year is likely to be difficult. But investing in education and skills will stand us in better stead to tackle global challenges both in 2012 and in the future.