Strategy sets out ambitious plan for a booming future in the Kingdom
“Our vision for Fife is a vibrant economy where its business environment inspires people to create jobs - making Fife the best place to start and grow a business.”
This is the view of Chris Parr, chairman of the Fife Economic Partnership, who spoke to the Press following the launch of an ambitious new 10-year strategy for creating an energised economy in the Kingdom.
The blueprint has been developed jointly by Fife Council and the partnership and sets out how both organisations believe Fife can recover from the global financial crisis; tackle barriers to employment and help local businesses take advantage of growth opportunities.
Mr Parr said: “In developing the strategy we consulted with firms to make sure our new plan correctly identified the issues and challenges that Fife companies currently face.
“For me this is about trying to see how we can turn challenges into opportunities over the next 10 years. We want to create a sustainable economy and provide jobs and to do this it’s important to have a good vision statement. We have this in the Fife Economic Strategy 2013-2023 which sets out three strategic outcomes.”
The three strategic outcomes are: a skilled workforce for the future - removing barriers to employment; a competitive business location (a key challenge for Fife includes regenerating the region’s key town centres) and business growth.
Mr Parr said to achieve the first outcome of creating a skilled workforce for the future, Fife’s key challenge is to: respond to the increased demand for work placements and jobs because of changes to welfare reform, tackle the problem of more than 3000 18-24 year olds receiving Job Seekers Allowance and looking at the need for more science, technology and maths skills.
He said: “We need to increase the range and number of jobs to cater for more people looking for work.
‘‘We need to look at increasing degree level qualifications and vocational courses to help young people in Fife get the best start in work. We also need to give them the skills they need to access job opportunities or to start a business.
‘‘It’s about involving local businesses to support this through offering work placements and apprenticeships. We need to try and inspire young people to be ambitious because there are parts of Fife where we have three generations of families that have never worked. To have young people achieving long term work success is a big part of sustaining economic recovery.”
Mr Parr said regenerating Fife’s key town centres; achieving at least 85 per cent coverage of next generation broadband and improving Fife’s planning process are key to achieving the second outcome in the strategy.
As part of this, it is planned to invest £1 million in Kirkcaldy to help revitalise its town centre.
“Consumer requirements are changing,” Mr Parr said. “The demographics show there are lots of small businesses in Fife - more than 90 per cent of businesses employ fewer than 50 people so smaller businesses are hugely important. We need to build on successes like Amazon where Fife can be seen as one of the best places to do business.
“Fife Council is doing a lot of work on this. We have to use every tool at our disposal and this is why Fife needs to be well connected and properly networked - increasing the broadband coverage will help to achieve this. We also have to ensure Fife’s planning processes are the best to support local businesses.”
He continued: “There is also a focus on town centres - we have to adapt to changing demands. People are shopping online and buying goods on the internet in the early hours of the morning.
‘‘Many are no longer getting on a bus and going into the town centre - there are also some who prefer to shop in a retail park. “My personal view is we need to change people’s lifestyles, getting them to live closer to town centres as they will then be more likely to shop in them.”
For the third outcome Mr Parr said the key challenge is to provide more than 9000 jobs to exceed the employment levels before the global financial crisis, getting Fife businesses to export more and to create new business start ups and attract new investors to the Kingdom.
“We need to encourage Fife businesses to export more as this will help business growth and there are ongoing activities to attract new investors to invest in Fife.”
He added: “There are challenges that lie ahead and this plan is ambitious, but I believe it is absolutely achievable. We need to work together with our partners to help get people energised and actively support the strategy.”
We need skills to the jobs
Fife Council leader Alex Rowley believes a closer working relationship between Fife schools and the newly merged Fife College will be key to the economic success of the Kingdom.
He said: “We need to make sure that Fifers have the skills to do the jobs that are being created here. In some cases companies are looking well beyond Fife, Scotland and the UK to find the workers with the skills they need. That cannot be right when we have people here with the will to work, but not the skills which are needed locally - and that’s where our schools and colleges have key roles to play.
“I believe the recent merger of our colleges is a real opportunity for Fife to take a fresh look
at the way we are developing skills and training.” He added: “It’s the responsibility of us all – Council, schools, college and Fife employers – to keep investing in education if our workforce is to grow and develop.”
Hugh Logan, principal and chief executive of Fife College said: “Fife College has a significant role to play in supporting the successful delivery of the economic objectives for the region. Having brought together two well established and successful organisations into one, we have an even greater opportunity to deliver skilled, ‘job ready’ graduates to support high value sectors.
“Working closely with Fife Council, our local schools and businesses is key to ensuring we provide clear pathways from school into further and higher education and deliver a curriculum that develops the skills and knowledge needed to support employment here in Fife.”