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Margot James, Executive Chair, comments on the Government’s new Net Zero Strategy

Expert comment from Margot James, Executive Chair at WMG, in response to the Government’s Net Zero Strategy.

Margot James, Executive Chair at WMG, University of Warwick 

"The decarbonisation of personal transport, by moving to Electric Vehicles (EVs), will be a major contributor to delivering on this target as EVs become a viable option for the majority of consumers. Viability depends upon EVs being affordable and drivers having access to a reliable network of fast charging in urban and rural networks"

UK Government Net Zero Strategy

Find out more about the new National Skills Framework that has been created by WMG, The Faraday Institution and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult: New National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum could put the UK at the forefront of the green revolution News


Apprenticeships Minister opens £10 million WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre, at the University of Warwick

DAC Opening

On Thursday 17th June 2021 Gillian Keegan MP, the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, formally opened the WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre, at the University of Warwick.

The WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre was awarded £10 million funding from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP).

The new Centre provides apprentices with the opportunity to study on degree programmes to develop the skills needed by advanced engineering and manufacturing companies.

The Centre offers degree apprenticeship training programmes for up to 1,000 students at a time.

WMG and the rest of the University of Warwick already provides 20 Degree Apprenticeship programmes across five academic departments for 791 students, one of the largest groups of degree apprenticeship courses at a Russell Group university.

Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan said:

“It was such a privilege to open the WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre at Warwick University. Apprenticeships are a brilliant way for people of any age to launch new careers or progress in their industry, with opportunities at a range of levels across a variety of exciting sectors.

“As a former apprentice myself I know first-hand the lifelong passion for learning an apprenticeship can instil. It was wonderful to speak to Beverley and Rishi and hear their passion for where their apprenticeship journey will take them. I look forward to seeing how the centre will support the leaders of tomorrow to get the skills they need to succeed.”

The degree apprenticeship students will complete their studies at the University campus in conjunction with their employment at companies throughout Coventry and Warwickshire and the West Midlands.

Rishi Chohan, Degree Apprentice from the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said “It was a great pleasure to show Gillian Keegan MP around WMG’s fantastic Degree Apprenticeship Centre. As a final year degree apprentice, on the Applied Engineering Programme, the skills I have learnt at WMG, University of Warwick, have helped consolidate and facilitate my development as an engineer progressing into leadership at the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

Beverley Ngo, Degree Apprentice from Jaguar Land Rover, adds: “It was a pleasure to attend the official opening of the WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre. I am a second year degree apprentice at Jaguar Land Rover and part of the first cohort of Digital Apprentices on the “Digital Technology Solutions” course. It was an honour to meet and show Gillian Keegan MP around the fantastic building that I will be learning and developing knowledge in such an important area of technology.”

The innovative new Degree Apprenticeship Centre has a unique learning environment with open spaces for collaborative and individual work, technology-enabled seminar rooms and a purpose-built, multifunctional, laboratory for activity based teaching and learning using state of the art equipment. The WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre is the first stage of a future Degree Apprenticeship complex at the campus to train students in a range of Degree Apprenticeships.

At the official opening WMG Executive Chair Margot James said:

“We are delighted to welcome Gillian here today to officially open the WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre, and recognise the importance of our vital work with industry. Our Apprenticeship Centre provides the opportunity for apprentices to study whilst working in their companies, upskilling our workforce and bringing tangible benefits to advanced engineering and the manufacturing sector, to ensure the UK remains competitive”

The University of Warwick’s Vice Chancellor Professor Stuart Croft:

“Warwick’s degree apprenticeships are founded on passion, knowledge, and a commitment to innovation. We demonstrate this in the way we work with industry and other partners and our degree apprenticeship students.”

“We encourage gifted apprentices from all backgrounds to share our passion who want to have the opportunity to earn as they learn and pursue exciting careers in their chosen field from day one of their time on these programmes.”

“Employers also value the passion and innovation of these students who will help close the skills gaps and inspire positive change both inside and outside the workplace.”

“As a university we are deeply committed to continue to expand our routes to degree qualifications.”

Marion Plant, Board Director and Chair of the CWLEP’s Productivity and Skills Business Group, said:

“This is a significant project funded by the CWLEP and fits in perfectly with our Strategic Reset Framework to provide high quality jobs and levelling up opportunities by supporting the development of higher-level skills.

“It is vital for the long-term ambitions of Coventry and Warwickshire’s economy that we retain talented people in the area by ensuring employers have the skills their future workforces will need to drive forward the innovations for which we are renowned in automotive and advanced manufacturing, to be globally competitive in an increasingly digitised world.”

Work-based learning has always been a key part of WMG’s philosophy they are passionate about offering apprentices an integrated experience and supporting companies with their workforce strategies – be it recruiting the next generation of talent or upskilling or reskilling existing employees to support career paths and changes in business need.

Businesses today are rapidly changing and the skills they require to develop and grow are changing equally as quickly. People are already doing jobs that did not exist 10 years ago and the events of 2020 have precipitated even greater change. Working collaboratively at a broader level with industry, other training providers and specialist bodies, WMG is continuing their pioneering approach to develop programmes and identify priority areas that will help fill the existing and emerging skills gaps as they arise.


WMG celebrates Athena SWAN silver success

Athena SWAN Silver LogoWMG is delighted to have achieved an Athena SWAN Silver award in recognition of its commitment to ensuring inclusivity, diversity and equality of opportunity for all staff.

The department previously held a Bronze award, but the Athena SWAN panel unanimously agreed that WMG’s submission, in November 2020, now met the criteria for Silver and evidenced clear positive impact from its activities. The panel said: “The submission reflected on key challenges from previous submissions, actions that led to improvements as well as highlighting new challenges and opportunities to gender equality work moving forward.”

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to recognise and celebrate good practices in higher education and research institutions, towards the advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all.

WMG’s Executive Chair, Margot James, said: “I would like to congratulate the Athena Swan team for all their hard work and dedication in putting an excellent submission together, made possible by the collective work by colleagues to bring about the changes that have enabled the team to generate a winning submission.

“WMG strives to be a diverse and inclusive academic department, that has a global reach, and we are making good progress as the awarding of a Silver Athena Swan confirms. Our commitment to ensuring inclusivity and equality of opportunity for all our staff is fundamental to our values.”

Professor Robin Clark, Dean of WMG, added: “We are all delighted to have achieved Silver Athena Swan status.

“Our people are at the heart of what we do, with inclusivity and equality embedded in our values. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure WMG is an equal and progressive environment for all of our staff.”

Key highlights for the department include:

  • Implementation of a new Flexible Working Policy
  • The establishment of a job post specifically focussing on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and co-ordinating the Athena Swan action plan
  • The funding of three females to attend Advance Higher Education’s Aurora Programme– a leadership development initiative for women
  • Enhanced people development activities for all of the WMG community – both staff and students (both formal and informal)
  • Very successful internship programmes, with two former female interns joining WMG as postgraduate researchers
  • More female staff overall - an increase of 5% of female staff – and a greater representation at Executive level
  • BAME female staff levels rose from 6% in 2016 to 10% in 2019
  • More consultation with staff – including the improvement of two-way communication within the department

Find out more about Athena SWAN at the University of Warwick here.

Find out more about joining the team at WMG here.

Find out more about Athena SWAN here.

Mon 10 May 2021, 16:00 | Tags: Athena Swan Our People Careers Margot James

Expert comment, from Margot James, on Regional GDP figures

WMG Executive Chair welcomes strong return to growth and calls for focus on innovation, investment and skills as Q3 West Midlands GDP shows highest fall across England and Wales compared to the same time last year.

Picture of Margot JamesMargot James, Executive Chair of WMG, at the University of Warwick, commented on the Regional GDP figures released today by the Office of National Statistics, saying:

“It’s great news that the West Midlands made a strong return to growth in July to September 2020, with growth of 16.8% compared to April to June 2020, three months that covered much of the first lockdown.

However, despite this return to growth, the data shows our regional economy, was the most affected by the pandemic of any part of England and Wales, with regional GDP down 11.3% compared to a year ago.

Much of this was driven by our manufacturing sector being down by 25.2% versus the same period in 2019, although the sector made a quick return to growth when compared to the previous quarter, with an increase of 18.5% against April-June 2020.

The rapid return to growth shows the resilience and strength of our regional economy and I’m confident that our makers have continued to recover over the months since the period covered by this data.

However, the scale of the economic shock in our region caused by the pandemic highlights the importance of supporting growth in the West Midlands by investing in the skills, research, and development and infrastructure needed to support entrepreneurs, attract investment and prepare businesses for the challenges of digitisation and the transition to a zero carbon economy. Attracting major investments like a Gigafactory to our region will be key to a strong recovery.”

Notes: The ONS release of Regional GDP is available here:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/economicoutputandproductivity/output/articles/ukeconomylatest/2021-01-25#regionalgdp

Wed 05 May 2021, 16:51 | Tags: Margot James

“Closing the gender gap in tech and championing digital skills”

Edited version of a speech given, by Margot James, to the Westminster eforum Conference on Women in the Tech Sector

Tuesday, 15th December 2020

Margot James“Closing the gender gap in tech and championing digital skills”

Sadly, there is a broad, systemic issue in the Tech sector.

Nowhere near enough women are attracted to Tech, study Tech, work in Tech or reach the top in Tech.

The figures are stark.

At GCSE, 21.5% of Computing students are girls. Just 14.5% of those taking A-Level Computing are female.

Only 18% of undergraduate Computer Science students are women.

17% of British tech workers are women, and just 13% of IT directors.

Nor are there huge signs of change – the proportion of women working in ICT is up just one per cent in the last decade.

When the scale of the problem is so great, change feels difficult. But we know it can happen. In politics, just 60 MPs were women in 1992. Today, there are 220.

We all know that the Tech sector has cultural issues around work-life balance, stereotyping, harassment and all the other evils of discrimination. But so does politics!

What do we need to do in Tech to fix the problem?

First, unblock the pipeline. One reason women are under-represented in Tech is that Computing is seen as optional.

Why isn't Computing a core part of the e-bacc? Why is there no Computer Science element of GCSE combined science?

Change that, and you'd have a massive impact in the gender diversity of Computing education.

We need to promote Computing as a career option. 16% of female students have had a career in Tech suggested to them. That has to change.

Schools and universities must go out of their way to recruit, promote and support women.

At WMG, University of Warwick, we emphasise recruiting women to our Cyber-Security Degree course, and work with employers to ensure women apply for our digital degree apprenticeships.

Programmes like Athena Swan have helped identify the steps we need to take, whether supporting staff returning from a career break, developing a flexible working policy, or offering mentoring and promotion application training to female staff.

Similarly, as a minister, I was a major advocate of the Tech Talent Charter. This focuses on straightforward measures businesses can make to recruit women – like measuring application rates, or ensuring you have more than one woman on job shortlists.

Next, we have to support women who are making a difference.

Whether calling out bad behaviour in companies, showing how algorithms can discriminate against women and minorities, or demanding change in workplace culture and 'crunch' - women in Tech need our support.

My experience is that only sustained pressure leads to change.

As a minister, I led the Government agenda on online harms – an issue that disproportionately affects women. There was a lot of nervousness about holding the big Tech companies responsible for online. Despite this, we managed to get the policy changed; and we published a white paper in April 2019.

Progress has been very slow since then, and in my experience if you take your foot off the pedal, you stop moving forward.

But although too slowly, things are changing for the better.

Globally, last year the Tech sector saw the steepest increase of all industries in the share of women on boards.

Among smaller Tech companies, over 40% of employees in technical roles are women. These firms will be drivers of change as they expand.

There's a strong business case for change. MSCI's Gender Diversity Data report showed that employee productivity was higher in companies that had three or more women on the board of directors.

If we widen the pipeline of women in Tech, attract and recruit women to study and work in Tech, and support women in Tech when they raise issues like workplace culture and gender pay gaps, then the future is bright.

Fri 18 Dec 2020, 10:20 | Tags: Athena Swan Margot James

Celebrating 40 years of WMG – from autonomous vehicle testing to digital healthcare

Margot James MP and Professor Lord Bhattacharyya 1st September 2016.

WMG an academic department at the University of Warwick was on this day, the 1st of October, 1980 started by the late Professor Lord Bhattacharyya.

Professor Lord Bhattacharyya sadly passed away on the 1st March 2019. His long and highly accomplished career in engineering and manufacturing began with his studies in Mechanical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, before he moved to the UK to further his studies. After working at the University of Birmingham he was persuaded by the then Vice Chancellor at Warwick, Lord Butterworth, to move to the University of Warwick where he started WMG.

Over the years he went on to become a Government adviser to Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Industry Ministers and Prime Ministers.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick, Professor Stuart Croft comments:

“I’m sure I speak for the whole Warwick community when I say how fantastic it is to see how Professor Lord Bhattacharyya’s vision for WMG has flourished to become not only an exceptional part of our University but also our whole region, by connecting engineering and manufacturing industries with academia. I look forward to seeing what is in store for WMG in the years ahead, as it continues to go from strength to strength.”

The new Executive Chair for WMG is Margot James, who was appointed in April 2020, comments on the achievements so far and plans for the future of WMG.

“We operate on a huge scale today but our mission and vision is the same it was on that first autumn morning. The challenges we are addressing now are different to those of 40 years ago; the need for a zero carbon industry is at the forefront of so much of our work. Our experience and expertise have never been more relevant and vital.

“Whether educating the next generation of engineers or developing the technologies that will change our world, the challenges we embrace today will shape the next chapter of the WMG story. We have the creativity, the insight, and most of all, the people to make the next 40 years of WMG even more exciting and impactful as we build a smarter, greener, cleaner and healthier world.”


WMG celebrates #1OfTheMillion Day

WMG is proud to be supporting the WISE #1OfTheMillion Day (Wednesday 10th June).

The WISE campaign celebrates the one million women who are now working in core STEM roles across the UK.

Margot JamesWMG’s Executive Chair Margot James commented: “ We need a positive plan to tackle the under-representation of women, people of colour and all minorities in our sectors. Industry needs a boosted pipeline of under-represented groups to feed the growing number of STEM roles.

“ During my time in government we analysed how behavioural insights might help us understand the career choices for young women, and women entering the workforce, in making decisions that’s leading them away from STEM subjects in school and from tech careers.

“ A diverse workforce, at all levels in an organisation, can improve a company’s bottom line and they are more likely to outperform their competitors financially. So, I am delighted that there are now one million women leading the way in STEM careers which is so essential for the continued success of our economy.”

Read more about the women working in STEM at WMG here.

Wed 10 Jun 2020, 11:02 | Tags: Athena Swan Margot James

Margot James announced as New Executive Chair for WMG at the University of Warwick

Former Minister Margot James, new Executive Chair of WMG.

The University of Warwick is delighted to announce the appointment of former Minister Margot James as the new Executive Chair of WMG. She takes up the role in April.

The University of Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Croft said

“This is a fantastic appointment. Margot brings a wealth of leadership experience from Government and industry to WMG.She is ideally placed to lead WMG as it celebrates its 40th Anniversary year as it continues to grow and diversify, building on the outstanding foundations established under its former Chairman the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya”.

She served as Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with responsibility for Digital, Telecoms and the Creative Industries, piloting the Data Protection Bill through Parliament, incorporating GDPR into UK law. Previously she served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with responsibility for small businesses, consumers and corporate governance, including labor markets.

In 1985, Margot founded Shire Health Group which she grew to over 100 staff, having created a new market for industry sponsored public health campaigns.In 2004 she successfully transitioned Shire Health Group to the multinational WPP.Subsequently, she served on the Europe, Middle East and Africa Board of Ogilvy Mather, leading their European healthcare programmes.

Margot commented

“I am delighted to have been appointed Executive Chair of WMG, University of Warwick.It will be a real privilege to work with the exceptional academics and researchers from industry who are based at, or partnered with, WMG to grow this unique institution.I would like to pay tribute to the vision and dedication of WMG’s founder and chairman; the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya who led WMG in a constant quest for the latest innovations and new technologies.

“As well as world leading research with impact, WMG are educating the next generation of engineers and technologists.Throughout my career in business and government I have championed the need to expand opportunities for diverse groups of young people and I am inspired by the range of different opportunities on offer at WMG.”

“I look forward to bringing to WMG my experience as minister for digital and the creative industries, and prior to that business minister, as well as my time spent building up my business which provided marketing insights and services to the healthcare industry.”

On the appointment, the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said:

“WMG plays a highly important role within the region and with my knowledge of Margot, and experience of working with her, I am sure that she will provide strong leadership enabling WMG to continue its beneficial impact in the region”.

The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, who worked closely with late Professor Lord Bhattacharyya for many years, stated

“I am pleased to see Margot James with whom I worked closely in government appointed to this post. Margot’s thorough understanding of the national policy debate and her experience of leading and working with organisations across a range of sectors, and her personal drive and enthusiasm will be ideal for WMG.”

Thu 12 Mar 2020, 08:45 | Tags: Warwick News, Margot James