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Future scenarios for a depressed region of England: the role of education in creating alternative futures

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PurposeThis paper seeks to outline four scenarios developed for the future of the South West Midlands region of England. Like many depressed regions in the UK, the foundation industries that initially developed the region have gone. Manufacturing is continuing to decline and the low-skilled economic underpinnings of the region have all but disappeared. The population, however, has not changed with the times, but remains low-skilled and largely unemployable to many of the industries the region is trying to attract to regenerate itself. Despite this economically depressed picture, the region is renowned for its sense of community and regional identity, and hence crime is uncharacteristically low given the economic and demographic circumstances of the region. Design/methodology/approachA range of methodologies were employed to inform scenario building for the future of the region, including a literature review, interviews with employers and community leaders, a word association exercise and questionnaire with children approaching school leaving age, and data analysis of demographic and economic trends. FindingsFour scenarios were developed as possible futures for the region to help inform policy making, in particular educational policy to encourage more young people to remain in education for longer and gain higher qualifications. Practical implicationsThe paper offers practical ideas for (re)engaging young people in education in a depressed region where the value of education has never really been appreciated. Originality/valueThis paper offers readers alternative perspectives on an area of education that might otherwise be ignored and finds positive ways forwards to further promote education in the region.

Keywords: Education; Higher education; Scenario planning; Youth

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14636681111179564

Publication date: October 18, 2011

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