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Achieving sustainable place prosperity

Source: PSE June/July 2019

Since our major employers and the places and communities they are based in have a deeply inter-connected relationship, bosses and place-leaders should work together to upskill local people to meet the demands of an ever-changing workplace, argues Jonathan Werran, the chief executive of not-for-profit think tank Localis.

Philip Collins, the former Number 10 speechwriter turned lead columnist for The Times, often jokes that were a prime minister ever to openly declare war without wishing to attract attention, a keynote address at a national skills conference on further education reform would offer the ideal cover.

Skills and training have long been recognised as the Cinderella issue of public policy. Despite strong sentiment that if our nation is to have any chance of solving its stubbornly poor productivity problem, skills should be allowed to go to the ball, this simply hasn’t happened. In the absence of a central government funding fairy godmother able to wave a wand to magically transform the pumpkin into a carriage, it is only natural to seek place-based solutions.

In a recent report ‘Prosperous Communities, Productive Places,’ Localis examined the role our major wealth-creators, significant local employers, or ‘local economic anchors’ (LEAs) can play in driving sustainable place prosperity.

Our report recognises the changes that require a renewed and strengthened relationship in post-Brexit Britain. And in this context, a local industrial strategy provides the opportunity to define a new way of working: one where businesses support local prosperity, and places support productive businesses.

No business can exist in isolation. Corporate ownership may change and markets become more international, but the business itself will still operate within the parameters of local planning, rely on local infrastructure and require skilled people and a ready supply of labour.

Going further, major businesses will also be linked directly to where they are located – think Nissan in Sunderland, Aviva in Norwich or Boots in Nottingham. They are synonymous with their place – place prosperity matters.

But in many places, communities are increasingly challenged. Local people may not be able to take full advantage of the opportunities a major employer located close by can present because of lower skills or education. In turn, this may be the result of family breakdown, poor health or lack of an appropriate home.

Indeed, immediate challenges of recruitment and performance may be caused by deeper-seated issues within the local community not immediately evident, but still potentially impacting upon business productivity.

The relationship between business and place is a symbiotic one – stronger economic anchors fortify the local communities they are based in, which in turn bolster major local firms in an ever-renewing virtuous circle.

The full article is available in the June/July 2019 issue of PSE, which you can subscribe to here. Alternatively, take a look at our digital edition!


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