A new report from Key Cities has called for funding and devolution in skills to be further prioritised, with the aim of boosting local finances, as well as the wider UK economic productivity.
Through the report, titled Skills for Cities, Skills for Life and published under the context of many local authorities around the country struggling with increasing financial struggles, Key Cities has stated that devolution of skills-based powers and funding is a major long-term measure to support local economies. This mainly comes down to the fact that local authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their communities.
Alongside improving local economies, improved skills helping local businesses to become more competitive would also boost the wider national economy. This comes at a time when underinvestment in UK skills is below the OECD average, leaving young people and adults at a significant disadvantage and unable to fulfil their potential.
Deputy Leader of Bradford Council and Key Cities Lead on Skills, Cllr Imran Khan, said:
“Improving opportunities for citizens to access learning throughout their lives is key if the benefits of future growth are to be widely shared. Better skills, better employment leading to more growth for all.
“Our current, fragmented system needs a fresh approach and greater devolution of powers and budgets to drive up the UK’s productivity. The payoff for getting this right will be enormous: a much more competitive position for UK businesses and a better quality of life for our people.”
In the report, Key Cities has made six policy recommendations, with the aim of addressing the skills gap. These recommendations are:
- Devolve skills power and funding comprehensively to local authorities so that provision is tailored to local needs better.
- Allocate significant and dedicated funding to improve the information and advice surrounding careers and skills training, for everyone no matter the stage they are at in their working lives.
- Increase the opportunities for lifelong learning and retraining, with this including wider entitlement to free study and support for adults that want to upskill.
- Improving technical pathways from the age of 14, with this including an effective pre-apprenticeship programme.
- Increasing skills investment to match the OECD average across further and higher education, student and business support.
- For the government to work alongside Key Cities to design and trial scalable models that are focused on integrated skills supply, skills utilisation, infrastructure alignment, and business support.
Cllr John Merry, Chair of Key Cities and Deputy Mayor of Salford, said:
“Uneven productivity across the country is the biggest barrier to growth. Technology is advancing at pace and the skills gaps are costing us billions. This includes an urgent need to upskill in green economies as part of the drive to net zero. The solutions is to develop optimal mechanisms for supporting the needs of local industry and the local labour market. The government has introduced statutory Local Skills Improvement Partnerships and a new framework for lifelong learning which are welcome, but not all the right voices are always heard, and decision-making is often not sufficiently local.
“The fact is that if the skills approach is not delivering to best effect local, then (a) it isn’t levelling up, and (b) it won’t deliver the hoped-for improvement in productivity and growth. Key Cities’ experience on the country’s largest and most diverse network of urban areas highlights the ways in which we can work with government and others to develop those optimal mechanisms.”
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