‘Give regions more say over skills and employment’

The government has been told that taking a regional approach to helping the UK recover from Covid-19 is vital when it comes to skills and employment.

Training group City & Guilds warned the government today (2 November) that unless grassroot recovery strategies were adopted, there would be a risk of levelling down the chances of millions,

In a report called Act Now City & Guilds investigated the impact that Covid-19 has had on six regional economies across the UK. It highlighted the challenges that each of these labour markets faced, including unemployment, skills shortages, retracting industry sectors, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and growing skills gaps.

The report concluded that increased devolution was the only way to coherently address the differing priorities and challenges being faced across these regions.

Act Now’s recommendations, compiled in conjunction with businesses and mayoral combined authorities (led by metro mayors), were designed to bolster individual cities and regions. They include:

  • allowing for more autonomy over skills funding with mayoral combined authorities taking the lead along with local enterprise partnerships
  • creation of employment and training hubs in areas of high unemployment
  • opening up funding to include any type of skills-based learning that leads to a job.

AI disruption was factored into the findings which concluded that 12.4% of the UK’s workforce were employed in occupations that were at high risk of automation. The North East was most vulnerable, with 50% or more of its tasks categorised as ‘“highly automatable”.

City & Guilds also pointed to a nationwide skills deficit with under half (40%) of the UK’s population having achieved a level 4 and above qualification (that is, having achieved any qualification above A-level) and almost one in 10 (9.5%) having no formal educational qualifications at all.

Kirstie Donnelly, CEO of City & Guilds Group emphasised that a broad centralised policy would not suffice: “The message that came back loud and clear was we can’t apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach if we want to successfully support people back into jobs. The challenges and solutions were often different in each area and Mayoral teams felt that they were not always enabled to act quickly and effectively enough with local solutions.”

She said that much of the announced government skills support was “simply happening too late” with the immediate release of earmarked skills funding to help people retrain and reskill into new jobs being required.

Donnelly highlighted the importance of a network of employment and training hubs: “These localised and digitally enabled hubs would provide a ‘Shop Window for Skills’, making employment pathways more visible and accessible, and ultimately provide a platform which brings together local jobseekers, employers and training opportunities.”

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