Closing the skills gap

It made a compelling case for reform to address the shortcomings of the current system – not least, the widening skills gap in the UK workforce that threatens to undermine economic growth.

We estimated that the Work Local proposals, if implemented across an average-sized combined authority, could each year result in 8,500 more people in work and 6,000 increasing their skills, adding up to £280 million of benefits to the public purse and a £420 million boost to the economy.

The LGA is now looking to create more waves to get Work Local on the radar of the Government, Opposition and a range of influential stakeholders.

As part of this work, we have set up a new Skills Taskforce to refocus Work Local as a way of providing placed-based solutions to some of the challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit and the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

It will engage a range of stakeholders on our key Work Local recommendations through a series of roundtables, and look to build relationships with them on key skills policy issues that we, collectively, are trying to influence. After all, flexibilities in the apprenticeship levy were only achieved by a range of stakeholders raising concerns with the Department for Education. So we know alliances can have a powerful impact.

We want stakeholders and representatives to bring their own industry expertise to the table – for example, in construction, retail and engineering.

The taskforce roundtables taking place between December 2018 and March 2019 are expected to focus on the following themes:

  • Are we all pulling in the same direction to address local skills gaps and shortages?
  • How can we collectively develop a local all-age careers advice and guidance service (see opposite page)?
  • How are sector-specific skills challenges (arising, for example, from technological change or Brexit) playing out in the local economy?

Our aim is that, by building alliances with a range of stakeholders, we can work together more collaboratively and, next summer, bring together the conclusions from taskforce discussions, and renew and update our Work Local recommendations.

Alongside this, we are in the process of developing a new relationship with government on post-16 skills for all areas, and have proactively engaged with Skills Minister Anne Milton MP on how this can work on a practical level.

This is a good start, but we have a long way to go if we are to make the current national skills and employment system more integrated and localised and  before local government and our local economies begin to benefit from a devolution deal process offering real freedom and flexibility.

For more information about Work Local, please visit www.local.gov.uk/work-local. The LGA is holding a conference on ‘Skills, employment and inclusive growth: can we deliver what our local economies need?’ on 27 November in London. To find out more and book your place, please visit www.local.gov.uk/events

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