Leading business organisations – the North West Business Leadership Team, the Institute of Directors and the CBI – have come together to agree what good looks like in the world of education and skills, in an attempt to help move this vital agenda forward.
During a full day workshop, senior leaders from some of the region’s leading employers came together with skills and policy specialists from the CBI and IoD in order to use their combined expertise to create a Skills Charter, written from the ‘demand side’. This Charter sets out not only what these organisations need from the world of education and skills, but also – crucially – what they (and other organisations) can do to help bring this change about.
The Charter gives its critical success factors as: more flexibility of funding across education and skills and a focus on digital literacy.
Sandy Lindsay MBE, chair of Tangerine and The Juice Academy, who also chairs skills groups for the NWBLT and the NW IoD, explained: “For many years, we’ve had massive skills issues across the region, especially in our most vital industry sectors, such as digital, engineering, construction and life sciences. There’s been myriad programmes aimed at solving these issues but most have been small scale, localised and short term. The workshop highlighted the need for sharing, scaling and signposting of initiatives and programmes in order that the skills gaps that are holding back our economy will have a chance of being filled.
“There’s also been a call from the world of education and skills for business leaders to be clear about what we want from them and the young people they are supporting. This is also covered in the Charter, with skills such as communication, team work, agility and resilience coming out on top as vital to future workers’ chances of thriving in this ever-changing world.”
In preparation for the workshop, multiple discussions with employers and professionals in the education and skills sector took place, in order to understand the challenges and opportunities encountered by all. The hope is that this Charter will enable policy makers, education specialists and anyone else who has an interest in this critical aspect of the region’s future prosperity, to work together to explore ways in which North West employers can realise the appetite they have to play their part.
Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors continued: “A mismatch between available skills and those required by local employers has been one of the foremost concerns of employers in the North West for some time. There will be many challenges to making the Northern Powerhouse a success. This charter calls for educators, policy makers, and employers to come together and sets out a plan to build the skills pipeline. This will help prepare local people for the needs of the future labour market and rebalance the UK economy so that those in the North West gain a greater share of our economic prosperity.”
Northern Powerhouse Minister, Andrew Percy said: “Our efforts to build the Northern Powerhouse are delivering real results for local people, with more than one million businesses involved, foreign direct investment up by a quarter and 187,000 jobs created in the past year alone.
“Our Industrial Strategy will help make sure people have the skills employers need both in the Northern Powerhouse and across the country. I’m delighted that leading businesses in the North West have come together to help tackle this important agenda.”