Cllr Sean Anstee is Conservative Candidate for Greater Manchester Mayor. He addressed the IPPR event Skills 2030: Building an Adult Skills System that Works last week as part of their New Skills at Work programme.
Greater Manchester is a city region on the verge of something special: a renaissance where we can lead the world and demonstrate that sustainable economic growth doesn’t just happen to and define a place, but can be achieved so that all parts of our region feel part of its success.
Over many years people in this conurbation have co-operated, collaborated, shared, and had a determination like nowhere else seen in the United Kingdom that together we are stronger, and that together we can realise our unlimited potential.
The argument has been made successfully that taking decisions locally produces better outcomes for our population, a better environment for our businesses, and better value for the taxpayer. Being able to take decisions at the right level means we can better understand the whole impact of what is proposed.
We know this works. For example, Greater Manchester’s locally-developed scheme to help the long term unemployed back into work is twice as successful at achieving long-term employment for individuals as the Government’s former Work Programme. We are now upscaling Working Well to support over 50,000 people back into work and joining up with health and social care.
We are planning for population growth of 300,000 over the next 20 years, alongside 200,000 new jobs. That will need 226,000 new homes, and significant investment in transport and social infrastructure to make the city easier to get around and to have communities where people choose to live with their families.
Allowing the city region the space to grow, and finalising the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, is intrinsically linked to our ability to attract high value, highly paid jobs and compete with cities around the world.
This context is important because it sets the scene for why we need to radically rethink our skills system in Greater Manchester to prepare people for the world of work.
I want everybody to have the opportunity to realise their potential. I want us to fundamentally transform the life chances of our younger generation, so often let down in Greater Manchester, and those who are out of work to such an extent that we can be a beacon of hope, ambition and confidence – for doing things differently.
But we should recognise it isn’t just about qualifications; its’s about being work-ready, having experience, and renewing our resolve that long-term worklessness can be consigned to history in Greater Manchester.
We shouldn’t also forget, as we leave the European Union, the urgent need to increase the skill level of our domestic population, especially as we likely face future restrictions on migration.
Greater Manchester has the potential to really drive the resurgence of the North. But at the moment, we score far below the national average on crucial economic indicators such as: unemployment (6.2 per cent compared to 4.8 per cent in the UK); employment (70.5 per cent compared to 74.5 per cent); and productivity (12 per cent below the UK average).
We need to recognise the fantastic opportunity that arises from devolution. From next year, we will have more levers at our disposal. The Adult Skills Budget will be devolved to Greater Manchester, allowing us to make decisions based on the needs of our community and our economy, and really drive local growth.
Using these levers to take different decisions that otherwise would have been made in Westminster will require political resilience and resolve not seen before. But it must be done if we are to make Greater Manchester competitive, and if we really are to transform the life chances available to our population.
Only then will we be able to say our skills system is truly working to help people into work.