Policy priority 3: Ensure young people have the skills and support to fully benefit
Despite its recent prosperity, Greater Manchester entered the Covid-19 pandemic with above average levels of unemployment, meaning that many residents weren’t benefiting from its growing economy. Andy Burnham will need to address this problem by improving people’s skill levels to ensure that everyone in Greater Manchester can benefit from economic growth.
First, he should build on the Greater Manchester Apprenticeships and Careers System by adding mentoring and pre-apprenticeship support for young people. Evaluations have shown that this has a positive impact on the completion rates of apprenticeships.
Second, to better target the city region’s skills challenges, Andy Burnham should audit how much is spent on skills in Greater Manchester and by which institutions. The outcome of such an audit will help to better understand how funding is currently being spent bodies and will ultimately lead to more effective targeting where it is needed most.
Third, Andy Burnham should work closely with underperforming schools in Greater Manchester, where average school performance is slightly below the national average. While he currently has no formal powers over primary and secondary education, he should use his soft power and influence to convene and campaign for higher standards to tackle the underperformance of some of Greater Manchester’s schools.
By focussing on these three priorities in his second term, the metro mayor will help Greater Manchester to recover quickly from Covid-19 and set it on the route to sustainable and inclusive long-term growth. However, there is a longer-term issue that also cannot be avoided: insufficient supply of new homes.
In recent years, Greater Manchester has built fewer homes than the average city. To avoid a London-style housing crisis, Andy Burnham will need to ensure he delivers enough homes. He should create a joint spatial plan that includes both green belt reform and new development in the city region’s suburbs. Delivering this affordable housing for workers and their families will help the city to accommodate long-term growth and help level up the country.
Greater Manchester has enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years and I am confident that it will recover quickly from Covid-19, however Andy Burnham should address all of these issues if he wants to build back better from the pandemic and improve the economy and people’s living standards for the long-term.