Learning curve: Schooling & skills for future jobs

One of the biggest challenges facing cities with struggling economies is to improve the “intermediate” skills profiles of their populations.

Report published on 24 November 2011 by Paul Swinney

Many of England’s weaker city economies have high proportions of residents with no or very few formal qualifications.  One of the biggest challenges that these cities face is to improve the “intermediate” skills profiles of their populations.  Any improvement will have long term benefits for both individuals in these cities and the businesses that are located there.  And by implication it is likely to have a positive impact on future economic growth in these cities.

The problem is that current skills attainment is serving to reinforce existing skills patterns across England’s cities rather than improving them.  This is particularly true for educational attainment.  Although GCSE attainment in general has showed strong improvement in recent years in cities with weak economies, this has not been reflected in GCSE Maths and English attainment.  This is a concern given that numeracy and literacy skills appear to be playing an ever larger role in the labour market.

While we recognise that skills policies are first and foremost about people, they require a place-based approach to address the clear spatial pattern in skills attainment.  This will require interventions from Government, schools, Local Enterprise Partnerships and Work Programme providers to address the skills challenges that our cities face.

Policy recommendations

  • Greater emphasis should be placed on Maths and English attainment, particularly in struggling cities
  • Publicly funded adult education and training should be targeted towards improving core skills amongst low skilled, disadvantaged groups
  • As business-driven organisations, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) should work with skills providers and employers to improve access to adult education and trainingLEPs should work with employers and skills providers within the LEP area to increase employer demand for job-related training

Video: Paul Swinney presents Learning Curve

Selected coverage • BBC News • Telegraph • Huffington Post

This work is supported by ICAEW