01Policy priority 1: Raise employment rate and participation in the labour market up to the national average

  • Establish a ‘skills compact’ for adult education, and undertake an audit to trace how much money is spent on adult education in the area. The mayor should bring together education providers, businesses and other stakeholders to improve take-up of adult education and address skills needs. And they should work out how much is spent on adult education as a first step to identifying how it can be better targeted.
  • Support people that are economically inactive to be work-ready. The specific barriers behind individuals’ lack of participation in the labour market should be identified and resolved.
  • Launch a Working Well programme. This would be similar to Greater Manchester’s initiative, which supports people that are long-term unemployed to be work-ready by integrating health and employment services.

Getting more people into work is a key priority for the city region, even before considering the impacts of the pandemic. The area has seen fast job growth in recent years, but this is yet to be fully reflected in employment and wage opportunities for its residents. At 72.9 per cent before the pandemic, the city region’s employment rate was 2.7 percentage points below the national average, and a worker in the city region earned £48 less a week than the average UK worker.

Solving this requires further improvements to adult education within Liverpool City Region. Despite significant progress over the past decade, the city region (and Knowsley in particular) still has one the largest shares of the population with no qualifications across the country. To reverse this trend, the mayor should use their convening powers and public profile to create a skills compact. Such a skills compact has been launched by Boston in the United States, and doing so in Liverpool City Region would join various central government strategies on skills provision with local providers and employers. This would for instance build on Liverpool City Region’s Digital Skills for the Workplace programme with the Department for Education.1  A skills compact would develop an understanding of the broader challenges to take-up and demand for adult education, and create a stronger local culture of lifelong learning. 2

The mayor should also use their legitimacy to do an audit on how much is spent on adult education and by which institutions. A great deal of money is spent on skills policy each year, but there is little coordination between the various bodies of how this is spent. While this issue affects all parts of the country, mayors in areas that have them are well placed to tackle this problem. Mapping this spend would be the first step for the Liverpool City Region mayor to make better use of it to improve skills attainment.

In addition, some particular groups will need additional support to be work-ready. Previous research by Centre for Cities and the OECD revealed that Liverpool 3 has the highest share of ‘missing workers’ of any UK large cities and towns, and over 100,000 people in Liverpool City Region were economically inactive but could be work-ready if given adequate support (pre-pandemic).4 Identifying and tackling the complex barriers that prevent people from being in the labour market will have positive effects for individuals and will also contribute to addressing skills shortages in the city region.

The mayor should also work with national government to launch a Liverpool City Region version of the Greater Manchester Working Well programme. Thanks to its devolution deal, Greater Manchester has greater control over health policies and has been using these powers to integrate employment and health support services to bring people on long-term unemployment back into work with a great success rate.5 This is a model that can be replicated in Liverpool City Region and that could be integrated with the existing ‘Households into Work’ initiative to help even more people gain access to work. 6