02Policy priority 2: Ensure young people are ready to enter the labour market

  • Support more young people to take up and complete apprenticeships. The mayor should seek to improve support through mentoring programmes and introducing pre-apprenticeships opportunities.
  • Challenge schools that are underperforming and improve investment in education. The mayor should use their profile to highlight the need for better schools in Liverpool City Region, and build a coalition between national and local government to improve them.
  • Champion take-up of extracurricular activities. As the mayor does not have powers over formal children’s education, they should focus on access to extracurricular activities for disadvantaged children and on formally recognising participation in these activities.

The long-term success of the city region will not only depend on the skills of its current workforce, but also on how well prepared young people will be to enter the labour market. By combining vocational and classroom education, apprenticeships are a way to do this and have been top of the current mayor’s agenda. In the past four years the combined authority has introduced a number of resources – from a UCAS-style portal for apprenticeships to a support hub for businesses wishing to transfer the apprenticeships levy.

As a next step, Liverpool City Region should provide more mentoring and pre-apprenticeship support. While the progress made so far is welcome, research shows that only two-thirds of apprentices complete their course.7 Two tools identified by the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth8 – mentoring and pre-apprenticeship support – will help improve completion in the city region, increasing the number of young people that are ‘work-ready’.

In addition, the mayor must champion schools and school improvement, despite not having direct control over schools and under-16 education. Compared to the English average, Liverpool City Region’s attainment is lower than the national average (64 per cent) and the situation is particularly challenging in Knowsley where only 42 per cent of pupils in the last academic year achieved a pass, one of the lowest levels in the country.

Mayors’ profiles and visibility mean they can push their concerns up the Government’s agenda and secure funding for local priorities. This is what, for example, the current mayor has successfully done with regards to the challenges related to the Northern Rail franchise. In a similar fashion, the mayor should make improving schools in the city region their flagship policy, challenging schools that are underperforming and working with national government to improve investment in schools and education.

Alongside classroom education, the mayor should give greater attention and recognition to extracurricular activities. By helping children develop analytical and interpersonal skills such as negotiation, problem solving and critical thinking, extracurricular activities are a central part of education.9 Formally recognising participation in these activities by providing credits, as is the case in Sheffield City Region’s Children’s University, which has been championed by its mayor, would help ensure every child has access to such activities by providing discounts for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This should equip young people in the city region with the skills employers need while at the same time offering employers additional information about prospective candidates beyond academic qualifications.