01Policy priority 1: Invest in local skills to boost productivity, employment and wages

  • Focus the £30.5 million devolved Adult Education Budget on residents without formal qualifications and establish a ‘skills compact’. The mayor should continue to implement the 2019/20 Strategic Skills Plan with local partners and establish a ‘skills compact’ to co-ordinate delivery.
  • Commit to extending skills programmes currently funded with European Union money. Some of the skills programmes in Tees Valley face an uncertain future and should be continued.
  • Build on the new careers service by providing a ‘UCAS for apprenticeships’ portal. Similar initiatives have already been launched in Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester.

Reducing high levels of unemployment and creating jobs is a local priority. Even before the pandemic, Tees Valley had the second lowest employment rate of the nine metro mayor areas (68.6 per cent). But, as well as employment, Tees Valley needs to create more, better-paid jobs, and this requires investment in skills. Twelve per cent of all adults lack any formal qualifications, hindering their ability to find work and higher wages, and reducing the attractiveness of Tees Valley as a place to invest.

The mayor should continue to use their £30.5 million Adult Education Budget to boost the skills of those without any qualifications. The 2019/20 Strategic Skills Programme focuses funding on Level 2 vocational qualifications, getting people ready for work, and life skills in Maths and English.1 This focus is appropriate, and should be sustained. Establishing a ‘skills compact’ with local firms and education providers to co-ordinate local activities and to integrate with central government strategies focused on understanding local skills need and provision, should be the next step for the mayor, to create a strong culture of adult learning.2

The mayor should also commit to continuing funding for skills programmes currently provided by the European Union. Programmes such as ‘Skills Support for the Workforce’ is funded by European Social Fund, and the University of Teesside runs a European-funded course ‘Leading Growth’ and ‘Management Catalyst’ for local business leaders to support their development and support networks to develop.3 The 2019/20 Strategic Skills Programme should be updated to make clear that these programmes will be continued in the future.

The mayor should also build on Tees Valley Careers4 and establish a local ‘UCAS for apprenticeships’. This would connect young people and businesses and provide clear information on apprenticeship opportunities available within the region. The Greater Manchester Apprenticeship and Careers Service and Be-More in Liverpool provide models for this.5 The mayor should add to this with pre-apprenticeship training and mentorship programmes that have been shown to improve completion rates for apprenticeships.6