Policy priority 3: A longer term vision
Address skills deficits
- Improve the skills of those with few or no qualifications to improve their chances of employment and the city region’s attractiveness to business investment.
- Evaluate the outcomes of policies to refine future policy approaches to make them more effective.
Improve the skills of those with few or no qualifications
The biggest factor in attracting higher-skilled businesses to a city region is the availability of higher-skilled workers for these businesses to employ. On this measure the Sheffield City Region does not perform well. In 2016, 30.9 per cent of residents had a degree, compared to 38 per cent nationally. And 9.3 per cent of residents had no formal qualification at all, compared to 8.3 per cent in Great Britain as a whole.
The clearest role for the mayor is to improve the skills of those with few or no qualifications, rather than focus on more mobile graduates. This should take three strands.
Firstly, s/he should improve the takeup of early years education. The Government currently offers free early years education to two year olds from deprived backgrounds.6 Using administrative data, those eligible for, but not currently benefiting from this support, should be identified and encouraged to do so.
Secondly, while having no formal powers over schools, the mayor should use the influence afforded to his or her office to encourage schools to focus on improving numeracy and literacy attainment. These skills act as the building block for further skills development and all schools across the city region should be preparing their pupils for the world of work by teaching them these skills.
Thirdly, use the devolution of the adult skills budget to better target those already of working age that don’t have the necessary skills to get on in the world of work. Again, this should have a focus on numeracy and literacy skills. To identify these individuals, the mayor should work with local housing associations — half of all social housing tenants in the city region who are in work are in low-skilled occupations7 — and business. S/he should then work with both bodies, be that either though using some of the skills budget to support the employment and skills activities of housing associations, or part funding skills courses for businesses, to improve the core skills of residents.