02Policy priority 2: A strategic aim

Improve the skills of the workforce so more people can access jobs across the city region

  • Help out of work residents to access more jobs across the city region by improving their skills
  • Use the apprenticeship levy to better match businesses with skills providers across the city and improve the quality of schemes through the apprenticeship hub.
  • Build links and networks between city hall, businesses and key education institutes.

Prioritise giving those without the right skills a second chance to get job ready skills

Skills are integral to the employment prospects, pay and wellbeing of individuals and their ability to access and create more jobs. But they also impact on business competitiveness and the economic prospects of a city. The devolution of skills policies to the metro mayor reflects the importance given to local flexibility and decision making in meeting these needs.

The skills levels of Liverpool City Region’s workforce remain lower than the national average. Of particular concern is the high share of residents with no formal qualifications. Across the city region 12 per cent of working age residents have no formal qualifications, compared with nine per cent nationally. But there are more acute concerns within the city region: in Liverpool 14 percent of residents have no formal qualifications and in Knowsley it is close to double the national average (16 per cent).

Given the newly devolved powers, the new metro mayor will be well placed to improve workforce skills across the Liverpool City Region and should prioritise giving residents who are not working a ‘second chance’ to develop skills that match the existing and future jobs.

Build on the successful apprenticeship hub and work with businesses to develop higher skilled apprenticeships

The good news is Liverpool City Region is performing better when it comes to apprenticeships. These provide residents of working age with new pathways into employment by upgrading their skills and filling local skills gaps. Centre for Cities research found there is a relatively large amount of apprenticeships in Liverpool and Birkenhead,1 as well as good take up and success rates. Recent research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) identifies the Liverpool City Region as having one of the country’s highest rates of employer support for young people in regards to offering work experience and other opportunities.

The upcoming apprenticeship levy will boost business demand and funding for apprenticeships, and the apprenticeship hub will be key in managing the various different actors at a city region level. The metro mayor will need to set the agenda on this, convening the business community, universities and skills providers, and highlighting the importance of high quality apprenticeships for residents and businesses, as well as matching apprenticeships with businesses from different areas of the city region.

But further efforts are needed to improve the quality of apprenticeships as there are fewer schemes that offer ‘advanced’ and ‘higher’ apprenticeships compared with the more typical intermediate apprenticeships. The metro mayor will need to work with the city region’s employers through the Apprenticeship Hub to improve the demand for apprenticeships among local businesses. This could be funded in part through the incoming apprenticeship levy and will be of specific importance in the most deprived areas in which residents will be eligible for additional support.

Concentrate on supporting graduate level jobs to attract the highest skilled workers

Liverpool is home to four universities and their large student population. Despite this, just 29 per cent of working age residents have a degree as opposed to 37 per cent nationally.

Although many leave after they finish their studies, there is a net gain of graduates each year of around 2,600.2 In the past, there has been a dearth of jobs in higher level occupations, but between 2012 and 2015 this gap with national performance has shrunk.3 The metro mayor must work with these institutions, making the most of their role and reputation in the city, while recognising that the main focus of graduate retention policies should be on supporting higher quality jobs for graduates in the area which will help to retain them, or attract new highly skilled individuals in.

The metro mayor should use his or her influence and informal powers to better link businesses with colleges and universities to ensure that courses and vocational education match the needs and opportunities of the city region’s businesses, and provide residents with higher skills and better access to opportunities in the future.


  • 1 Liverpool PUA refers to Liverpool and Knowsley while Birkenhead refers to Wirral, details can be found in Serwicka, I (2016) Briefing: apprenticeships in cities.
  • 2 For analysis of the movemement of students and graduates in Liverpool and Knowsley read the Centre for Cities briefing: https://www.centreforcities.org/publication/great-british-brain-drain-analysis-migration-liverpool/
  • 3 Liverpool City Region (2015) Skills for Growth