The North of England needs a skilled workforce and a system for skills development that meets the changing needs of the regional economy.

That’s the latest finding from the thinktank IPPR North released in a report this morning.

Qualifications levels across the north of England are lower than for England as a whole. The Employer Skills Survey suggests that that trends in skills shortages and gaps in the north of England are distributed differently across occupations from national ones, and also that there are some striking contrasts between parts of the North.

Devolving some powers and budgets for skills would help to align provision with regional economic and social priorities, and to create more agile and efficient systems says the authors.

Across the North of England the proportion of people with a higher level qualification, such as a degree or a certificate at NVQ Level 4 or above, is five percentage points lower than for England as a whole.

The report calls on the Government to devolve more powers and budgets for skills to local business leaders in Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) as part of the new industrial strategy.

In turn, it says LEPs must play a greater role in supporting businesses to use their apprenticeship levy budgets and publish local ‘priority lists’ where there are specific skills needs.

Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North, Anna Round, said a centralised adult education system isn’t working and the time has come for a more devolved approach to stop the North falling further behind.

She said: “Many LEPs have a strong track record of making a difference using limited powers. But local leaders in the North need more autonomy to co-ordinate and shape the skills system – and proper resources to do it.”


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