The North West, like much of the UK, is at a tipping point when it comes to skills. Many of the schools and universities aren’t keeping pace with the changes in industries such as engineering, sustainability and coding, the panellists warned. They said that time was running out to invest in the training required to meet the needs of an increasingly digital world. “We need to start to think about the future skills that we need. And we need to engage employers now,” said Steve Fogg, Chairman of Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership. The panellists said that the onus is on the business community to invest in the skills that are needed to future-proof the North West. “There is an opportunity to use the convening power of business on skills,” said Christopher Gray, Managing Director at professional service firm Accenture. “We’ve seen businesses find opportunities to do remote work experience. How can we capitalise on that, share it, make it more accessible, and really inspire people?” It’s not about reinventing the wheel, added Professor Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lancashire, but about finding what delivers the best results and using those methodologies. He explained: “Rather than setting up new initiatives whenever skills are mentioned, we think there is a better way of delivering skills. We’ve got very good colleges, schools and universities – and if we focused on those, we could get more bang for our buck.”
The aspirations of young people across the North West have nosedived in the wake of COVID-19. According to new research from the Prince’s Trust4, almost half (46%) of young people believe they will have fewer opportunities than their parents’ generation. The panellists said this rang true: “I am worried about our young people across the country,” said Fogg. “We’re seeing lost apprenticeships and lost opportunities. I’m very concerned that the futures they have planned are not going to be there in the short term.” Reeves warned of a lost generation if action is not taken to address the issue: “If we don’t join up and make a difference for young people, there’s a danger that we move back to the 1980s and lose a whole generation of young people,” he said. Julia Cleverdon, Vice President of Business in the Community said that there is an opportunity to both address the skills gap and help restore the aspirations of young people: “I think we’re going to have to invent jobs and volunteer activity for young people and try to concentrate on skills.” There must be a concerted effort from across government and the private sector, said Lauren Barclay, founder of Youth Mental Health Matters & Youth Focus North West, and no initiative is too small. “Investing in young people is an investment in the future,” she said. “There are some really small investments that we can make that will equip young people better for the future.”
The panellists said that novel modes of working were crucial to creating a lasting impact. Instead of thinking what can be done, its important to focus on what outcome each initiative is trying to achieve, said Tony Reeves, CEO, Liverpool City Council. “We have to think about vulnerable and excluded groups, come up with plans for those people that work for them, and create pathways into economic opportunities,” he explained. Barriers to an inclusive society can only be broken down when multiple stakeholders work in partnership, added Gillian Halliwell, Head of Regional Funding at The National Lottery Fund. “What we really need to do is to stop that working in silos,” she said. “We need to harness the energy that the crisis has created and enable communities to play an even bigger part in addressing some of the deep rooted social and economic issues that we have been experiencing.” Jane Durkin, Assistant Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at General Medical Council, echoed these comments: “There is a crisis looming and we need to collaborate and join together. The sum of the whole is far greater than the sum of the individual parts – and I see the potential for real power in that.”
Delivering sustainable prosperity for the North West
The North West Business Leadership Team aims to bring together businesses from across the region to help drive economic growth, lower carbon emissions, and promote responsible leadership. It produces research and lobbies on behalf of members to help achieve its mission.
Giving children an education
Connecting Kids was launched earlier this year to help ensure that children living in households unable to afford internet or basic stationery received educational support and vital equipment during the COVID-19 lockdown. It raised 120,000 for internet access and digital devices, and delivered tuition to young students. Lancaster University, Lancaster & Morecambe College, Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership, local schools and Eden Project International, has come together with Lancaster City Council worked in partnership to create Connecting Kids.
Reducing our reliance on plastic
Changing Streams was established in 2018, in partnership with the University of Liverpool, to significantly reduce the use of plastic in industry. The not-for-profit conducts workshops for companies looking to become more sustainable, and helps those looking to move away from plastic packaging to claim R&D support from government.
Investing for good
Although a national organisation, the Impact Investing Institute was identified by participants at the roundtable has having had an important impact in the region. It is an independent, non-profit organisation that aims to accelerate the growth and improve the effectiveness of the impact investing market. It does this through raising awareness of, addressing barriers to and increasing confidence in investing with impact.
IEP BOOST Social Innovator
IncomeMax helps vulnerable and low-income families experiencing hardship and debt to deal with and avoid crisis, and to secure greater financial wellbeing. BOOST has helped strengthen IncomeMax’s capacity to deliver at scale.
Through BOOST, IncomeMax have formed meaningful relationships with leading experts, such as ShiftDesign and the Alan Turing Institute, who have provided guidance and insight to inform IncomeMax’s digital expansion.
IncomeMax also partnered with a fellow BOOST innovator, We Are Digital, and the two organisations will now refer customers to each other.
Take action to restore the aspirations of young people by creating jobs and volunteering opportunities, with a focus on building key skills and resilience.
Investment in skills:
Upskill the North West in order to future-proof communities, by investing in training for the skills of the future, with a focus on digital, and encouraging employers to roll out work experience.
Ensure that vulnerable people and excluded groups are not further disenfranchised by COVID-19 by investing in mental health support and ensuring all people feel a part of and have a voice in their local communities.