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Levelling Up’s shift from rhetoric to reality will fail without skills focus

By Paul Cherpeau, chief executive, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce


“As we watch terrible events unfolding around the world, it seems almost perverse that here in the UK we still debate the need for parity of opportunity within our own country and the collective challenges we all face heading into the middle years of the 21st century.”

“‘Levelling up’ continues to be the Government’s rhetorical policy thrust, yet it doesn’t appear this is underpinned by a true sense of where it’s going, what it means or how it will equate to successful outcomes for our citizens, businesses and places.”

“The latest White Paper was supposed to signal a milestone on this journey, yet with the exception of matters of governance being mooted (eg LEPs into Combined Authorities) and some reheated announcements, there remains a considerable gap between ambition and delivery.”

“The UK Shared Prosperity Fund appears the big-ticket item that many in economic development have waited for, hopefully offering a replacement for European funding and undoubtedly forming the central pillar of future government spending.”

“However, details remain sketchy at best, leaving businesses with substantial uncertainty about how places will be supported to create environments where the private sector can thrive.”

“Whichever policies are pursued, they must translate into material benefit for people, most notably our future workforce. The inclusive growth requirements of our city region require a blend of macro-economic solutions and community-based work to mitigate the effects of a twin track economy between people who have and those who do not.”

“Therefore, central to any attempts to ‘level up’ must be a sharp focus on employability and career readiness across our education system, especially given the current mis-match between talent supply and demand. If not now, when?”

“The leaders of tomorrow will only find parity in property ownership, health outcomes or educational attainment if they are given the same tools and resources as their peers elsewhere in the UK. This is real levelling up.”

“As a parent to young children, I see the immensely valuable role our schools, colleges and universities have played throughout the pandemic and I have also been privileged to work with our local education partners through the chamber in recent months.”

“Yet, we know our system remains geared to limit employment outcomes and pathways to the bottom piled priorities.”

“We recently launched our School Business Network to better connect businesses with education providers, provide a platform to share their experiences and reduce barriers for students to maximise their aspiration or attainment. Indeed, many students in years 11 to 13 tell us that a lack of interaction with businesses throughout their studies has restricted their ability to make informed career choices.”

“There are some incredible initiatives and individuals within the careers and employability ecosystem of our city region, yet our education system continues to lack consistency in broadening experiences and awareness for young people.”

“Social value frameworks and individual goodwill can only get us so far, whilst employer-led curriculums in further education and T-Levels will take time to yield results.”

“Levelling up means a great many things to a great many people. For some it’s a way to revolutionise governmental spending decisions, for others it’s merely a cynical exercise in electorally-conscious areas. The true impact of levelling up has to be tangible, positive and sustainable, or else it fails no matter the definition.”

“Education and Business should be a symbiotic relationship. Despite the goodwill, it is not.”

“Levelling up must prioritise our approach to this relationship and ensure we leave no stone unturned in the attainment of great jobs, careers and talent for the people of the North, and particularly for those in the Liverpool City Region.”