Future-Ready Skills Commission to challenge status-quo

22 January 2019

A new national skills commission will explore how greater devolution can create a skills system that responds to the needs of local economies and ensures people are properly equipped for the jobs of the 21st Century.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council will be joined by experts and leading thinkers from business, education, local government, and think tanks on the Future-Ready Skills Commission.

Commissioners gathered yesterday for the first time to discuss how the skills system, from post-16 education through to adult skills and career development, could be shaped to meet the needs of different regions while meeting the challenges and opportunities of the digital revolution in the workplace.

The Leeds City Region - the UK's largest economic area outside London and the South East - will be used as the central case study for the Commission, which will put forward a nationally relevant blueprint for skills that could apply to other parts of the country.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the Future-Ready Skills Commission, said: "Skilled people are the lifeblood of the economy. I have seen first-hand the critical importance of skills to the fortunes of West Yorkshire and beyond, in driving forward inclusion and social mobility as well as improving productivity, creating opportunities and for ensuring a buoyant economy we can all benefit from.

"It should be a no-brainer: our economy needs more digital skills, and people with digital skills have amazing opportunities for a fulfilling, prosperous career. However, perversely, we like many regions are grappling with a digital skills gap - a gap that our current centralised skills system isn't allowing us to fill quickly enough.

"There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is the fact that the current system isn't set up to meet the needs of businesses and the local economy.

"With the future of Britain and its relationship with the European Union still uncertain, it's even more vital that we have a skills system that meets local labour market need.

"This new Future-Ready Skills Commission for a Devolved UK aims to change our current imperfect system, by developing a workable blueprint that can be adapted at a local level and respond to the many future demands that will be placed up on it.

"I believe that if we can get the design and operation of our skills system right it can serve as the catalyst for the transformation of skills nationally and ultimately drive strong productivity and growth to our economy. At the same time improved access to relevant skills will provide a ladder of opportunity for everyone, including those who are currently disadvantaged."

Other members of the Commission also spoke about their involvement and the opportunities they are looking forward to realising:

Sarah Longlands, Director IPPR North, Institute for Public Policy Research, said: "I am delighted to be part of the new Future Ready Skills Commission. If we are to secure the future economic and human potential of the West Yorkshire and indeed, the whole of the North of England, we need to give people the skills they need to play an active part in the economy. This new Commission will help to uncover some of the key challenges and set out a plan about how devolution can improve our education and skills system to be more responsive to the needs of local people and employers in the future and inspire a new generation to rise to the challenge of new economic opportunities."

Will Richardson, PwC's Leeds Office Senior Partner commented: "Leeds City Region is one of the largest economic areas in the UK, yet incredible potential for further growth exists, in part through devolution and the Northern Powerhouse. Skills will be at the heart of realising this opportunity; creating a system which better joins up the needs of individuals and businesses, and in so doing creating an economy that delivers good growth for all and a fairer future for our communities.

"Our purpose at PwC is to help build trust in society and solve important problems. This Skills Commission creates a unique collaboration across key stakeholders which will help to develop and support practical solutions to create the skills system we need to deliver inclusive growth. We are passionate about working with our local communities to make a deep impact that will last for generations, and we are proud to be part of this Skills Commission."

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute, said: "I'm delighted to be a member of the Skills Commission. Learning and skills are becoming ever more vital to both economic growth and social justice. This importance is only going to change as our economy evolves, including through advances in technology. It's great to see an ambition for West Yorkshire to lead the way, showing the difference devolution can make. I'm excited to be able to contribute to ensuring that employers and individuals have access to the learning and skills they need to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead."