English workforce failings could sink post-Brexit economy, Localis study warns

English workforce failings could sink post-Brexit economy, Localis study warns

The country’s future national prosperity is imperilled because a toxic cocktail of threats – including Brexit, automation and a shrinking skills base – risks squeezing the supply of native workers trained to do tomorrow’s jobs – a report from Localis has today warned.

In a paper published today entitled ‘In place of work – influencing local labour markets’ the study authors estimated that just under half of England’s local labour markets have an above-average level of jobs risk due to a post-Brexit migration squeeze; around half have an above average risk to the increased automation of jobs; and just more than half have an above-average risk arising from a low skills base.

Research undertaken by Localis indicated a staggering gulf in the strength of England’s local labour markets, with the bulk of investment – both public and private, infrastructure, research and development and foreign investment – being channelled into London and the space which occupies the golden triangle between it, Oxford and Cambridge.

The analysis also revealed that rural county areas account for nine-out-of-10 locations most at risk from the toxic cocktail of future threats to local labour markets.  Report sponsors the County Councils Network (CCN), which represents 37 county councils in England, argued the report makes a clear case for devolving powers to its members so they can devise local labour strategies.

However, the findings do not support the traditional view of ‘north-south’ divide in wealth and economic outcomes, but instead outlined there are greater differences within regions, with labour markets of the South East, in places like Kent and Essex, needing support just as much as certain parts of the North East.

Co-author of the report and chief executive of Localis, Liam Booth-Smith, said: “As the country slowly gets to grips with the broader implications, both positive and negative, of Brexit, it strikes us that the biggest threat to our future prosperity won’t come from Brussels, but from our own people.

“Simply put, our population is too low-skilled for the high-paying industries we are developing.”

Co-author, Localis researcher Joe Fyans, said: “While national government can and should set the policy framework for reshaping the country’s labour market to meet future economic needs, local areas must be empowered to respond to their different circumstances. Government must empower England’s strategic authorities to positively influence their local labour markets.

“We would like to see devolved powers in apprenticeships and further education, to coordinate the needs of local enterprise and the local population. We place a particular emphasis on the beneficial role this could play in helping disabled people achieve sustained employment and in preventing the premature exit from the jobs market of people aged over 50.”

Chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN), Cllr Paul Carter, said: “Counties have intimate knowledge of their local economies, both public and private sectors, but have been hamstrung by a ‘one size fits’ all skills agenda. Government must hone and unleash this potential in rural areas by creating strategic authorities, led by the county authority.

“County authorities have the ambition, size, and expertise to engineer real change in their local skills market, but are shackled by a lack of powers. Let’s embrace the art of the possible – this new approach would be good for business and good for residents.

“This report by Localis sets out a deliverable framework to develop local labour market strategies. By devolving significant skills budgets and adult education powers, we can begin to create make a difference locally and a more prosperous country nationally.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here: ‘In Place Of Work – influencing local labour markets’