Efforts to make the North and the Midlands key economic growth areas will fail unless local and regional authorities work together to develop a skilled workforce capable of delivering vital infrastructure, the ICE has said.
The ICE was responding to the Commons business, innovation and skills select committee consultation on economic “powerhouses” and “engines”. It welcomed the drive to boost growth across the Midlands and North of England through infrastructure investment. It also welcomed the creation of bespoke combined authorities which negotiate devolution deals and, by their nature, compete against each other for investment.
But it said a more joined up approach to investment in, and development of, people over the age of 19 to ensure the North and Midlands have access to the right skills at the right time. The ICE called for current and future combined authorities to coordinate on skills to create “the widest possible talent pool”. It said they should work with local councils, industry and developers to determine skills and needs, and communicate the opportunities to help increase the uptake of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects in schools.
The ICE’s State of the Nation: Devolution report will explore the challenges and opportunities of devolving decisions on infrastructure, when it is launched next month. It is expected to make recommendations about devolution frameworks and investment and set out ways businesses and other stakeholders can get a clearer, picture of long term skills needs.
State of the Nation: Devolution steering group member Jonathan Spruce said: “The Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse have resulted from the government’s recognition that investment in infrastructure enables growth, job creation and improves productivity – we welcome this and the progress made so far.
“The emphasis on infrastructure however, means engineering skills are in demand and there is a need to grow a diverse workforce which is equipped to deliver the vast range of projects planned right across the North and the Midlands, and help to drive their success as economic zones.
“Responsibility for investment and development in skills for those aged 19-plus will lie with the individual combined authorities and while it’s right that this is devolved, it is vital that these bodies are not competing with each other for skills. Instead they should work together to create and benefit from access to the widest possible talent pool.
“Our upcoming State of the Nation: Devolution report will look at how we enable longer term planning to meet skills needs, and more effective coordination between all with a stake across government, academia and industry.”