Yorkshire skill gap widens as business warn over competitiveness

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BUSINESS LEADERS have warned that the competitiveness of their enterprises is being undermined due to a gulf in the skills of Yorkshire’s workforce compared to London amid renewed calls for the Government to devolve decision-making powers to the region.

New data shows that 33 per cent of workers in Yorkshire are educated beyond the equivalent of an A-level and above, compared to 53.1 per cent in London.

Beckie Hart

Beckie Hart

The statistics from Britain’s biggest business organisation, the CBI, have led to calls for greater devolution of the skill agenda to the North and come just prior to the five-year anniversary of launch of the Northern Powerhouse agenda on June 23, 2014.

The CBI report also shows that two-thirds of Yorkshire firms say limited access to labour is a threat to competitiveness, while 88 per cent of the region’s firms reported they are struggling to access the skills they need to succeed.

The CBI’s regional director Beckie Hart warned that reversing the skills gap in Yorkshire and the North is crucial.

She said: “These figures paint worrying picture that threatens to give the Northern Powerhouse a major power shortage. Reversing this trend means plugging the skills gap that is hampering the Northern Powerhouse.

“Business and the Government need to champion the flexible labour market on which our economic strength relies, to ensure investment continues to flow in.”

The lag between Yorkshire and London is revealed a week to the day since the launch of the Power Up The North campaign to put the Northern Powerhouse agenda at the heart of the Government’s policies. Supported by the North’s newspapers including The Yorkshire Post and dozens of business leaders, the campaign calls for the economy to be re-balanced away from a focus on the South.

It is calling for a bespoke industrial strategy, a vision for affordable housing and extra investment in schools, as well as devolved decision-making and an overhaul of the North’s transport network.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s director, Henri Murison, said handing control to combined authorities would ensure the North “truly pulls its weight in economic terms”.

He added: “The skills gap between the North and South is one of the biggest challenges facing us now and for future generations. The Northern Powerhouse is full of talent and ingenuity and can be a global leader in the next industrial revolution, but we will miss out on this opportunity if we do not close the gap on skills.”

The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse has admitted a skilled workforce across the North of England is key to creating “a growing, thriving economy”.

MP Jake Berry said: “We’ve made great progress since 2015, but for too long vocational skills were not given the recognition they deserved. That’s why I am now proud to see that, with around 25 per cent of the UK’s workforce, the Northern Powerhouse accounts for 35 per cent of all apprenticeship starts in England.

“Our £70m Northern Powerhouse School Strategy is just one way in which we’re ensuring the North achieves its full economic potential.”