SKILLS MINISTER Anne Milton’s call-to-arms is a timely one after 18 council leaders signed off the One Yorkshire devolution blueprint.
“Talent is not defined by geography. The Northern Powerhouse has talent, innovation and energy in abundance. And, by embracing apprenticeships and skills even further, the Northern Powerhouse can make a tremendous impact,” she declared at a conference in Leeds to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week.
This endorsement, also on the same day that Bradford launched a dynamic economic strategy of its own to meet the future aspirations of its young people, goes to the heart of the devolution debate and this region’s desire to shape its own future. Though much emphasis is, rightly, placed on the need for much greater investment in the area’s infrastructure, the issue of skills has never been more important and there’s no reason why world class apprenticeships can’t be an alternative to university degree courses and the well-documented expense of tuition fees.
And, given that civic leaders will need public support in abundance if they’re to convince sceptical Ministers about the merits of breaking new ground with the size and scope of Yorkshire’s devolution plan, they need to be emphasising the enhanced opportunities for key issues like skills in order to increase the pressure on the Government.
For, while recent progress has been commendable, the jargon used by council leaders, chief executives and so on does a disservice to the central issue – how best to engineer a new era of economic growth in a county proud of the diversity of its industrial, business and commercial heritage? If there’s more focus on policy priorities now that an outline agreement is in place, leaders will find it easier to win the confidence of the public and, crucially, those Ministers who will have the ultimate say on this.