The Role of Skills in Levelling Up

May 6, 2022 by Elena Magrini

To benefit from economic growth and access the many job opportunities it creates, people need to have the right skills employers need. Yet, over six million working-age adults in the UK still have little or no qualifications at all (defined as not having at least a GCSE or equivalent qualification).

In this respect, levelling up is a challenge faced by every place in the country. As the interactive map below shows, while people with low or no qualifications represent a larger share of the population in places in the North and Midlands, one in five of them — approximately 1.3 million individuals — live in areas the Government classified as ‘low priority’ when it comes to levelling up.

For places to address this challenge, understanding business needs and aligning training provision accordingly is crucial. This is a very local challenge: requirements will vary from one place to another — even between areas of similar economic success. Take South Cambridgeshire and Brighton for example: both areas are ‘low-priority’ in terms of levelling up, which suggests they both have a strong economy, but by using our open skills taxonomy to identify Skills Categories in job postings over the last year, we can see that they nevertheless have different skills requirements, which are reflective of their different geography and the different industrial make-up behind their success (the chart below allows you to toggle between the two areas using the key at the top):

Identifying the right skills to invest in is more complex for areas in need of levelling up. This is because promoting economic growth in these areas will require interventions on both skills and jobs at the same time, making it harder to plan for employers’ needs while demand is changing. This is visible in the figure below: as we explained in our latest webinar, the skills most in demand in areas that currently have a low-skilled equilibrium, and hence in need of levelling up, are different from those most in demand in areas that already have a strong economic performance.

The complexity of the challenge calls for joined-up solutions. An in-depth understanding of the data is key to the design of successful interventions and so is collaboration between the key stakeholders of a local area, namely local authorities, employment services, businesses and education providers.

You can find a more in-depth discussion on the Role of Skills in our latest webinar below, and you can also register for our next webinar where we’ll be discussing the importance of local partnerships by clicking the button below.