Later this week the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) will host the Area Economic Growth Conference which will see a review of key issues affecting the North East’s economic development, including innovation, skills and apprenticeships, access to finance, supply chain development, infrastructure and transport.
The conference follows on from the launch of the North East Independent Economic Review led by Lord Andrew Adonis, which set out how we can achieve more and better jobs and a better quality of life. What the North East really needs is the wherewithal to shape its own economic agenda by identifying where resource and funds should be allocated, and as we well know at the North East Business & Innovation Centre (BIC), areas including investing in innovation and providing easier access to financial support are vital. It is fantastic to see that some progress is already being made, with the North East LEP being chosen by government as one of only three LEPs in the country to pilot innovative new approaches to skills development funding to help boost local jobs and business growth. The opportunity presented by Vince Cable will enable the North East to have a much greater influence over and decision-making about skills funding in the LEP area.
Through my work with the National Apprenticeship Service, Milltech Training and the North East BIC, I recognise the vital importance of education, training and development in the growth of local economies. There is a need to equip the next generation of employees with the right skills, knowledge and attitude. The alignment of skills and industry is paramount to the ongoing development of the workforce and this doesn’t just relate to school-leavers.
It’s crucial that those already in work have the chance to enhance their skills with relevant qualifications. Employer input will play a vital role in the new skills model, helping to match current and future skills provision to demand in the labour market. In the long-term I hope these new measures will have a positive impact on individuals and businesses at a time when skills have been identified as one of the most critical issues for growing businesses.
It’s great news that the ideas put forward to government for the skills funding model are now being driven forward. I look forward to seeing the outcome of Friday’s Area Economic Growth Conference and hope we see further progress in devolving decision making powers to those organisations that best understand what this region needs to fully realise its potential.
:: By John Anderson CBE, North East Business and Innovation Centre