Senior business leaders in the North West are calling for more measures to tackle the region’s low productivity levels and boost employer investment in skills. 

The CIPD’s report titled ‘Skills policy in the North: recommendations for levelling up’ highlights the need for a fundamental re-think of skills policy, after bringing together perspectives from regional policymakers, employer representative bodies, further education providers and northern employers.

The report emphasises that the region’s low productivity levels are, in part, due to poor leadership and capability to manage people among too many firms and consequently weak demand for investment in skills.

While the North has a higher concentration of low-skilled adults compared to the national average, research in the report reveals the region also has a higher amount of low-wage work, skills gaps and poor utilisation of people’s skills in the workplace.

This demonstrates that more needs to be done to improve the skills and qualifications of the region’s workforce.

In response, the new CIPD report recommends a range of measures.

Recommendations include increasing employer understanding of the benefits of training employees as CIPD research found four in ten northern employers don't have any links with local colleges, strengthening regional partnerships and referral networks, a long-term vision and flexible local funding rather than centrally designed pots of competitive funds, and to generally build employer appetite to invest in skills.

Lizzie Crowley, CIPD's senior policy advisor, said: “A business support offer on HR and people management would help employers – of all sizes - develop their staff and improve the quality of their jobs. 

"It would also allow organisations to better understand their skills gaps and shortages, making them more likely to engage with further education colleges and other training providers.”

Richard Caulfield, North West regional director at the Association of Colleges – who helped contribute to the report – added: “Colleges stand ready to play this expanded role, and to strengthen local collaboration, but significant change is needed from employers – they need to be supported with business change and innovation as we adapt to a changing world of work, and redress the fall in employer investment in skills.”

To read the full report click here.