Realising Regional Growth: Five things we learnt

Thoughts -

Earlier in 2022, the Government revealed its Levelling Up plan, which sets out its mission to improve opportunities across the country.

To help us gain better understanding of the plan and find out what it means for the local economic growth in our regions, we went along to Centre for Cities’ Realising Regional Growth event in Manchester – home of one of our studios – for an afternoon of insightful and inspiring conversation.

Speakers included Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Lord Sainsbury of Turville.

Here are five things we took away from the event:

1. The key to growth is innovation.

Consistent growth requires a commitment to innovation. As well as allowing businesses to stay relevant in the competitive market, innovation also plays an important role in economic growth; without innovation, there isn’t anything new, and without anything new, there will be no progress.

Innovation really is the core reason for modern existence. Although innovation can have some undesirable consequences, change is inevitable and, in most cases, innovation creates positive change.

It all comes down to adapting to the ever-changing society, forward-thinking and simply doing good.

2. A devolution of power to local authorities is needed.

A devolution of power makes sure decisions are made closer to the local people, communities, and businesses they affect. By giving local authorities more control of where money is spent, they’ll be able to invest in the areas that are more relevant to growing their economy.

For example, in Manchester and the North West, our growth will come from putting money into training and skills, research and development, infrastructure and transport sectors.

Localising curriculum to meet the needs of local labour markets was also a hot topic at the event, with Lord Sainsbury calling for FE budgets to be devoted to Metro Mayors so provision could be better aligned to local market needs. This would be a key action and one that could dramatically boost the growth of training and skills.

3. Upskilling and training are vital.

With the topical skills gap looming over many sectors, upskilling and reskilling our nation’s workforce is at the forefront of both the business and education agendas. The responsibility for growth in skills falls to two parties: education providers and employers. Education providers will benefit from adjusting their curriculum to better prepare the next generation of learners for the workforce by incorporating more ‘hard skills’ into their teaching.

It is also the responsibility of employers to be consistent with training and upskilling their existing workforce, to ensure workers and their businesses are always moving forward and not getting left behind in an ever-changing world.

4. Innovation can only be achieved through collaboration.

Manchester, like any other city, works best when it works together. Cross-sector collaborations across various industries are vital for future regional growth. This includes businesses working with education providers and skills development programmes to better prepare young people for when they enter the world of work. Gordon Brown made a passionate call for more local businesses to be involved in careers information, advice, and guidance.

We like to think we’re already paving the way for such a change in the North West through our sister social enterprise, Agent Academy. It works with leading businesses and employers to make sure that through dynamic and industry-focused programmes, they’re developing talent with the skills and knowledge those industries are looking for. Since launching, Agent Academy has established a track record of equipping young people with the skills to launch their careers in the creative and digital sector.

5. Standards need to be raised.

It’s important that employers and companies are looking at their business model and ensuring they are doing the upmost to position themselves as a place that stands out and attracts the best talent. Standards need to be raised and maintained across all sectors.

This can be demonstrated in the way they treat employees, the quality of work and products being created on a consistent basis, and not only their public facing identity and voice, but their internal one too. By aligning these standards, businesses will have the best chance of standing out and attracting the best talent in the region.

At Agent, we’re passionate about contributing to the future of the next generation, and the growth of our regions. As we continue to evolve with our changing world and educate our future workforce, we hope to see more businesses, educators, local authorities and policy makers getting involved and doing the same.

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