City Growth Commission launches new report in Sheffield urging for greater independence for cities

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The RSA City Growth Commission will today (3 July 2014) launch its latest report at the University of Sheffield, urging for greater independence for cities in a bid to rebalance the UK economy.

The political debate around the skills agenda remains “impoverished” according to the report which will be revealed at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing which is highlighted as a centre of excellence for pioneering teaching, world-class research and a global leader in the manufacturing industry

The Commission is chaired by University of Sheffield graduate and former chief economist of Goldman Sachs, Jim O’Neill who coined the BRIC acronym to describe the growth markets in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

In its second report, Human Capitals: Driving UK Metro Growth through Workforce Investment, the Commission is bold in its recommendations to help Britain’s regional cities thrive and complement London’s economic success.

It concludes that economic growth is best supported by addressing skills mismatches in the labour market at a metro level – with local administrations in cities having the power to control government spending on skills and set local labour market policy at the scale at which the labour market operates.

The report states that UK skills system has been slow to adapt to changes in the UK economy, and

to employers’ demand for not only new skills, but also new ways of working and communicating.

However, the University's AMRC is highlighted as a 'progressive institution' which is leading the way providing a model for drawing tutors from skilled trades and ensuring learners apply themselves in a group environment,

with facilities located in a growing industrial park.

The AMRC is also praised by the Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable MP for putting 'apprenticeships back on an equal status with university education' in his announcement today about the recovery in manufacturing which is pioneered in Yorkshire.

Professor Tony Payne, Director of the University’s Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), who will be speaking at today’s launch said: “The City Growth Commission is meeting at the AMRC, on the site of the old Orgreave coking plant.

“Thirty years ago it was the site of industrial division and the battle staged there was a key moment in the destruction of the post-war social democratic order and the building of the so-called Anglo-liberal growth model that reigned supreme under all parties until the great crash of 2008.

“Now we are looking for new models, new ways forward. The City Growth Commission’s interim report about Human Capitals fits this prospect well. It is detailed, focused and sharply delineates the skills challenge faced by contemporary Britain, and it heralds the possibility that northern cities can collectively play a full role in the country’s political economy. But we need to think and act on an even bigger scale.

Fully successful advanced manufacturing and a cities revival cannot take place if we carry on nationally seeking to revive the failed growth model of the last 30-40 years. We badly need a new national model of development, a new form of Civic Capitalism.

The report is a summary of the skills challenges facing Sheffield and other cities in the UK.

The evidence demonstrates that too many employers in cities face difficulties in finding the skilled employees they need, with each city having different requirements to meet the need of modern, ambitious and diverse city economies.

The Sheffield City Region has secured £28m of devolved funding from the Skills Made Easy City Fund which puts businesses in charge of deciding how best to spend the money to get the skills they need to grow their businesses. This will give Sheffield 4,000 additional apprentices and 2,000 unskilled staff by 2016.

The University and Sheffield City Council have worked in close partnership on a variety of initiatives including the award-winning RISE project which champions talented graduates from the city’s universities into employment in small and medium sized enterprises.

Leader of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Julie Dore, said: “In the space of a few days both Lord Adonis and now the RSA Commission have said that if we’re going to support our businesses to grow, the money for skills and training must be devolved to cities and city regions.

“How can a civil servant in Whitehall possibly understand the skills needs of a business in Sheffield.

“Centralised control does not deliver the results that we need, and the skills system is another example of this. Local control means we can shape the skills system to meet the needs of businesses, which helps us to grow our economy and create the high-skill, high-wage jobs we need in our city.”

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

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