After the recent publication of the D2N2 Local Skills Report 2022, D2N2 Interim CEO, Will Morlidge reflects on the challenges faced over the last couple of years, and on the impressive developments in the D2N2 skills system in that time.
There is no doubt the pandemic has had a huge impact on local jobs. The D2N2 claimant count doubled to a peak of 81,000. A total of 374,000 employments have been on furlough, while 79,000 individuals have made SEISS claims. However, the labour market has responded and recovered strongly. The fall in claimant count started earlier and has been more pronounced in our region than the England average. Our job vacancies have also been increasing steadily since March 2021, reaching 100,000 in October 2021.
Despite these challenges, the guiding principles in our Recovery and Growth Strategy remain integral to what we need to achieve.
Low Carbon Growth: The Low Carbon sector in D2N2 consists of 1,900 businesses employing 35,000 people, and totalling £5.3bn in sales. In the quest for Net Zero, it has the potential to reach 50,600 jobs by 2050. However, there is a known shortage of engineers and technicians. Demand for green skills is expected to increase significantly in the coming years, and the impact will be felt on many traditional sectors, including manufacturing, construction, and transport and logistics.
Productivity: Productivity in D2N2 has improved over time but has remained below the UK trend. As of 2019, D2N2 productivity was 13% below the UK average, compared to 11% below in 2004. Similarly, there has been a persistent pay gap between D2N2 and the England average, with D2N2 residents and workers earning 7%-8% less. Improving productivity is a continuing challenge, but it is vital both for our businesses’ performance and for our workers’ incomes.
Connectivity and Inclusion: Inclusion is a vital thread through all of our work. Our decisions are tested to ensure they can positively contribute towards levelling up for the many vulnerable groups in our workforce, including those who are keen to enter the labour market but face additional barriers. We continue to promote the value of inclusion with partners, and support them in their efforts towards it.
Digital connectivity is another critical element of the skills system, and digital is a theme that cuts across all industries. There are 36,000 jobs in 11 “core” digital occupations in D2N2. We know there is a shortage of specialist IT skills, as well as a need to ensure everyone has essential digital skills. Over 800 learners have so far participated in our digital bootcamps in the region, while the colleges’ collaboration on a universal digital skills module means that all of their 16-18 students will gain the basic skills they need regardless of career path. We are developing a standalone digital strategy to ensure we meet the increasing needs for digital skills in the area.
Since we published the first D2N2 Local Skills Report in March 2021, we have made significant progress towards our objectives, and I have been delighted with the many impactful developments we have made in the local skills landscape. My highlights this past year have been:
- The Enterprise Adviser Network building on its existing success to establish four Careers Hubs, supporting 152 schools and colleges with their careers provision
- The START in D2N2 platform enabling a single point of access to labour market information for all young people across D2N2
- Towns Funding for an Automated Distribution and Manufacturing Centre (ADMC) in Ashfield to support the adoption, integration and expansion of automated technologies
- The expansion of the Construction College in Newark, to provide courses in traditional trades for an additional 600 students
- Nottingham Trent University and Vision West Nottinghamshire College enabling an integrated pathway from Level 2 (GCSEs) to Level 7 (Master’s degree) in Mansfield and Ashfield
- Our Further Education colleges securing two Strategic Development Fund projects
- The successful bid for the East Midlands Institute of Technology, led by the University of Derby, with a range of provider and employer partners
It is testament to the tireless efforts of our partner organisations and the improving local collaboration that such successes can be achieved. As we look forward, I am excited about the future and the opportunities that lie ahead.
We have refreshed our D2N2 skills strategy, shifting our focus from immediate pandemic response to the medium and longer-term skills needed in the area. Its priorities have been reframed to focus on: Creating the future workforce, maximising employment potential and developing and retaining higher level skills
We will continue to play a crucial role within D2N2’s efforts to design and implement effective ‘place-based’ and evidence informed strategies with focus on employment, skills, and inclusion. In doing so, we will contribute to wider ambitions for the region, respond to local needs and development priorities, and align clearly with government initiatives aimed at growth and levelling up.
Effective partnership working is critical to ensuring the people of D2N2 gain the skills they need. This requires businesses, employer representative organisations, training providers, local authorities, and government to all play their part. We encourage all stakeholders to continue engage with us and the wider skills system to ensure we continue to improve prospects for all.