Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
3:00 AM 25th July 2022

NW Employers Need Better Support To Boost Investment In Skills And Tackle Low Productivity Levels

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 new ‘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 policy makers, employer representative bodies, Further Education providers and northern employers.

Tackling low productivity & weak investment in skills
The report emphasises that the North West’s low productivity levels is, in part, due to inadequate leadership and people management capability in too many firms, and a consequently weak demand for investment in skills.

While the North has a higher concentration of low skilled adults (NVQ 2 and below)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 workers to tackle the longstanding productivity disparities, and consequently weak demand for investment in skills.

In response, the new CIPD report recommends a range of measures to boost employer investment in training, ensure people’s skills are better matched to local jobs, and used more effectively in the workplace.

Recommendations include:
Increase employer understanding of the benefits ofengaging with vocational education and training, and improve their capability to do so. CIPD research found that four in ten northern employers do not have any links with local colleges (rising to almost 60% of SMEs).
Strengthen regional partnerships, local referral networks, and improve coordination between institutions, particularly between business support and skills providers.
A long-term vision and flexible local funding, rather than centrally designed pots of competitive funds.
Share examples of where skills and training initiatives are working well, so that good practice can be learned from, and scaled and spread across other areas.

Other recommendations to build employer capability, capacity and appetite to invest in skills, is the need for a step change in the quality of regional business support, in particular on HR and people management and development.

Lizzie Crowley
Lizzie Crowley
Lizzie Crowley, CIPD Senior Policy Advisor, Skills said:
“Too often, business leaders lack the capability and knowledge to manage people, or develop their staff effectively, which leads to low workplace productivity and skill levels.

“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
Richard Caulfield
Richard Caulfield, North West Regional Director at Association of Colleges – who helped contribute to the report – added:

“Skills has to be at the centre of any effort to level up the North, and that has to involve an expanded role for colleges within the system. This report rightly identifies the bigger role that colleges can play in providing strategic support to employers across innovation and skills.

“It’s crucial this investment in strategic support for employers is retained over the long-termand that as we develop a more coordinated local approach, we align it to other mechanisms such as Growth Hubs so that employers are clear about where they can go to access support.

“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.”

Download the CIPD Skills Policy in the North report at