Investing in People through Skills and Employment

An update on Skills and Employment from Councillor Ross, Leader of South Lanarkshire Council and Chair of the Glasgow City Region Skills and Employment Portfolio

At last week’s Glasgow City Region Cabinet I was delighted to provide an update on work underway across the Region to support Skills and Employment – the first of a series of updates by the Leaders of the partner Member Authorities on each of our eight Portfolios.  

People are our most important asset. And by investing in our People through skills and employment, we can improve lives and life prospects and also invest in our future, helping to secure a strong and sustainable economy.          

The Skills and Employment Portfolio, which I lead on, brings together a number of key partners including our Universities and Colleges, the Regional Education Collaborative and Skills Development Scotland, to identify and address the challenges we face and to deliver our collective ambitions.

The policy landscape for Skills and Employment is challenging and evolving.

We have seen changes to welfare benefits, the devolution of employability and also college mergers. The issues of poverty, in-work poverty and child poverty have gained appropriate and significant momentum in recent years, giving rise to a range of new policies in relation to Fair Work, Living Wage, Gender Pay Gap, Disability Employment and Tackling Child Poverty – as well as new statutory duties on local authorities.

The nature of the labour market is changing too, with a greater demand for digital skills across all sectors and the impact of increasing technological change and automation.

The Regional Strategic Assessment, developed by our Intelligence Hub, delivers a detailed analysis of the economic performance of the Region and provides a summary of our strengths, weaknesses and challenges under a number of themes – including labour and skills.

Our population of 1.83 million is roughly a third of Scotland and it is growing. The working age population is growing too, with a high rate of graduate level skills and relatively high average earnings. Our People are also highly educated and in fact the Region benefits from six universities – the highest concentration outside of London.

Newly released data shows that Glasgow City Region scores highly for quality of work – a measure of employment contracts, fair pay and working hours – just short of the top spot across the UK.  And our employment inequality – that is the gap between the top and the bottom earnings – is actually lower than most city regions.

On the negative side, unemployment is higher than other core city regions. And we have persistently high levels of economic inactivity, particularly as a result of long-term health and disability. In contrast to our highly educated population – we also have a high percentage of working age adults with no qualifications.

I want to set out some of our achievements to date.  

Our three City Deal employability projects provided an opportunity to develop and test collaborative approaches and Regional working.  The Youth Gateway, Working Matters and In-Work Progression projects are now effectively complete, engaging with over 22,000 residents and supporting almost 9,000 to access, sustain or make progress into work. Evaluation of these has provided valuable learning and supported recommendations for future Regional approaches to employability services.

I am very proud of the work of the Portfolio Group and partners that resulted in the launch of a refreshed Regional Skills Investment Plan in June 2019. This was a truly collaborative piece of work which presents a detailed and challenging action plan for ourselves as a City Region Cabinet and for our partners. It aims to support people from all backgrounds to develop the skills that will help them share in the benefits of economic growth, to futureproof the Regional economy and to support our businesses to grow. 

The plan is underpinned by an extensive Glasgow University analysis of the Region’s labour market which combined with work under the Regional Strategic Assessment, provide strong foundations and a solid evidence base for our future plans.

Funding for employability is changing and we must be in a position to respond to opportunities.  In fact, during the last year we agreed a Regional approach and framework for delivery of the Parental Employment Support Fund which totals almost £6 million over the next two years. We need to do more in developing this approach throughout 2020.

In the last year we organised a workshop on Child Poverty focusing on the Region’s commitments in the Scottish Government Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. As a result we now have closer alignment of City Deal benefits with Child Poverty targets.

In terms of priorities for 2020…

To help address the issue of Poverty, proposals for a Glasgow City Region Fair Work and Living Wage will be brought forward. We will work with the Scottish Government and others to promote Community Wealth Building initiatives to maximise benefits from public sector spend and procurement.

An action plan for a Regional Employability Framework will be developed, building on learning from the City Deal labour projects and we will progress the actions from our ambitious Skills Investment Plan.

We will continue to develop the Portfolio Group, inviting further expertise in health and poverty and create specialist groups for skills and employability. This way we will ensure we have the right people engaged to make the transformative change that our Regional economy needs and our People deserve.  

Councillor John Ross, Leader of South Lanarkshire Council / Chair of the Glasgow City Region Skills and Employment Portfolio