A taskforce for helping unemployed and low paid Londoners benefit more from the city’s economic growth has been set up by London Mayor Sadiq, with particular emphasis on the young.
Chaired by Khan’s deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills, Jules Pipe, the eight-strong Skills for Londoners group, comprising business leaders and education experts, will develop a capital-wide strategy for closing the gap between what some of London’s main employers need and what London’s workforce currently supplies.
Although London’s schools produce the best results in the country, the region’s employment rate has lagged behind the national average for three decades, according to City Hall, with more 280,000 Londoners out of work.
The taskforce will focus particularly on the post-16 age group with a view to defining effective career pathways through further education (FE) and other training options and possibly degree courses later on. It is hoped that this will bring greater clarity to what has been criticised as a bewildering range of vocational choices, including apprenticeships, for those who don’t do school A-levels and go straight on to university.
Khan said: “The further education and skills sector has a vital role to play in making sure all Londoners can truly be part of London’s prosperity.” He stressed the need for children to be encouraged to match their skills to their interests from an early age and emphasised “targeting opportunities for girls to excel in science, technology, engineering and maths”.
The mayor added that “a more responsive skills system” had become still more important given the uncertainty produced by the UK’s coming withdrawal from the European Union, which could reduce the availability of EU nationals post-Brexit in key sectors.
The mayor intends to set up a construction skills academy later in the year in partnership with the housebuilding industry, which is particularly reliant on workers from other EU nations. They account for some 30% of the roughly 300,000 people employed in construction in London, according to data recently published by the business membership organisation London First and professional services giant PwC.
A Skills For Londoners capital fund will be invested in new equipment and facilities for London’s FE colleges and others. The £114m package comprises past and new money secured in central government “growth deals” by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), the renamed local enterprise partnership for London, formed of businesses, borough representatives and mayoral agencies to promote and share economic growth. The body is chaired by the mayor and will work closely with the skills taskforce.
One taskforce member, Ian Ashman, is president of the Association of Colleges whose chief executive David Hughes said earlier this month that Khan’s two predecessors as mayor, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, “didn’t really get to grips” with what he characterised as “the polarisation of the workforce and labour market” in London’s global marketplace, and urged the current mayor to “persuade employers to think differently,” saying that “maybe Brexit will be the nudge for that”.
To learn more about Sadiq Khan’s skills training policies, read a Q&A with Jules Pipe, his deputy for planning and skills, here.