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Concerns over preparedness of next generation of workers

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Concerns have been raised about how ready children and young people in cities in the Midlands and the north will be for the future workplace.

The government is being urged to give places more control over spending on education and training.

Local leaders are also being challenged to bring together policy-makers, education providers and businesses to collectively improve education and training at all levels to ensure the next generation of workers have all the skills organisations need.

According to the latest report from thinktank Centre for Cities, there are stark discrepancies in the provision of ‘robot-ready’ skills across the country with cities in the north and Midlands underperforming compared to cities in the greater south-east, which includes London and places in the East of England.

Worringly, the report ‘Can cities outsmart the robots?’ found the cities with the poorest outcomes in early years education and GCSE attainment in maths and English – crucial stages in the development of ‘robot-ready’ skills – are also more exposed than average to potential job losses to automation in the coming decade.

English cities with the worst educational outcomes

English cities with worst educational outcomes
CityShare of children meeting expected standards (2017)Share of pupils achieving GCSEs 9-4 in Maths and English (2017)Share of jobs likely to be lost to automation by 2030
Hull 61% 52% 24%
Peterborough 60% 54% 25%
Liverpool 62% 56% 21%
Burnley 62% 58% 24%
Mansfield 63% 57% 29%

English cities with the best educational outcomes

English cities with best educational outcomes
CityShare of children meeting expected standards (2017)Share of pupils achieving GCSEs 9-4 in Maths and English (2017)Share of jobs likely to be lost to automation by 2030
Aldershot 73% 71% 20%
Reading 72% 71% 15%
York 74% 69% 19%
Bournemouth 73% 69% 22%
Cambridge 68% 73% 13%

The report shows this is compounded by a lack of lifelong learning opportunities for working adults across the country. Job-related training fell by 14% across England between 2004 and 2017, a pattern evident in 42 out of 55 English cities. Only 16% of workers in northern and Midland cities received in-work training last year, compared to 18% in cities in the greater south-east.

Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: “Automation and globalisation are transforming the world of work, but too many people across the country aren’t gaining the skills they need to thrive in future. Urgent and concerted action is needed to address these issues, and to develop an education system which is fit for the future at all levels.

“Further government cuts to education and training budgets will clearly exacerbate these issues, but we also need to ensure that current funding is used more effectively. In particular, the government should give cities more flexibility over education spending, so that they can better meet the needs of their residents.

“Above all, politicians at all levels need to wake up to the scale of the challenges posed by automation. Adult learning in particular has been in decline for the last 15 years – we can’t afford another lost decade if we are to provide current and future workers with the skills they need to prosper.”

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