Posted by

Lord Adonis, Opposition Spokesperson for the Treasury

05 Mar 2014

The UK needs to do far more to promote skills and support business growrth and innovatio, to create more and better jobs. This is the only way to compete in a race to the top.

As part of my independent growth review, I recently held consultation events in ten major cities. The aim was to discuss with businesses, universities and civic leaders the key barriers to growth.

More than 200 employers took part in an interactive survey and roundtable discussions, many of which were organised and led by Chambers of Commerce. I would liketo thank the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and each of the Chambers which hosted events in Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Cambridge and London.

Skills and infrastructure were commonly cited as the most significant impediments to growth.

Many examples were also given of high growth firms being unable to access finance. And there was a perceived lack of support for exports and innovation, with many firms –especially smaller companies – reporting that government support schemes were poorly designed for their needs.

These findings will shape the recommendations of my growth review, which will be published later this summer. I see two priorities: 

First, we need to address the mismatch between near-record levels of youth unemployment and the skills shortages which are holding back many of our best businesses. In every city that I visited most businesses cited skills as their main barrier to growth. Businesses particularly had issues recruiting people with technical skills in IT, engineering, or digital. Indeed, one small manufacturer told me that the average age of their workforce was over 65, as they couldn’t find the engineering specialists they needed.

Apprenticeships, which combine a job with vocational training, can deliver the technical skills which employers need and give young people a route to higher skills. But we need far more employers to take on apprentices, particularly school leavers, backed with more control over funding and more local support to help them in the process.

Secondly, we need to give our city regions greater sway over investment in the essential transport, housing and other critical infrastructure needed to unlock their growth potential. Businesses are frustrated at being unable to attract talent and investment to their local areas because of poor quality infrastructure and a lack of affordable housing. Many called for more cooperation between councils so that they can work together more strategically. This needs to be routed in stronger city region governance, with a voice for employers and other stakeholders.

I look forward to discussing my findings in more detail with members of the BCC and the wider business community, including at the BCC’s Annual Conference on 1st April.

The UK needs a growth plan setting out how we can compete in a race to the top – and this needs to back business growth and innovation.

Andrew Adonis published a report for Policy Network today entitled Competing in a Race to the Top


The views expressed in this blog post reflect those of the author. They do not reflect the views of the British Chambers of Commerce.