This insight reviews the evidence on what skills policies are likely to contribute to levelling up by increasing productivity in places outside of London and the South East, and compares this to the government’s current approach.
It finds that there are three roles that policies on skills can play to help level up, and in each case the government’s policies broadly match the evidence.
- Improving skills for those entering the labour force, including by increasing take-up of higher-level non-university adult skills qualifications, a key focus of the government’s levelling up skills mission. University education is also an important driver of productivity and should continue to be promoted.
- Improving lifetime learning and retraining provision, recognising that most people will have multiple careers during their working lives. The UK government’s lifetime loan entitlement is an encouraging step in this direction.
- Improving the matching of skills and jobs, as it is important that skills are used well once acquired, which requires coordination at a local labour market level. The UK fares quite badly internationally on skills matching, but the government’s new Local Skills Improvement Plans should help to tailor skills provision to local demand.
We also caution that there is a limit to how much skills policy can do to deliver levelling up. Interventions earlier in life – before and during school – will lead to bigger increases in skills and attainment, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. And other policies are needed to prevent high-skilled people leaving places.
The insight includes recommendations to government to improve its approach skills:
- Make the levelling up skills mission more ambitious to return participation in adult education qualifications to 2010 levels.
- Aim to increase participation in higher education as well as adult skills qualifications.
- Develop policies to improve early-years provision.