Think tank warns Northern cities ill-prepared for automation

Cities in the North and Midlands do not have the necessary skills to help them deal with automation and globalisation, according to a new report.

The report by the think tank Centre for Cities calls for urgent action to improve education and training standards to help workers adapt to changing work environments and new technologies.

In particular, it claims there are stark discrepancies in the provision of ‘robot-ready’ analytical skills, with cities in the North and Midlands underperforming compared to wealthier counterparts in the South East.

According to the report, 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, and 18% in cities in the Greater South East.

It adds that cities with the best GCSE results – which are almost all in the South East – are broadly less vulnerable to job losses from automation.

The report calls on the Government to help workers retrain and gain new skills whilst giving cities more powers over spending on education and training.

This would enable places to experiment and tailor the provision of education and training to better meet the skills needs of their residents and economies, the report adds.

In January, New Start reported on another study by Centre for Cities, which claimed one in five jobs in the UK could be at risk because of increasing automation and globalisation.

‘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,’ said Centre for Cities chief executive, Andrew Carter.

‘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,’ he added.

‘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,’ said Mr Carter.

‘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.’

To read the full report – Can cities outsmart the robots?click here.


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