FATE OF THE NORTHERN POWERHOUSE WILL REST WITH PEOPLE, NOT INFRASTRUCTURE
One of the most significant areas of interest in George Osborne’s Budget on Wednesday (9th July 2015) was the Conservative government’s continued commitment to the development of a Northern Powerhouse, with Greater Manchester at its core.
It is encouraging to see that the government has recognised the North’s immense growth potential, and this policy agenda is clearly something we should be keeping a close eye on over the course of this government. Devolved powers to areas of the North offers significant opportunities for the Northern cities to shape their futures, though it will be interesting to see how the government plans to bring its promises to fruition.
Fate of the Northern Powerhouse will rest with people, not infrastructure
Piers Linney, Co-CEO of Outsourcery
Citing the 2014 Tech Nation report, the Budget drew attention to the fact that over 170,000 people are working in digital businesses in the North, with many rapidly expanding tech clusters. The government has acted on this by promising £11 million of investment in tech incubators in Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester, which certainly provides cause for optimism for the North’s vibrant digital sector. Data has also shown that both employment and output per head in the North West, North East, West Midlands and Wales grew faster than in London, which presents compelling evidence that building the Northern Powerhouse would bring significant benefits to the UK economy in general.
The key challenge that the North faces over the next few years is to deter its promising young talent from taking the first train down to London to pursue a career. The short- and medium-term focus for the North should lie in connecting young people with employment opportunities from a very early age, in order to raise aspirations and encourage career-minded thought while at school. Connecting young people with comprehensive work experience programmes would go some way towards achieving this and, if coordinated in the right way, could encourage them to remain in the North when developing their future careers. In addition, a stronger focus on independent thinking and initiative throughout the school curriculum may also help unearth the next generation of North-based entrepreneurs.
In short, the success of the North and the proposed Powerhouse will ultimately rest on its people. High-quality education, improved quality of life and a closer focus on the development of employability skills are of paramount importance. Improved infrastructure will help to better connect the North to itself and the rest of the country, but having the right people will ensure the Northern Powerhouse is built on the strongest of foundations.
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