Blog post by Catherine Howe, Chief Executive, Public-i
As I have been reading around the issue of economic renewal I keep coming back to something I read on the (excellent) Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership website. Their ambition is to have 160,000 new jobs by 2025 – not surprising given the scale of their ambition for the whole area.
That means that the 18 year olds who will take some of those jobs are 4 years old right now and I keep wondering what work is being done within the education system in order to ensure that those 4 year olds are going to have the skills they will need to apply for and get those jobs? Does the LEP know what skills they will need?
To some extent yes they do. The LEP has stated that their vision is for a low carbon knowledge-based economy and these sectors need a high level of educational attainment and a lot more focus on the sciences than we might get usually. Given that green tech is a relatively new industry, and that the knowledge economy tends to be built of lots of smaller businesses, it’s also reasonable to say that the area needs to be growing its own entrepreneurs as well as attracting them from elsewhere.
I don’t know what levers the LEP has with respect to shaping the local educational experience towards local economic need – and I think there are some longer term questions that would have to be asked if the educational experiences of 4 year olds are being guided by these kinds of long term goals. On one hand, if we don’t intervene in early year’s education then we also know there is a considerably reduced chance that we will produce the kinds of highly skilled workers that this economic vision will need in the future. On the other hand, those 4 year olds will have ridden out 3 General Elections and the subsequent policy changes by the time they get into the workforce and we need to educate them to be ready for all that will ensue.
So I think I want to ask two questions:
- Are we sure that politically led organisations can produce the stability of vision that is needed to take today’s 4 years olds into the workplace in 2025?
- Do we have the right tools at hand to be able to help educate those 4 year olds to be able to fully participate in the economic vision that is being created for their future?
It’s the small things….
The question of education is huge – which is really why I have focused on one small group. In contrast I just wanted to make one other, completely unrelated, observation. My local council has given permission for the gas company to do some works which are basically backing up the traffic for miles around (it’s a small village – this is big news). Can’t be avoided. However, all the traders that I have chatted to on the High Street have noticed a drop off in trade and they are worried about it. These are small businesses – some of them would have closed for a week over the summer anyway – and though they know the work needs to be done some kind of warning that it was happening would have helped them plan for and deal with the slowdown far more easily and with less loss of trade. They could have warned customers, planned their summer breaks and generally made the best of it.
It’s this kind of detailed thinking that is needed to help businesses in your area – not just the big stuff.