Skills gulf: The families not qualified for jobs on their doorsteps

Mike Hawking, Cities 
Partnerships Manager at the 
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Mike Hawking, Cities Partnerships Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
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A GULF in skills is leaving people living in Yorkshire’s most deprived areas unable to access the jobs available on their doorsteps.

New research by the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that thousands of areas across the country are unable to share in the country’s record employment levels because people living there are disconnected from the jobs on offer, often because they lack the skills to take up the available roles. Health problems and the type and quality of jobs are also barriers.

Researchers analysed the connection between the country’s 20 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods and the labour market over the last decade - including swathes of Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull and Barnsley - and found 2,300 areas it classed as Primary Employment Zones, deprived areas which also happen to have high numbers of jobs in them.

In Leeds, where there were 91 jobs per 100 working age people, the employment rate stood at 70 per cent.

Almost a third of neighbourhoods, 31 per cent, were among the most deprived nationally - and three out of ten areas were classed as being deprived “with jobs on the doorstep”.

In Sheffield, which was also analysed in detail by researchers, just over a third of neighbourhoods are deprived, and more than a third of these are geographically disconnected from the labour market.

Cities partnership manager at the JRF, Mike Hawking, said: “Despite higher paid jobs being available in their neighbourhoods, the jobs people who live there are doing are of low quality and low paid.

“In the centre of Leeds for example, you might have an area filled with law offices, but the people living there cannot access the jobs as they do not have the skills to do them.

“We know the jobs are there, it’s now about having the right initiatives in place to help local people access them, whether that be improving transport links such as bus routes, or making sure the training systems on offer match up with the labour market.”

Improving the skills of people living in poverty could boost the Treasury by £4bn by 2020, the report said.

JRF is calling on the newly created Economy and Industrial Strategy Cabinet Committee, businesses and local authorities to harness their efforts to ensure the areas are not left behind.

It suggest increasing adult skills training, creating an inclusive growth fund, securing regional development funding beyond 2020 as part of Brexit negotiations and using the biggest employers in the area as “anchor institutions” to increase job opportunities for people living nearby as possible solutions.

The report’s author, Alasdair Rae, from the University of Sheffield, said: “Our research shows that some poorer neighbourhoods have not been able to fully benefit from the economic growth that has occurred in their wider cities over the past decade. This can be seen all across the UK, and particularly in the core cities. In fact, some areas face a kind of ‘double disadvantage’ in that they are not very well connected to local jobs and also not well connected to their local housing market.

“The challenge now is therefore to find ways to ensure that economic growth is more inclusive and that no neighbourhood is left behind. We think specific policy mechanisms are needed to solve this ongoing challenge and hope that our research can make a contribution to that effort.”

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