Politicians told ‘wake up’ as Liverpool kids fall behind in new economy skills

Think tank Centre for Cities says not enough young people in the city are gaining what it calls ‘robot-ready’ skills in a world of working being transformed by automation and globalisation. Tony McDonough reports

digital, technology, young people
Young people in Liverpool are missing out on vital skills, says Centre for Cities

 

Children and young adults are not equipped with the right skills to prosper in a fast-changing and increasingly digital world, a new report claims.

Think tank Centre for Cities says young people in the city are falling behind other areas of the UK when it comes to gaining what it calls the “robot-ready” skills they need to thrive in the changing world of work, which is being transformed by automation and globalisation.

And its claim was backed up by one local expert – Chelsea Slater of Liverpool Girl Geeks – who said the current curriculum around STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) “isn’t fit for purpose”.

Action needed

Centre for Cities says “concerted action” is needed from national and local politicians, businesses and education providers in Liverpool to improve educational opportunities in all cities, from early years to schools and adult learning.

Its report – Can cities outsmart the robots? The future of skills in UK cities – assessed educational outcomes for both early-years and teenage pupils and placed Liverpool close to the bottom of the league for English towns and cities, beating only Hull and Peterborough.

It shows that these issues are compounded by a lack of lifelong learning opportunities for working adults in every city. Only 14% of workers in Liverpool received in-work training last year.

The study argues that interpersonal and analytical skills – such as negotiation and critical thinking – are increasingly important for current and future workers, as manual and physical jobs are particularly under threat from automation and globalisation.

Devolved powers

Centre for Cities makes a number of recommendations on how national and local leaders can better equip current and future workers with ‘robot-ready’ skills.

It said leaders in Liverpool should build on the innovative School Improvement Liverpool scheme, which was established in 2014 to support to nurseries and schools, and recommended increasing extra-curricular opportunities for children and young people – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Centre for Cities
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities

 

It also said the  Government should lead a drive to increase provision and take-up of adult learning opportunities and remove financial barriers which prevent workers from accessing training.

And it recommended giving cities more devolved powers over spending on education and training – something Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, would also be keen to see.

Fit for the future

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Automation and globalisation are transforming the world of work, but many people across Liverpool aren’t gaining the skills they need to thrive in future.

“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. 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 leaders in Liverpool 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.”

Liverpool Girl Geeks
Jo Morfee and Chelsea Slater of Liverpool Girl Geeks

 

‘A bit boring’

Social enterprise Liverpool Girl Geeks was established in 2013 by Chelsea Slater, Jo Morfee and Rebecca Jones and its mission is to encourage more girls across the Liverpool city region to consider careers in digital and tech.

Ms Slater agreed that young people in the region risked being left behind. She said: “Education in Liverpool and the North West is a concern, especially when you look at tech skills and the number of students taking up computer science GCSE, which is around 8%.

“The current curriculum isn’t fit for purpose and lots of students we’ve spoken to find it ‘a bit boring’ which isn’t going to increase uptake in the subject.

“We designed our programme with industry experts and we showcase inspiring role models throughout which students have told us make the sessions more interactive and engaging.

“What’s important is to be enthusiastic about the future and teach young people to embrace change and the adoption of artificial technologies, so that they are looking for opportunities and gaining skills for careers that are on the rise.”

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