Burnham: Our moment is now

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham told business leaders at a TheBusinessDesk.com round table that the chance to fix a broken skills system was his top priority after his ‘deeper devolution deal’ with government.

The Greater Manchester Mayor said “I want to be the city region that cracks technical skills for 16 year olds, so every young person in all ten parts of Greater Manchester can benefit.

“We’re way out in front on new graduate level jobs being advertised. We’ve got to be proud of that. It was great to go on US television when I was over there and make that point.”

Citing the ambitions to attract high quality skills to Rochdale and Oldham in the AtomValley project, he said the city region has been more ambitious and wants to build a high performing cluster in the way MediaCity, the Oxford Road Corridor Life Sciences cluster and the tech scene in Manchester City Centre have created jobs and wealth clustered around industries.

“That’s the biggest issue that will determine inward investment opportunities. Post 16 tech education needs to see much more innovation – UA92 is an important part of that – but we want to create a clear choice for our young people and crack this issue of a clear pathway for all our 16 year olds. Technical, academic and apprenticeship.

“If we crack this, it gives people a real opportunity to invest here. The next chapter of GM’s development should be to mobilise young people from all ten boroughs with a clear pathway, we’ll have a head start for a decade,” he said.

Sara Prowse, chief executive, UA92 said the disruptor university was offering digital apprenticeships and bootcamps as there is “an absolute race against time to provide people with the skills required in the digital space.” 

Amul Batra from Northcoders agreed: “That demand is not going away.” 

Katie Gallagher, managing director of Manchester Digital issued a friendly word of caution.

“We have to be really careful with some of the skills programmes that are out there. We’ve been doing work through the UK tech cluster group to simplify apprenticeships. Bootcamps have been the wild west, completely unregulated, anyone can deliver one and the quality has been really variable.

“Employers need to understand what’s happening with skills programmes. SMEs don’t tend to take on apprentices, they don’t take on T Levels, and while we do have some big companies the majority of digital and tech businesses are SMEs.”

Further comments from this discussion will be in a separate story coming soon.

Invest North is being led by TheBusinessDesk.com, in partnership with Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Squire Patton Boggs, Phoenix Group, and Lloyds Bank. It is also being supported by the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, Curveblock and Influential.

The project steering committee also includes NP11 chair Sir Roger Marsh, Piece Hall chief executive Nicky Chance-Thompson, and public affairs specialist Joe Dancey from Endeavour Advisory.