Three ways we can level up the labour market

Home Icon

Earlier this week I attended the Conservative Party Conference to discuss the importance of levelling up the labour market and the central role of partnership working between the public, private and voluntary sectors. You can watch the discussion back here.

Building on the conversation, I would like to reflect on three points that I think are vital to a levelled up labour market.

The first relates to how we as an economy and society look to turn the current labour market conditions in our favour to help more people into work. We know that at the moment there are over 1.2m unfilled jobs across the country, with a supply side issue as unemployment remains relatively low at just under 4%. Whilst filling these vacancies represents a clear challenge, it also provides an opportunity for employers to look afresh at the full talent pool in today’s labour market and maybe reappraise certain groups who had traditionally found it more difficult to enter into employment.

For instance, the disability employment gap is currently running at 28% and we know that only around a quarter of ex-offenders are able to find employment 12 months after leaving prison. Across both these groups, there is the talent and skillset available to employers to help fill the jobs they have on offer. The rise of home and hybrid working provides real opportunity to open up roles to new job seekers. A levelled up labour market must strive to provide opportunity for all.

Second, partnership working is going to be essential to levelling up the labour market. Specifically, we need to ensure that employability support is increasingly aligned to the needs of local and regional economies. With the growing footprint of devolution and local/regional skills and employment strategies there is a clear potential to ensure that employability providers – such as ourselves – work with local providers and local/regional government to take a more micro approach to the needs of the economy. We need to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

This is where Maximus’ Community Partnership Network really comes into its own. It brings together the best of public, private and voluntary sector provision and through effective collaboration delivers results that transform lives. Through the CPN we work with a broad range of organisations and match what they are good at with what our service users require. Importantly, the CPN is rooted in the communities we serve so that we can really drill down to a local level and find solutions that are close to home and that strengthen local labour markets.

In our new report, we found that nearly 85% of CPN members said it provides real value to their organisation day-to-day. To give you an example of what the CPN is all about, take a look at one of our CPN partners, the charity Smart Works Leeds.

Finally, levelling up the labour market requires not only a focus on today’s challenges, it must have any eye on the future too. Increasingly, our sector is going to need to work smarter and harder to open up the opportunities in the labour market. For people who have left the labour market voluntarily or for younger people starting out in their careers, the concept of ‘good work’ is going to be increasingly relevant. A modern economy should be looking to spread tech jobs and high skilled jobs across the regions and develop the kinds of opportunities that are going to boost local labour markets.

Whilst those of us who work in this space will always believe that having a job is better than being out of employment, we need to recognise that that is not a universally held principle. More people in good work will improve economic, health and social outcomes. So we, collectively, need to really invest in the ‘good jobs’ of the future. For those of us who specialise in employability we are going to need to invest more in careers training and upskilling so that local labour markets can be responsive to the opportunities when they land.

This will involve strong partnership working between government and the public, private and voluntary sectors. If we get this right, we can make a real difference to the levelling up of the country.

07 October, 2022