Accrington online retailer Studio Retail has called on Lancashire MPs and local businesses to lead action to counter a skills drain that it says costs the local economy as much as £7bn a year.
The call comes as a new study, Leaving Lancashire, an evaluation of skills drain from Lancashire, from the Lancashire Institute for Economic and Business Research at the University of Central Lancashire, also found a mismatch between the skills that local people have and the jobs on offer – driving both workers and graduates to leave the county each year. Some 800,000 people commute out of the county for work, at a cost of £4.3bn to the local economy while a lack of high-skilled jobs in the region means that people are also moving out of the area. The report found that about 130,000 people were not able to find jobs that matched their higher skills level, while nearly 11,500 graduate students and 360 workers a year leave Lancashire. Median wages in the county are also 4% lower than across the North West.
Paul Kendrick, managing director of Studio Retail, which operates the studio.co.uk website, has written to all 16 Lancashire MPs to ask for support. The 16 include 11 Conservative MPs, four Labour, and the speaker, Lindsey Hoyle. Kendrick said: “To think that this region is potentially losing out on billions of pounds is very disappointing. By uncovering the true impact of this issue, we hope everyone with financial or emotional connection to Lancashire will consider the steps they can take to minimise this drain.
“As one of the largest employers in the region, we are committed to supporting and growing the workforce as our business grows. We know that there is a wealth of smart, savvy and ambitious people in the region and we want to keep them here.
“We believe it is the job of all employers to look at ways we can collaborate with business, local government, education providers and the third sector, to determine how we can reduce this economic drain and help Lancashire to flourish.”
Philip Whyman, professor of economics at UCLAN, and co-author of the report, said: “The largest contributory factor, identified by our analysis, relates to skills mismatch, as more highly-skilled individuals find it difficult to find suitable employment opportunities in the local area and either commute or relocate in search of greater opportunities and/or income.
“Reversing this trend will require action, by local policy makers and business leaders, to create more high skill jobs within Lancashire, through a combination of attracting high productivity firms, facilitating the growth of new industries and/or encouraging those existing SMEs with high growth (scale-up) potential.
“Leadership programmes to share best practice with business leaders, the creation of high-performance clusters in new rapidly expanding areas of the economy (such as digital, healthcare IT and/or renewable energy) and creative solutions to partner local businesses with higher education institutions to enhance retention of graduates within the local economy, can all make a difference.
“Skills investment is a necessary component of any growth strategy for the region, but by itself it is not sufficient without having created the kind of high skill, high performance economy that can make the most out of this enhanced skills base.”
Studio is ranked Top500 in IRUK Top500 research.
Image courtesy of Studio Retail