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Local industrial strategy and skills policy in England: Assessing the linkages and limitations – a case study of the Sheffield City Deal

Sissons, Paul and Jones, Katy (2016) Local industrial strategy and skills policy in England: Assessing the linkages and limitations – a case study of the Sheffield City Deal. Local Economy: The Journal of the Local Economy Policy Unit, 31 (8). pp. 857-872. ISSN 0269-0942

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Abstract

This paper examines changes in local economic development policy which occurred between 2010 and 2015, with a focus on the relationship between industrial strategy and skills policy. Under the Coalition Government, Local Enterprise Partnerships were established and tasked with facilitating local growth, and to do so many identified a set of (potential) growth sectors for industrial strategy to support. These sectors tended to be drawn from a relatively narrow range of industries which therefore often excluded a large proportion of the local economy. An important focus of the support for growth sectors for many has been through an ambition to influence the local skills system. Skills policy more broadly has been an important dimension of devolution, and a number of City Deals have included elements of skills policy. Echoing previous national policy however, the focus of local concerns with skills under devolution has been framed largely with reference to skills gaps and shortages. While specific skills gaps and shortages can be identified, this paper questions whether this default position is reflected widely, and as such, if a narrow focus on skills supply is a sufficient approach. It is argued that to support local growth across a broad base, greater attention needs to be paid to stimulating employer demand for skills through better integrating industrial and innovation policy with skills policymaking across a wider section of the local economy. To support these arguments we present a case study of the Sheffield City Deal.

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