As we recover from the depths of the pandemic, recent labour market data gives us reasons to be optimistic, showing the number of pay-rolled employees grew by 0.6 per cent in October compared with the previous month.
However, in the face of ongoing supply chain challenges, regional economic disparities and inflationary pressures, the need to lift the UK’s persistently poor productivity performance has never been more urgent.
This can only be achieved if government and businesses work together to strengthen regional economic clusters across the UK and deliver on the Government’s aspirations to ‘level up’ our nation.
According to research from the Centre for Cities, the British economy is £83 billion, or 4 per cent, smaller per year than it should be because of an imbalance of performance between the Greater South East and the rest of the country.
The government has a mandate to make the UK a fairer economic environment, bringing more opportunities and prosperity to under-invested regions through its levelling up agenda.
While investments in regional infrastructure and funding to support SMEs across the country with new technologies and digital skills is essential, for government to succeed, big businesses also need to play their part.
By working with local education providers, sharing expertise and skills with the 5.5 million smaller businesses across the UK, as well as driving innovation and investing in their own people, big businesses can make a significant impact.
This is not just altruistic, it is essential. For BAE Systems, securing a talent pipeline and a healthy national supply chain is critical to the country’s defence and security needs. Last year alone, the company worked with more than 5,000 suppliers right across the UK, spending £3.8 billion and recruited more than 1,200 apprentices and graduates.
BAE Systems has seen at first-hand the benefits that a focus on regional economic clusters can achieve. In Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, where in 2020, 25 per cent of working-age people did not have five good GCSEs or equivalent, the business employs more than a quarter of the working population producing submarines for the Royal Navy. It also works with more than 100 suppliers in the region to help prosperity and with the Furness Academy and local primary schools to raise educational standards.
The impact can be transformational, turning a regional manufacturer into an international exporter or a start-up into a sustainable, long term business. In the last year, the organisation helped more than 5,700 small business leaders, delivering a productivity uplift of approximately £114 million in challenging times. Not every company will interact with an array of SMEs on a daily basis, but the knowledge and expertise that exists within the big business community is an invaluable asset as SMEs look to make significant strides to improving productivity and achieving growth.
Just as governments, campaign groups and businesses have come together to forge a shared path to tackle the climate crisis, business leaders in the UK need to adopt the same mindset in rebooting the economy.
To achieve the government’s ambition of a high wage, high skill, high growth economy, we need to work together to help every part of the UK achieve its full potential, producing the best goods and services supported by the highest quality skills. The revival of the UK economy is a shared goal and it’s one that we all – government and businesses, large and small – need to work towards together in lockstep if we are to deliver a fairer and more prosperous country.”
Find out more about the contribution our programmes make to the UK: