I've posted often on the subject of skills, and particularly the ever-increasing skills requirement of a modern economy coupled with the long-term decline in unskilled/low-skilled jobs. This is not just about graduates either, important though they are, but it is about increased technical skills and so-called soft skills, particularly communication skills. This morning I am at the opening of the Council's first Union Learning Representatives' Conference the ULRs themselves are not new. They've been around for about a dozen years with the simple objective of providing advice,guidance and support to council employees about learning and training available to them. Though this comes out of the Trade Union movement, the approach is wholly consistent with the Council's own aspirations for a highly skilled and motivated workforce.
The council is committed to 100% of our staff reaching at least an NVQ level 2 qualification, 65% level 3, and all our entry level posts are now filled through apprenticeships with training and qualifications built in. The ULRs come from a number of Trade Unions and will provide support to any Council employee, whether or not they are a member of the same or indeed any union. Learning can be a very sensitive subject, particularly to those who left school with few if any qualifications and so having this more informal route for advice is very important. And its not just about work. People want to improve their literacy, numeracy or i.t skills for many reasons,examples being simply to feel better about themselves, or feeling confident about helping the kids with their homework.
Graduates, especially in the right subject areas are important. One of the strengths of the Manchester economy is the strength of our Universities, so later in the morning I'm delighted to be in Hulme for the ground-breaking for Manchester Metropolitan University's Birley Fields campus. Thirty years ago this was the site of a secondary school that failed spectacularly, and it's good to see it being used again for Education purposes. I have no doubt that this educational endeavour will be far more successful, and after over twenty years, it's one of the final building blocks in the re-building of Hulme that started with City Challenge in 1991. The regeneration of Hulme, though far from perfect, is one of the best, if not the best ,examples of urban regeneration anywhere in the country, but MMU developing the campus there is a little bit of icing on the cake. Of course, although most of the physical re-building will be completed, in reality Hulme, like any other neighbourhood, will always be work in progress, but the chances of it slipping back to how it was in the seventies and eighties are very slim indeed.