This report takes an in-depth look at a skills policy that will improve prosperity for people living in the North of England and help the region boost the national economy too. The answer lies in a bolder vision that makes the most of the North's vital human capital.

With the North disproportionately hit by the recession, and high unemployment among younger and older people, there is an urgent need to exceed current employment projections. In its 10-year strategy, the Northern Economic Futures Commission also says it will be essential to create half a million good-quality private sector jobs. This presents a challenge to employers and policymakers - they must create the conditions for businesses to flourish. And for that to happen, the North needs a strong focus on productivity and skills.

This report highlights that there is a strong argument for greater localisation of skills strategies, embedded within a wider framework for long-term economic development. The idea is to match the demand for skills with the local economy and supply from local education and training organisations. This would provide an incentive for local employers to create opportunities and schemes - such as apprenticeships and work experience - and give learners and people entering or returning to the labour market on-the-job training and development. This approach could address urgent policy issues, provide support for economic and business development and link disadvantaged people to labour market opportunities as well as skills training, and other support.

We review the evidence for local skills systems in building prosperous local and regional economies as well as in supporting individuals to thrive. And we take a look at how local enterprise partnerships, as the designated local economic development hubs, are currently working when it comes to providing and developing skills. Three international case studies highlight the current success of using decentralised systems to deploy skills and training.

Our recommendations to national and local economic partners chime comfortably with current UK policy developments, including those of the NEFC. But we call for a more urgent, joined-up approach and - most crucially - a bolder vision.

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