Manchester City Council has called on the government to give it greater control over apprenticeships to help plug the growing skills gap in the construction industry.
Council leader Sir Richard Leese told Construction News the city’s devolution deal had not given it sufficient freedom over apprenticeships.
He added that apprenticeships should be targeting those aged over 19, rather than 16 to 19-year-olds, as they currently are.
“We are constrained by national rules at the moment and don’t think devolution currently will give us the freedoms that we need around apprenticeships,” Sir Richard said.
“That’s something we need to continue arguing for: to get that control over apprenticeships that would allow us to have an offer that is far better geared up to what the [construction] industry needs and what young people are looking for.
“Young people now are largely staying in full-time education until they are 18 years old and the industry itself tends to prefer slightly more mature apprentices, so if we can put those two things together that will help us enormously.”
The leader said the council was “hoping for good news” on apprenticeships in the government’s upcoming spending review, with the request forming part of the council’s submission.
For more on regional powerhouses and devolution
Greater Manchester secured a devolution deal in November last year, in which it gained control over a £300m housing investment fund and secured the right to an elected city region mayor.
Sir Richard said an elected mayor would give the city region the “full-time political capacity” to manage the level of devolution it was looking to get from central government.
He added: “In the North of England we have a number of what are, in global terms, medium-sized cities.
“The biggest is probably greater Manchester, with around three million people – too small to balance London and not big enough to get the full benefits of a conglomeration.”
Manchester is set to receive a chunk of the £40bn of Chinese investment made during president Xi Jinping’s five-day visit to the UK last week, with more than a £1bn-worth of deals signed in the city.
Sir Richard said the majority of overseas investors that had signed deals so far in Manchester were keen to work with the local authority and city council on their schemes.
He added that domestic investors could learn from overseas players.
“If you look at Manchester, the sort of investment we have is all long term. They are looking at a 10-year investment and I think the UK market has got to be mature in the same way.
“I think [UK investors] have got to move on from the ‘return in three years’ view, particularly in property, where they need to be looking beyond their return and at the place-making role in investment.”