Mind the Gap

11 January 2016

London is a dynamic, vibrant economy, but one in five people earn less than the London Living Wage. At the same time, as the capital’s economy grows, more and more employers are reporting skills gaps and shortages. Stephen Evans, our Deputy Chief Executive, highlights how our Ambition London Project will help to tackle these big challenges.
Ambition London, a new project funded by JP Morgan Chase Foundation, will help us close the gap. 
Whilst London is undoubtedly a global success story, this often masks the inequalities that exist within our nation’s capital.  These inequalities are particularly evident within London’s labour market, where the number of low paid jobs is up for the 5th consecutive year in London, with almost 1 in 5 jobs paid below the London Living Wage – affecting over 700,000 Londoners.   Low pay is part of the reason in-work poverty is rising in the capital. 1.2 million Londoners in poverty live in a working family, up 70% over the last decade. 
Simply getting people into employment  is not enough to lift people out of poverty in the capital – people need support to progress their careers and improve their earnings. A key focus therefore needs to be on improving access to  learning and skills which has an impact on business productivity.   
With support from the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, our new flagship Ambition London programme we will focus on two key challenges:

  1. Getting more people learning. Since the introduction of Advanced Learner Loans for people aged 24 and over learning at Level 3, enrolment in learning at this level has fallen by at least one third. In 2014/15 alone, £250m of learning opportunities were lost across England. Not enough people are learning at intermediate level, and the loans system has increased this challenge; and
  2.  Ensuring learning benefits people and employers. Learning in itself is not enough, new skills need to be utilised by employers if they are to help people earn more and businesses to grow. The Government assumes that 50% of money loaned for learning will not be repaid, as people will not earn enough to do so. Not enough people and employers fully use their learning in the workplace.

Through Ambition London, we will be testing out new ways to stimulate demand for intermediate level skills which will help people progress their careers and improve their earnings, tackle skills gaps and improve productivity for employers. The project will have a particular focus on the retail and health and social care sectors, as these are among the largest employers in London and have the highest prevalence of low pay. 
We’ll be working with employers, Local Authorities, colleges and training providers to look at new ways of engaging people in learning, new ways of delivering training, and new ways of supporting people and employers to make the most of that learning. We’re also going to set up a nationwide network of providers and projects that are helping people to progress in their careers: from Glasgow, London, Plymouth, Manchester and elsewhere, there are exciting new approaches underway.
London’s a great city: Ambition London aims to help everyone share in the opportunities it brings.