Back to the future
A snapshot of life a century ago shows how Plymouth can prosper, writes Political Reporter Keith Rossiter.
PLYMOUTH has been given a warning that it needs to boost investment in skills.
A unique snapshot of life in British cities over the past 110 years shows that the secret to prosperity is a trained workforce and infrastructure investment.
Naomi Clayton, author of the 'Outlook 1901' report by the Centre for Cities, warned yesterday: "Plymouth does fall behind in terms of higher level qualifications. Just over 25per cent of the workforce are qualified to degree level or higher, and about 10per cent have no formal qualifications.
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The report, out today, reveals that city failures were rooted in poor investment decisions more than a century ago.
Seven out of eight of Britain's best performing cities had above average skills levels in 1901, the year Queen Victoria died.
In an era when only 0.5per cent of people went to university and school was not compulsory, skills were measured by the proportion holding professional jobs.
At the turn of the last century Plymouth was the nation's 25th city, out of 57, in terms of skills – but slightly below the national average of 3per cent of professionals.
By 2009, the latest figures available, Plymouth had slumped to ninth worst UK city for low skills levels.
"Failure to invest in skills or infrastructure in 1901 had knock-on long-term impacts over decades," the Centre for Cities said.
And, only months after the City Airport shut down, the study highlights the importance of speedy travel to London. The Centre for Cities City gathers its findings into in index for each city.
Plymouth's position has worsened in the past 110 years, with its city index falling by 12.5 points, while other cities have thrived, thanks to Government investment.
Warrington, a city that was suffering badly in the late-Victorian period, has shown the biggest rise (69.6 points), while the East Sussex resort town of Hastings has gone into serious decline, with a fall of 66.1 points.
Professor Julian Beer, pro vice-chancellor for regional enterprise at Plymouth University, said the city was "punching its weight", but that there was potential to go further.
"There has been a significant amount of capital investment over the last decade, evidenced by the Tamar Science Park, the Roland Levinsky Building, the new Marine Building, Drake Circus, and the Life Centre to name a few.
"All of these have contributed to growing the knowledge economy, creating jobs, generating revenue, or developing its culture. The good news is that those projects that have been held back by the recession are likely to come on-stream in the near future – key areas of investment such as Millbay.
"There is likely to be several billion pounds worth of investment in train."
He added: "We have a number of high quality educational institutions in the city, and the new University Technical College has the potential make a key contribution. Jobs are a priority and up-skilling will be crucial in this regard."
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