The role of education in levelling up the North

Where lies the opportunity in skills?

3 February 2021
Zoom and live stream

Watch the full video on Youtube or listen to the podcast below.

As the rate of unemployment starts to rise and more redundancies are expected into the first half of 2021, the question of how we reskill and upskill young people and older adults in the workforce has come to the fore. The pandemic has also raised big questions about the value we place on keyworkers and what we define as essential work in a predominately knowledge-driven economy. The current Further Education system must now be geared up for this challenge, made more agile and responsive than ever if it is to meet the needs of new and evolving sectors as they thrive – or fade – in the wake of Covid-19.

Long before the virus struck the adult education and training system was struggling to meet local and national demand for skills. In Higher Education, questions were also mounting as to whether students were getting value for money – both in terms of learning and employment opportunities. But Covid has exacerbated inequalities. The Education Endowment Trust warned in July that the progress made in narrowing the education attainment gap between rich and poor over the last decade was wiped out in just a few months of the first lockdown. The challenge of levelling up has got a whole lot harder; the case for inclusive growth all more imperative.

Some key questions will include: What is the role of education when it comes to levelling up in the North of England? What national, regional and local government policy levers are available? Are new accountability and funding mechanisms needed to drive change? What role will the skills system play in driving the green economy and a renewal of advanced manufacturing?


  • Charlotte Alldritt, Director, Centre for Progressive Policy (Chair)
  • Zoë Billingham, Head of Policy and Engagement, Centre for Progressive Policy
  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • David Goodhart, Head of Demography, Immigration & Integration, Policy Exchange
  • The Rt Hon. Lord David Willetts, President of the Advisory Council and Intergenerational Centre, Resolution Foundation

Join the debate on twitter by using #CPPLevelup

Charlotte Alldritt

Director, Centre for Progressive Policy

Charlotte is Director of the Centre for Progressive Policy. Previously Charlotte was Director of Public Services and Communities at the RSA, where she also ran the Inclusive Growth Commission – chaired by Stephanie Flanders – and City Growth Commission – chaired by Lord Jim O’Neill. Before joining the RSA, Charlotte was a Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, working on immigration, energy and housing. She is an advisor to Power to Change, New Philanthropy Capital, the Civic University Network and an external member of the APPG for Left Behind Neighbourhoods. Charlotte also advises the OECD on Inclusive Growth Financing and is a member of the SIPHER Inclusive Economy Advisory Group at the University of Sheffield.

Zoë Billingham

Head of Policy and Engagement, Centre for Progressive Policy

Zoë is Head of Policy and Engagement at the Centre for Progressive Policy and a Crook Fellow at the University of Sheffield. With previous experience spanning the private and public sector, Zoë has held several roles in government including as Senior Policy Adviser at HM Treasury, advising the Chancellor on EU economic policy and as Economic Policy Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister during the coalition government. Zoë has also worked in M&A at Lazard, advising large scale and start-up technology, media and telecoms clients.

Mayor Andy Burnham

Mayor of Greater Manchester

Andy Burnham was elected as Mayor of Greater Manchester in May 2017.

Prior to this Andy was MP for Leigh from 2001. In government, Andy has held Ministerial positions at the Home Office, Department of Health and the Treasury. In 2008 he became Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, before returning to Health as Secretary of State in 2009.

In opposition, Andy has served as Shadow Education Secretary, Shadow Health Secretary and Shadow Home Secretary.

Andy lives in Leigh, Greater Manchester, with his wife and three children. He is a keen supporter of Everton FC.

David Goodhart

Head of Demography, Immigration & Integration, Policy Exchange

David Goodhart is Head of Policy Exchange’s Demography, Immigration, and Integration Unit, and Director of the Integration Hub website. He is a former Director of Demos, and former Editor of Prospect magazine, which he founded in 1995. David is a prominent figure in public debate in the UK, as a well-known broadcaster, author, commentator, and journalist. He has presented several BBC Radio 4 Analysis programmes. Before Prospect, he was a correspondent for the Financial Times, including a stint in Germany during the unification period. In 2013, he published The British Dream, a book about post-war multiculturalism, national identity, and immigration. It was runner up for the Orwell Book Prize in 2014. In 2017 he published The Road to Somewhere: The new tribes shaping British politics, about the value divides in western societies, which was a Sunday Times best-seller.

The Rt Hon. Lord David Willetts

President of the Advisory Council and Intergenerational Centre, Resolution Foundation

Lord David Willetts is the President of the Resolution Foundation. He served as the Member of Parliament for Havant (1992-2015), as Minister for Universities and Science (2010-2014) and previously worked at HM Treasury and the No. 10 Policy Unit. Lord Willetts is a visiting Professor at King’s College London, a Board member of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a Board member of Surrey Satellites and of the Biotech Growth Trust. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. Lord Willetts has written widely on economic and social policy. His book “A University Education” is published by Oxford University Press. A second edition of his book on the Boomers and the young generation “The Pinch” was published in November 2019.