A MIXTURE of more doom and gloom, plus some optimism, is the conclusion of a new independent report giving the first health-check of Sheffield’s economy since the start of the recession.
The Centre for Cities think tank reveals Sheffield and other parts of South Yorkshire have suffered badly from unemployment due to dependence on traditional manufacturing and public sector jobs.
It also highlights problems, which it says must be addressed, such as a lack of skills and entrepreneurship in some communities, plus high house prices and lack of new homes as causes for concern.
Poor educational achievement must be tackled or ‘young people may also lack skills to gain jobs even when these are created’, academics warn.
But the report - Cities Outlook 2012 - also reveals Sheffield is turning a corner, having the fourth-best rise in the proportion of the workforce in employment of any large British town or city between 2009/10 and 2010/11.
The city also retains large numbers of university graduates.
Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told The Star: “The coalition is pulling out all the stops to create jobs in Sheffield and South Yorkshire, especially for young people.
“That’s why I launched the £1 billion Youth Contract to get young people earning or learning and why we are creating more apprenticeships.
“Liberal Democrats are determined to do the right thing and build a new economy that benefits the whole country.”
The Government believes tax breaks and favourable planning rules, which will apply in Sheffield’s new Enterprise Zone, will also help by encouraging entrepreneurship.
Sheffield Council, which is currently behind a drive to create new apprenticeships for unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds, said while the report ‘reinforces challenges’ it ‘confirms Sheffield has fared generally well through the recession’.
Edward Highfield, director of economy, enterprise and skills at the council, said: “The report also reinforces a number of challenges ahead for the city region’s economy such as the need to reduce youth unemployment and increase business start-ups.
“It highlights strong performance in innovation and research and developments, as measured by the number of patents registered, and large numbers of some of the most highly qualified people in the country.
“This reflects the strong emphasis on knowledge-intensive industries which will be at the heart of Sheffield city region’s future economic growth.”
Mr Highfield predicted Sheffield’s economy would benefit from Government proposals allowing the city to keep its own business rates, and from dedicated funding set aside for schemes such as transport and infrastructure improvements - which would be controlled locally.
One of Sheffield’s biggest efforts to transform its old manufacturing base involves the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, a collaboration between Sheffield and Hallam universities and Boeing.
Adrian Allen OBE, its commercial director, said the Centre for Cities report gives ‘graphic proof’ of the need to attract and develop high-value manufacturing business.
He said: “Businesses will grow and invest in the region if we can show we have a highly skilled workforce.
“Manufacturing is still an area where Sheffield has real strengths - there are world-leading businesses based here - and the Advanced Manufacturing Park is widely recognised as a great cluster of applied innovation.”
But Mr Allen added: “Continuing growth of these businesses is being put at risk by a real lack of skilled apprentices or technical manufacturing engineers. Dozens of companies have taken the initiative over the last few years and have invested heavily in training.
“The two universities in Sheffield are acutely aware of this skills requirement, and have taken radical steps to launch a centre to establish a pipeline of over 200 suitably trained and qualified personnel a year.”
Sheffield Council leader, Coun Julie Dore, said: “We have made it a top priority to invest in creating the Sheffield Apprenticeship Programme, which gives 100 young people the opportunity of training to give them experience of the world of work.
“However, the report shows the Government needs to do more to create jobs and address unemployment.”
Penistone and Stocksbridge Labour MP Angela Smith said: “What’s really worrying is the report shows an economic disparity between the north and south, with the north still suffering from public sector job losses and decline of traditional industries. The Government is supposed to be rebalancing the economy.
“Questions should also be raised about funding in education, with the Government prioritising towards free schools.
“I’m also not convinced Enterprise Zones will work because they may attract existing businesses which may move in from surrounding areas.”
Coun Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, said a total of £1 billion of additional money is being invested into education in the town over a five-year period and attainment in primary schools is now above the national average.
He said: “We now need to ensure that continues through secondary schools.”
Coun Houghton added initiatives are in place to focus on improving adult education in the borough.
Employment and economy
SHEFFIELD and Doncaster had among the country’s highest increases in jobseekers’ allowance claimants between 2008 and 2011.
Sheffield’s figure more than doubled from 2.2 per cent of the workforce to 4.6 per cent - the 11th biggest increase of the UK’s 64 biggest towns and cities. Doncaster’s proportion grew from 2.7 per cent to 5.3 per cent, the seventh biggest increase.
The report reveals cities with more people in low-skilled jobs, administration and manufacturing saw much larger increases in unemployment than cities with higher-tech and knowledge-based economies.
In Cambridge, the rise in claimants was a fifth of Sheffield’s.
The proportion of the workforce unemployed for more than a year rose 0.9 per cent in Sheffield, and one per cent in Barnsley and Doncaster - although Britain’s biggest rise was two per cent in Hull.
The proportion of unemployed 16 to 24s is now 6.4 per cent in Sheffield, around average, but 9.3 per cent in Doncaster - the sixth highest rate in the country.
The report also calls for more help to establish start-up businesses in areas which had high dependence on public sector jobs - which accounted for up to one third of employment in South Yorkshire before the cuts.
There are far fewer private businesses in parts of South Yorkshire than the in the south east of England. Out of 64 towns and cities, Barnsley was 57th with just 214.2 firms per 100,000 people in 2010, followed by Doncaster which scored 56th with 216.3 firms per 100,000 population.
The good news was that between 2009/10 and 2010/11, the proportion of Sheffield’s labour market in employment rose from 66.2 per cent to 66.8 per cent, the fourth-best performance of all 64 large towns and cities studied.
GOVERNMENT efforts to tackle youth unemployment focus on the Youth Contract scheme, in which £1bn is being spent creating traineeships.
But the Centre for Cities report warns: “The Youth Contract assumes youth unemployment is caused by short term deficiencies in demand. Young people may also lack skills to gain jobs even when these are created.
“Addressing this problem requires a much longer-term response than what is proposed in the Youth Contract.”
It highlights poor attainment in maths and English as particular concerns.
Doncaster and Barnsley have some of least-skilled workers in the UK. Barnsley has the third lowest proportion of its workforce with a high level qualification such as a degree or NVQ at level four or above - just 19.2 per cent when the national average is 31.2 per cent. Doncaster has the fifth-lowest proportion, 19.5 per cent.
The report states there is a ‘correlation’ between high skills and innovation, indicating South Yorkshire’s workforce needs to up its skills to compete.
SHORTAGE of housing is pushing up prices around South Yorkshire, according to the Centre for Cities report.
In Doncaster during 2009/10, just 140 new homes were built and the town has had the UK’s fourth-biggest house price rise between 2000 and 2010, up 9.4 per cent each year during the decade.
The average house price over the period grew from £53,800 to £129,600.
Sheffield had the UK’s ninth-highest rise of nine per cent year-on-year from 2000 to 2010, with average house prices rising from £63,300 to £126,720.
The UK average year-on-year rise was 8.1 per cent over the decade, from £106,000 in 2000 to £230,100 in 2010.
PARTS of South Yorkshire need to do more to reduce their impact on the environment, according to figures for average carbon dioxide emissions. The gas is a key contributor to global warming.
In 2009 Doncaster had the UK’s sixth-worst emissions of 8.1 tonnes per person, classed as a ‘high’ level, while Barnsley - 6.8 tonnes - and Sheffield - 6.1 tonnes - were both ranked as ‘medium’ polluters.
The national average CO2 generation was 7.4 tonnes per person.
■ Sheffield had the 11th biggest increase in jobseekers’ allowance claimants in the country between 2008 and 2011, and Doncaster the seventh highest.
■ Barnsley’s workforce included the third lowest proportion of highly-skilled workers of any area in Britain.
■ The proportion of people in employment in Sheffield rose by the fourth-highest amount in the country over the last year.
■ There is a need for better education to help make the area more prosperous.