Economy Scrutiny Committee 11 February 2021 – upskilling for retrofit is a ‘chicken and egg’ challenge

Team Scrutiny tucked into February’s Economy Scrutiny Committee – a skills and digital skills special


Light hearted references to the great Jackie Weaver suggests that the MCC Economy Scrutiny Committee has a finger on the pulse of good governance in local government. However, as always, the proof is in the pudding and Climate Emergency Manchester are disappointed with the diluted consistency of this particular helping.

The Economy Scrutiny Committee has responsibility for looking at how the city’s economy is growing and how Manchester people are benefiting from the growth. The blockbuster item on this month’s agenda was the report into skills and adult education. The report provided an overview of the supply and demand of skills and adult education in the city. This covered skills shortages, challenges presented by the impact of Covid-19 and changes to the labour market. It also discussed digital education provision, the Manchester Adult Education Service (MAES) and  the Manchester College strategy update.

Angela Harrington, Director of Inclusive Growth (@AHworkandskills) stated that “devolution doesn’t feature” in the report and this is something which will need to be explored in further work in this area. CEM would argue that if MCC was serious about its climate ambition, it would also carry out a lot more work to demonstrate how skills and adult education can contribute to those targets.

The report and the discussions in the meeting did cover an interesting retrofitting example. Retrofitting in the construction industry means adding or changing to existing structures in order to boost that building’s climate credentials. This can include increasing insulation, reducing water usage and replacing appliances with energy efficient alternatives. 

It was a welcome conversation about how MCC can help the construction workforce learn new skills so it can carry out the retrofitting of buildings across Manchester. As Cllr Shilton Godwin (Chorlton Park) noted, MCC has talked about the importance of retrofit for 5 years but it was good to see some action. CEM agrees with this sentiment… Though if MCC takes this long to start to act on one thing which could help it reach its climate ambitions, how on earth does it expect to tackle some of the more complicated aspects of the emergency? Beyond retrofit, it’s not clear what is meant by jobs and CEM reports have recently shown that there has been no meeting of the ‘Skills for a Zero Carbon Economy’ Group since March 2020 and no work undertaken with training providers.

A later part of the report also talked about how the development of the Manchester College City Centre Campus will incorporate design features to reduce carbon emissions. Again, this is good news though not discussed in the meeting and there was very little detail about how all the other campuses will seek to do the same.

The discussion around the Covid-19 SitRep focussed on the data about active travel (walking and cycling) compared to pre-Covid levels. Requests for more data on this and comparisons of public transport use mean this will no doubt resurface at future meetings, though it was noted that the data about active travel remains weather dependent.

All in all, while the Scrutiny Committee meeting wasn’t as eventful as recent ones in Handforth Parish Council’s, it still left a bitter taste and a desire for more substance.

The agenda and link to the webcast for the meeting can be found online: 

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