Back to school: How Brighton is upskilling its youth population

Since the Good Growth for Cities series began, Brighton has achieved strong performance on improving young people’s skills. In this blog, we look at the policies implemented that target both local young people and the more transient student population.

Brighton achieved a top third position in the most recent edition of the Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index, driven largely by its strong performance on its score for the skills of young people. This isn’t a recent phenomenon – Brighton has fairly consistently increased the share of 16-24 year olds with at least an NVQ level 3 since our index began.

Growth in youth skills

Brighton has experienced a rapid expansion in the share of 16-24 year olds with at least an NVQ level 3. Our analysis has found that, on average, the share of young adults in this bracket has increased by approximately 35% in 2014-2016 compared to .

Figure 1 tracks the improvement in score of young people’s skills in Brighton over the last decade, alongside the average and upper quartile performance of all cities in the index. Although in recent years Brighton has experienced a slight fall in the rate of 16-24 year olds achieving at least a NVQ level 3, this has been matched by a 5% increase in the share of 25-64 year olds holding an equivalent qualification.


Local residents and students: a two-pronged approach

So what has enabled Brighton to deliver sustained improvements in youth skills? Brighton has introduced a range of local initiatives to address NEETs (those young people Not in Education, Employment or Training) and to retain students after graduation from local further and higher education institutions.

The 2008-2016 Brighton and Hove Economic Strategy placed a focus on reducing the NEET rate within the city, through policies directly targeting 14-19 year olds. For instance, a Youth Employability Service was retained during the austerity era, working to pre-emptively identify those at risk of becoming NEETs and offering support. Efforts were also made to improve links between secondary schools and local businesses to raise awareness of alternative options for students.

Did these initiatives work? Headline figures would suggest so. From 2006 to 2015, the NEET rate declined from 10.9% to 4.7%, bringing Brighton broadly in line with the UK average.

lso placed emphasis on retaining graduates from both Brighton and Sussex Universities within the city after graduation. Research commissioned by the Institute of Employment Studies and the University of Sussex in 2010 found the city to be highly successful in its approach. A survey of over 200 graduates found 70% of final year students intended to stay, with a third found to be still living in Brighton in a follow up survey. A 2012 update from the council on its strategy also identified improved links between the city and universities, with the stated aim of increasing their joint contribution to the local economy to in the short term.

As recently highlighted in the case of Doncaster, Brighton’s route to good growth through youth skills is in line with the strategic priorities outlined at a national level in the recent Green Paper on Industrial Strategy. Through continuing to encourage a strong skills base, and focusing on securing a highly qualified local workforce for the future, Brighton is in a strong position to deliver strong and inclusive place-based growth.


Vince Goode | Economics, Strategy&
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Nick C Jones | Director, Public Sector Research Centre
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