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Good jobs vital to North East's transition to a green economy

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Local industrial strategies must put creating good jobs at their heart within all sectors of the regional economy.

The government has a major task ahead. The challenge of moving to a greener and more automated economy whilst maintaining and improving livelihoods can't be underestimated.

But it can be achieved, especially if the transition is led by policies that are responsive to the people and places they will affect. For the North East, this means policies that don't overlook the industries our local communities depend upon the most.

A recent TUC report based on research conducted by the New Economics Foundation looks at successful models for industrial transformation at a local level.

The government intends that each part of the UK is covered by a local industrial strategy by early 2020, with the development of those for the Tees Valley and the North East areas already well under way.

These local strategies can play a vital role ensuring a just transition to a green economy, and a fair share of the gains from automation for working people.

The new report provides partners such as local government, local enterprise partnerships, business and trade unions with evidence and ideas to help make their local industrial strategies successful.

And one of the key factors to success evidenced within the report is investment in the sectors of the economy which supply ‘everyday’ and essential goods and services such as utilities, retail, health, social care and education. These sectors are commonly referred to as the foundational economy.

The foundational economy offers opportunities to create good jobs for people of all ages and drive up the living standards of both those delivering the services and those receiving them.

Given that the foundational economy accounts for just over 5-in-10 jobs in the North East, providing good jobs is critical to achieving sustainable and inclusive growth across the region.

As well as seeing the creation of high productivity, high pay employment as a core component and key performance indicator of the industrial strategy, we also need to see the strategies focus on enhancing employment standards, worker voice, good work and well-being for the large part of the workforce currently employed in foundational sectors of the economy.

Automation, artificial intelligence and the need to decarbonise the economy are set to make sweeping changes to industry. These changes have the potential to bring about positive change for whole communities.

But this potential will only be realised if our key decision makers think beyond the directly impacted sectors and incorporate the foundational economy into local industrial strategies.

The principle goal of these strategies must be the creation of good jobs. And this must mean good jobs within all sectors.