Challenge and Opportunity
With a population of over 600,000 people and a workforce of around a quarter of a million, Thames Gateway Kent is an ethnically and socially diverse sub-region with areas of prosperity and dynamic growth, but also has some of the most deprived localities in the South East.
An Industrial Legacy
A generation ago, the decline and closure of many staple industries left a legacy of unemployment, a damaged environment, worn out and inadequate infrastructure, below-average educational attainment and under-investment in skills - an area with few expectations.
By the turn of the 21st century, the economy had recovered, grown and diversified, but the underlying legacies were still evident.
Unemployment, though greatly reduced, remained above the regional average, and much of the area’s growth had been in consumption related sectors such as logistics and retail, rather than in ‘knowledge’ industries with their potential for sustained high value-added growth.
With fewer jobs in wealth-creating industries than elsewhere in the Greater South East, many people commute to London and elsewhere, while fewer graduates and other skilled people stay within the area.
As a result, like the Thames Gateway as a whole, North Kent still lags behind London and the wider Greater South East on many key indicators of economic and social well-being.
A Place of Opportunities
But North Kent is also a place of huge potential. With superb assets, a great location and tremendous opportunities, it is well-placed to transform past legacies.
Some of the Potential –
- Extensive tracts of brownfield land being readied for the market
- Excellent high-speed rail links to London and Europe
- Magnificent riverside locations, countryside and heritage assets
- Three Universities - University of Greenwich, University of Kent and Canterbury Christchurch University - at Medway Campus, plus the University of Creative Arts at Rochester
- Excellent Further Education facilities at North West Kent College, Mid Kent College and vocational training at the Swale Skills Centre
- Two University Technical Colleges (Leigh UTC at Dartford opened September 2014, Medway UTC opening in 2015)
- Relatively low-cost business accommodation and housing costs
Some of the Challenges –
- Fewer people have a degree compared with in the wider greater south east. But they are increasing proportionately faster so the gap is closing
- A lower proportion of the private sector jobs are in high-value knowledge-based industries compared with the wider greater south east region. But these are growing faster than the national trend
- More people are employed in the lowest skills occupations and fewer are in Managerial and Professional occupations. But those in Associate Professional and Technical occupations are growing and those in the lowest skills occupations are decreasing.