Economy and Skills

The South Essex economy is important. With a business base of over 32,000 enterprises providing more than 354,000 jobs and a population of around 800,000, South Essex is a major economy, comparable in scale to the combined authority areas of West of England, North of Tyne or Tees Valley. Its relationship with London should not be underplayed, with around 80,000 people commuting to the capital for work. Although the area has, at times, lacked a sense of identity as a major employer, often seen as a dormitory to London.

South Essex has a key role in the local economy and is of great importance to UK PLC:

  • It is home to nearly 1 million people and generated £17.9bn of economic value in 2019.
  • There is a rich culture of entrepreneurialism and is home to leading brands including Ford, Amazon, National Westminster Bank and Olympus among others.
  • Industry sectors and clusters are firmly established around Advanced Manufacturing, Logistics, Creative industries and Health.
  • It has some key infrastructure crucial to the UK, including:
    • Four major ports that are recognised as the UK’s fastest growing terminals and vital to the UK fuel and energy economy
    • An international airport
    • A Crossrail terminus
    • The proposed the Lower Thames Crossing.

There are significant opportunities to create greater prosperity and quality of life in South Essex and by 2050 it plans to grow its contribution to the UK economy by £15bn.


The South Essex authorities want a joined-up approach to skills that seeks to support those currently in work but also work with employers and future investors to ensure that local people, and new residents, are equipped with the skills they need for productive employment.

South Essex Councils (SEC) is collaborating with major businesses in the region including Ford, DP World, Leonardo, London Southend Airport and others, to create a new organisation that will:

  • support local business to address current and future technical skills gaps and skill shortages
  • improve the employability of South Essex workers
  • help retain existing business and attract new employers and new talent to South Essex.

Find out more about the South Essex Technical University programme.

Future Employment

The area wants to enhance its employment activity.

  • The manufacturing sector in South Essex consists of around 1,700 businesses providing over 19,000 jobs. The sector includes several specialisms that could be developed to increase business productivity and build a thriving green technology sector.
  • A number of specialist areas including engineering, machinery and automotive manufacturing that create a solid foundation for high value growth and exploitation of green technology.
  • Creative industries that are prevalent in the Thames Estuary Production corridor.
  • Niche medical and dental manufacturers, linked to an emerging health sector in Southend. Allied to manufacturing is a notable concentration of engineering and industrial design jobs (over 6,500) located primarily in Basildon.

High value manufacturing output, product and process design offer a key opportunity to build innovation networks maximising potential applications in software and control systems, sensor technology, quality control and energy and materials efficiency essential for the green economy. Co-ordinated through a centre for green technology and a network of maker centres, South Essex this provides the basis for significant high value growth.

Thames Freeport

South Essex Councils (SEC) is a partner of Thames Freeport, an economic zone connecting Ford’s world-class Dagenham engine plant to the global ports at London Gateway and Tilbury, with an emphasis on introducing electric and autonomous vehicle technology along the A13 corridor into London. Thames Freeport has real potential to drive enormous growth across South Essex, with potential benefits of:

  • £5.1 billion additional GVA
  • Over £4.5 billion in new public and private investment
  • 21,000+ new jobs with many more across supply chains, with significant investment in training and skills
  • 1,700 acres of development land – much with planning consent
  • £400 million port investment into some of the most deprived areas.

Essex Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Service

An online portal that enables employers to share unused apprenticeship levy has been launched. The Essex Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Service covers Essex, Southend and Thurrock and will allow levy payers to utilise unspent levy to support the apprenticeship training costs for smaller businesses. This is an online service that allows companies looking to donate unspent apprenticeship levy funds (maximum of 25%), to view details of opportunities created by smaller organisations looking for funding. Visit the website for further details: