Improving life chances for young people born in Bradford

Bradford South has the lowest social mobility in England, the constituency’s Labour MP Judith Cummins reminded us at the launch of PwC’s new national assurance centre in the city centre. It is a painful statistic, reflecting many years of underinvestment, but everyone involved in the Bradford Economic Partnership is working hard to turn it around and help improve the life chances for young people born in this district.

Success doesn’t come overnight and is the cumulative effect of having clear goals and the persistence and determination to achieve them. It is important not to underestimate the size of the challenge, but also to recognise the progress we are making along the way, hence the event to mark the arrival of one of the world’s leading professional services firms in Bradford.

“This is a really exciting time in Bradford and the opening of this office means new jobs, new investment and a boost to Bradford’s profile right across the city and the country,” Ms Cummins told the audience. “I know that PwC’s decision is a recognition of the significant commercial opportunity that Bradford offers.”

It is telling that young people who have four or more encounters with employers while still at school are much less likely to find themselves out of education, training and employment. This spells out how vital it is for us to connect young people to the world of business during their formative years.

Will Richardson, senior partner for Leeds, told the audience that the new office has been open for a couple of months and is already getting great feedback from the wider PwC community for the quality of its work. The office has 80 employees and is recruiting with plans to exceed 200 in the short to medium term.

Mr Richardson described Bradford as “the obvious choice” for the new national centre and acknowledged the progress we have made in our ambitious strategy to add £4bn to our economy, generate 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of 50,000 residents by 2030. Twelve months since the strategy’s launch, we have seen more than 4,100 new Companies House registrations, an increase of 6,500 new roles, an inflation-busting rise in average weekly workplace earnings and a significant boost in the number of BME women in the employment.

Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, spoke about her firm’s efforts to “bust the myths” that her firm is only for a certain type of person. She told the audience: “We want PwC to be a place where anybody can come to be successful, regardless of how they might be different and where they were born and their future potential being determined by what their parents did for a living or their demographic from an income perspective rather than their particular potential.

“Social mobility is particularly important to me personally. If you look at all the stats, I shouldn’t be here doing the job I do. I am massively privileged to be a member of the executive board at PwC but I was born in the East End of London and went to comprehensive school there, where aspiration was just so low. I was one of the lucky ones. I am determined. It is a duty for me to open the doors for those coming behind me and make the profession as accessible as we possibly can.”

Ms Hinton added: “I do still hear ‘PwC isn’t for people like me’ but that is wrong… PwC is for every type of person and Bradford is how we have brought that to life and given opportunities to a broad range of people that I’m incredibly proud of. Hopefully by sharing our story here, by having more of these discussions, we can have a ripple effect, a multiplier effect, not just on our own but working across the public and private sector stakeholders and education sector to help Bradford reach its full potential.”

Our partnership exists to promote this collaboration between the sectors. Regular readers will know my mantra by now: we are getting everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. Landing PwC is a huge success for our district. I am confident that more big names will follow, each generating new opportunities for our young people to succeed, whatever their background, creating the Lauras and Wills of the future.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Bradford sets out stall for tech-driven future

Populist politicians like to talk about building walls, but technology has a habit of knocking them down. Total venture capital investment in UK tech topped £6bn last year, more than any other European country, according to the Tech Nation Report 2019. This flow of capital tells a very different story to the sharp-suited charlatans of this world.

Eileen Burbidge, chair of Tech Nation, said: “The UK holds a pivotal role in the global tech sector. Ambitious tech entrepreneurs across the country are more networked than ever, and they are accelerating growth through international connections.”

According to the industry report, UK tech is punching above its weight and ranks fourth in the world, behind the US, China and India, for attracting investment in high-growth businesses. The UK remains a hotbed for tech talent, employing 5 per cent of all high-growth tech workers globally, more than Japan, France and India.

The findings are a reflection and reminder of the UK’s fundamental social, economic and cultural strengths as an open trading nation. With our young and enterprising population, distinctive offer, growth potential and global connections, Bradford is very well placed to play an increasingly important role in the future development of the UK’s successful technology sector.

Exa Networks is a strong case in point. Founded in Bradford in 2003, the company is now one of the UK’s largest independent internet service providers, giving schools and businesses access to world-class connectivity speeds.

Mark Cowgill, director and co-founder, said: “Bradford is not necessarily the place that makes you think of technology. Wool mills and textiles sure, but technology? But the city’s technological background goes back a long way and has been at the heart of every industrial revolution.

“John Logie Baird, the Scotsman who invented the television, may have been from Helensburgh but the company that bore his name manufactured TV sets in Bradford.

“Following that pioneering start in entertainment technology, the city was chosen as the base for the National Science and Media Museum, had the first IMAX screen in Europe, and was the world’s first UNESCO City of Film.

“More recently, Bradford has become known for its pioneering work in communications and artificial intelligence… and remains one of the fastest-connected cities in the world.”

The University of Bradford is hard-wired into the district’s success in the tech sector through its computer science, engineering and media, design and technology departments. Teaching students is of course vital for the supply of talent, but the university also creates knowledge through research and innovates with industry, local government and the health service.

The university is making a name for itself in the field of artificial intelligence, notably in the automated analysis of vast amounts of text to extract patterns that can be used to better inform decision making. As Dr Liam Sutton, associate director of research and innovation, points out, “universities do the same things with knowledge that banks do with money”. They are foundational and we’re lucky to have a good one.

We have every reason to be optimistic. Mr Cowgill of Exa Networks said: “As we look to the future, Bradford was identified in 2018 by Barclays as the best place in the UK to start a business, and had the biggest success rate for new startups.

“With property values approximately nearly 50 per cent cheaper than nearby Leeds or Manchester, developers and businesses have leapt at the opportunity to grow their companies here. And being the city with the youngest population in the UK, this has led businesses to look at Bradford as great long-term investment.

“App developers, software development houses, graphic designers, cyber security and hundreds more have led to the city being dubbed the ‘Shoreditch of the North’. But Bradford is so much more; it is not a replica of another city in the UK, it is very much its own place. One flooded in history and setting its stall out for a digital and technology-driven future.

“Bradford has had a difficult couple of decades, but the city now embracing technology, helping startups and encouraging growth through collaboration is better placed than ever for a very bright future, and to quote Bradford’s own JB Priestley, ‘to put failure behind you, face up to it’ and that is exactly what the city has and continues to do.”

I couldn’t put it better myself.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

PWC Hold Launch Event For Bradford Assurance Centre

Leading professional services firm PwC announces the opening of a new Assurance Centre in Bradford 

As part of the ongoing transformation of its operating model PwC, one of the world’s leading professional services organisations, has taken the decision to open a new Assurance Centre in Bradford.

The centre will help PwC continue to provide quality and exceptional client service in changing times, standardising work in key areas of their engagements to be able to use technology effectively through automation.

PwC has taken over 9000 sq ft of office space at 5 Godwin Street, Bradford and has already recruited sixty members of staff from the local area who will be based in Bradford with the potential to increase this number to 225 creating further job opportunities in the city over the next few years. PwC plans to move the new members of staff into the new office in March 2019.

Whether someone is ready for a career change; at the start of their working life or just after a new challenge, the new Assurance Centre will help develop skills and boost employability irrespective of background.

The opening has been facilitated by officers from Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority working with PwC over several months.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council and chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said;

“Its great news that such a prestigious brand is coming to Bradford for the first time. It’s also great news for the Leeds City Region that PwC is expanding its presence in our part of the world, creating skilled jobs and opportunities for local people.

“PwC want to attract the talents of the future and it’s brilliant that they acknowledge that Bradford, as the UK’s youngest city, is the place to do that. We look forward to working with them over the coming months and years.”

Will Richardson, PwC’s Leeds Office Senior Partner commented;

“Our new PwC Assurance Centre is one of our key priorities in delivering a best in class proposition as one of the world’s leading professional services firms. Not only will it offer our people the opportunity to work more flexibly and help reduce the travel required, they will also gain great experience working with a breadth of nationally based clients from SMEs to large corporations.”

“Bradford is one of the largest cities in the UK, and the youngest city, offering a large and talented workforce that has so much to offer not just Northern Powerhouse growth but the UK’s economic growth too.  Helping to support inclusive growth by investing in Bradford drives right to the heart of our PwC Purpose and Social Mobility agenda.”

Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council and Lead Chief Executive for inward investment for Leeds City Region, said;

“PwC’s decision to build a presence in Bradford is a further vote of confidence in the dynamism of the sector and talent pool in the city.

“With a strong education sector, great transport links to London and the rest of the North, and a growing international reputation for financial and professional services innovation, it’s no wonder that Leeds City Region is the most significant regional financial and professional services centre in the country. We look forward to working with PwC to make sure this new office is a success both for the firm and for the city.”

David Baldwin, chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, added:

“PwC coming to Bradford is further evidence that what we are doing through our economic strategy for the Bradford District is paying dividends.

“We plan to make Bradford district one of the most dynamic places to do business in the UK. Clearly companies such as PwC are recognising our efforts to grow our economy by increasing the number of productive businesses in the district, leading innovation and investment and building on our strategic assets – our people, our businesses and our places.”

Burberry cloud has a check lining for Keighley

Every cloud has a silver lining… or a check in this case. Burberry, the luxury goods giant, has decided to sell land in Leeds it had earmarked for the development of a major new manufacturing facility. The news was expected after Burberry let an option lapse on a building it owns in the city in 2017 but is still a disappointment for our city region.

On the plus side, the group has reaffirmed its commitment to Yorkshire and the UK. “As part of this we will continue to invest in our existing manufacturing operations in Castleford and Keighley, home to our iconic Burberry Heritage trench coat,” said Julie Brown, Burberry’s chief operating and financial officer. “We will also continue to grow our shared services centre in Leeds, which opened in 2017.”

Burberry’s original plan, led by former CEO and creative chief Christopher Bailey, was for the teams from Castleford and Keighley to move to a state-of-the-art manufacturing and weaving facility at Temple Works in Leeds. While visually striking, the 1830s building would have required an extensive, and expensive, rebuilding project to bring it back into use. As a Yorkshireman, Mr Bailey understood the intrinsic value of provenance in Burberry’s story and this investment would have underlined the brand’s proud history with a distinctly modern twist.

Sadly, the business case didn’t stack up and Burberry under its new leadership of Marco Gobbetti decided to stick with the status quo in Yorkshire, the heart of the group’s £2.7bn fashion empire. This is good news for Castleford and Keighley, which had been earmarked for closure under the earlier plans.

At Castleford, home to 700 employees, Burberry produces the handmade Heritage trench coat. It is a painstaking process, involving more than 100 individual processes including the intricate crafting of the collar which calls for more than 180 stitches to create a fluid curve.

Keighley’s Burberry Mill dates from the 1880s and manufactures the world famous and instantly recognisable check lining fabrics used in the trench coat as well as fabrics for accessories such as shoes and bags. Around 70 people are employed at the mill. It is hiring too; current advertised roles include weaving technicians and design managers.

These are highly skilled jobs. It can take up for a year for an individual to learn the sewing technique on the Heritage trench coat. The inherent craftsmanship, along with the design and fabric innovation, is reflected in the cost: £1,400 and upwards for an item.

The UK fashion and textile industry is undergoing a resurgence thanks to re-shoring, driven by the flight to quality and the demand for short lead times. According to industry group UKFT, the sector manufactured products worth £9.1bn in 2017 and employs more than 105,000 jobs. To keep up with growing demand, UKFT said the industry will need to create another 20,000 jobs.

Textiles remain an important aspect of our district economy, especially in Airedale and Bradford, which are home to many specialist and exporting SMEs. They form part of our wider manufacturing base of 1,200 manufacturers together employing 23,000 people, the fourth highest of any city district in the UK. All of these businesses have a shared interest in promoting the manufacturing industry to the next generation of recruits.

This is where Bradford Manufacturing Weeks comes in. More than half of Bradford district’s secondary schools – 29 out of 45 – have already signed up to this year’s event, which runs from October 7-18. Now we need manufacturers to sign up and match this interest and ensure there are enough experiences for students in manufacturing.

Nick Garthwaite, Bradford Chamber president and managing director of chemicals manufacturer Christeyns, who created the initiative last year, said: “We’ve had a phenomenal response from schools and it is so encouraging to have the appetite to get pupils into local manufacturing environments. But for this initiative to work, we need to at least match the schools involved with willing manufacturers. We are urging employers to register their interest so we at Bradford Chamber can get in touch and make these connections and experiences happen.”

Led by Bradford Chamber and delivered in partnership with school and career specialists Aspire-igen with primary sponsorship from Barclays, this year’s event aims to create 6,000 work experiences for young people by doubling involvement from the 44 manufacturers which took part last year and reaching three quarters of the district’s secondary schools. Let’s hope Burberry and other textiles manufacturers follow suit.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Openreach trains 5,000 at Bradford’s Open Street

Charlotte Hill joined Openreach as an apprentice in 2016. She hasn’t looked back since. Three years on, the 26-year-old from Idle in Bradford is heading up a team of 18 engineers and is part of the infrastructure group’s Accelerated Leadership programme.

“I saw an apprenticeship as a brilliant way to learn a proper skill, get qualifications and earn a salary throughout,” she said. “University didn’t really appeal to me so when I saw opportunities at Openreach I applied straight away. Occasionally people are surprised when I tell them what I do but to me it’s normal. As a company we really want to encourage more women into engineering jobs and I’d definitely recommend it as a career.”

Joe Taiwo is another young person who decided to pursue a career in engineering. The 24-year-old from Pudsey joined Openreach as an apprentice straight after school after worrying about the cost of university and the potential difficulty in finding a job after graduation.

He said: “I saw joining Openreach as an opportunity to learn on the job and carve out a career by starting at the bottom and working my way up. So far it’s all going to plan and after a short time as an acting manager I am now an operations manager looking after local new recruits, which I thoroughly enjoy. I hope, in the not too distant future, to become an area manager for West Yorkshire. It’s a challenging goal but I know the support and opportunities are there to help me achieve it.”

Openreach is an important investor in Bradford. A year ago, the company launched a pioneering new training centre in the district, investing more than £1m to transform a 1970s office, storage and workshop unit into a state-of-the-art facility and template for Openreach training centres across the UK. At its centre is ‘Open Street’, a replica residential road which provides a safe, real-life environment for trainees to get to grips with everything they need to know to install, maintain, upgrade and expand the networks that we all rely on.

Since the official launch in March 2018, more than 5,500 engineers and new recruits have been trained at the centre. Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, who visited last month, said: “There’s a national shortage of engineers so it’s great to see an infrastructure business like Openreach playing its part and investing in training new talent right here in Bradford.”

I’m told recruitment of trainee engineers is ongoing across West Yorkshire so there will be plenty of opportunities for more young people to follow in the footsteps of Charlotte and Joe. Who knows what the future will hold for them. The accumulation of technical know-how combined with management experience is a powerful one and breeds confidence in young people and their abilities. Future business leaders? I wouldn’t be surprised.

It is estimated that more than 97 per cent of Bradford has access to superfast broadband, which is higher than the national average. Openreach says the future lies in Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), where pure fibre optic cables connect homes and businesses straight to the exchange, and has committed to build this infrastructure to 3 million premises by 2020 with Leeds being among the first locations to go ‘fibre first’.  FTTP connections can deliver ultrafast broadband speeds of up to 1Gigabit per second (Gbps) – enough to stream 200 HD videos simultaneously. We look forward to them arriving in Bradford and not before time.

In the meantime, best of luck to Charlotte and co, the young women and men from our district who are equipping themselves with invaluable skills as they install the infrastructure that our businesses will use to grow their products and services, creating jobs and prosperity in the process. Openreach continues its recruitment drive. “In just the past year we have recruited more than 100 trainee engineers locally and we are looking to recruit a further 90 trainee engineers from across West Yorkshire,” said Kim Mears, managing director of Openreach. “We know from past experience that we will have no problem filling those positions with top quality candidates.” To me, that’s a resounding vote of confidence in our young and enterprising population.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.