Workforce plan has perfectly clear vision

By Dave Baldwin

If you want people to buy into your vision, it’s got to be easy to understand. This one is perfectly clear: to equip Bradford people with the skills that employers need; to improve the quality of jobs in the district and to make sure good jobs and careers are available to all communities.

Titled People, Skills and Prosperity, Bradford District’s Workforce Development Plan brings together the council, colleges, schools, employers and training providers to work more collaboratively. If you want to achieve big hairy audacious goals in life, you’ve got to have everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction.

We have one ambition: to be the UK’s fastest growing economy over the coming decade, increasing the value of our economy by £4 billion and getting 20,000 more people into work as outlined in our growth strategy. Some might say that’s pretty audacious, but it’s eminently doable and we’re making strong progress.

Our plan has two principles: inclusiveness and sustainability. That means ensuring everyone can contribute to and benefit from growth and ensuring growth protects and enhances our natural environment. Quite simply, the future generations won’t forgive us if we don’t.

We have three strategic assets: people, business and place. Our young and diverse population provides Bradford with a unique advantage. Our innovative and productive businesses give the platform for growth. Our diverse place and communities provide a range of live and work opportunities. You can’t argue with any of those strengths.

Three themes run through the plan: building skills employers seek, improving job quality and connecting our communities to good jobs and careers. As part of these, we are expanding sector-based workforce development, ensuring people make informed decisions about their future careers, maximising the economic power and influence of our anchor institutions, developing a one-stop shop to support business talent requirements, supporting low-skilled jobseekers into work and upwards, and developing an inclusive community learning plan.

Andrew Laver, managing director of timber merchant Arnold Laver and chairman of Bradford’s Industrial Centres of Excellence (ICE) programme, said: “Strong businesses drive economic growth, and for businesses to thrive and prosper, we need a skilled workforce. Developing the skills of people in the district, and importantly making sure that young people in schools gain the qualification and experience they need to drive success, is an essential part of our shared success.”

Cllr Imran Khan, Portfolio Holder for Education, Employment and Skills and Deputy Leader of the Council, added: “The people of Bradford are key to the success of our district. A successful economy in Bradford is dependent on the skills of everyone who lives and works here. This plan will help us improve skills at every level, will support our local businesses and provide a better quality of life for our residents.

“The plan has been developed following extensive consultation with partners and is about enhancing and building on existing successes. It calls on everyone – business, education, families and individuals – to work together to create a skills system that works for everyone.”

We don’t have a lot of extra money to deliver this plan. We need to be as creative and resourceful as possible in repurposing and better coordinating existing funding and working with businesses to stimulate private sector investment. We also need central Government to help pay for the up-skilling of our workforce. The “seismic shift” in funding and powers called for by the Convention of the North wouldn’t go amiss.

Above all, we need everyone to carry on working together. We are the Bradford Economic Partnership. The clue is in the name: it’s a partnership, a team effort. As Cllr Khan said, everyone who lives, works and runs business in the district has a role to play in improving skills at all levels from entry through to PhD.

Bradford Council approved the plan this month. At the meeting, a headteacher spoke about the life-changing impact of programmes like these. Zoe Mawson, of Beckfoot Heaton Primary School, said: “Three years ago we weren’t giving a good education to our children. One of the biggest challenges was that children didn’t have high expectations of themselves or their families. They didn’t see how their futures could be different. We wanted children to believe they could have the future they wanted.”

The school now welcomes a range of visitors from different backgrounds, from apprentices to members of the Royal Household, to talk about their careers. “What it’s done is let them know the world is their oyster,” said Ms Mawson. Our plan is the sword to open it, to paraphrase Shakespeare.

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