Chamber welcomes PR chief Suzanne Watson as new president

Nearly 20 years ago, Judith Donovan CBE made history when she became the first female President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. The cigar-smoking businesswoman became known as one of Yorkshire’s first entrepreneurs after starting her own marketing agency in 1982. She sold JDA for an undisclosed sum to her managers in 2000 and embarked on a successful post-business career in public service.

Almost two decades on, the chamber has appointed its second female president in Suzanne Watson, the founder and managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR, who succeeds Nick Garthwaite, the managing director of manufacturer Christeyns UK, at the helm of the business organisation, which was founded in 1851.

“Better late than never!” said Judith. “It might have taken me 149 years but it shouldn’t have taken another 19 to get the second female. But with female leaders in virtually every major civic role in Bradford, the city is now setting the pace. The chamber is still one of the best in the country so I know Suzanne will love every minute, as I did, and I wish her all the very best.”

Suzanne founded Approach PR in 2000 after starting her career as a newspaper reporter in North Wales and West Yorkshire. Working for a local paper provides a privileged glimpse into the rich tapestry of life and Suzanne used her experience in journalism to establish a successful public relations and social media agency with clients in the manufacturing, retail, charity, food and drink, hospitality and tourism sectors.

She said: “This is a time of immense change and progression for our city and district and it feels the right time for a small business owner to be taking on the position of President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. 

“Our district has around 15,500 businesses and of those, 99 per cent are micro to medium sized. Everyday, they, like me, live and breathe the challenges caused by productivity barriers such as transport, connectivity, the skills gap and funding. My own experience puts me in a strong place to be a voice and a representative of our business community. 

“After working alongside Nick, who has done a wonderful job for the last two years, I feel confident that with the support of a great chamber team and the business community behind me, we can do great things for Bradford’s profile, development and economic growth.”

As Suzanne points out, the vast majority of companies are micro to medium in size. Yet their views often struggle to register among the political and business elite in Westminster and the City of London. Let’s not overlook that small businesses employ 16.3m people in the UK and generate a combined £2 trillion in annual turnover. In this respect, Suzanne will provide a valuable perspective as a small business owner.

High-growth companies attract a lot of media interest, especially those that achieve dizzying valuations. As they chase the next billion-dollar business, investors seem to forget that unicorns only exist in the land of make-believe. SMEs provide a reassuring counterbalance to all the hype, steadily generating profits, jobs and tax revenues that together maintain a level of prosperity in communities across the UK.

As Suzanne notes, these businesses rely on good road and rail links, fast and reliable broadband, confident and capable school leavers and access to finance to help meet demand for their goods and services. On the face of it, these aren’t big asks but with the national conversation preoccupied with Brexit, the bread-and-butter investment decisions on transport, connectivity, skills and funding are being delayed. This is where we need the chamber’s voice to be heard loudest and clearest. I’m sure Suzanne will do a sterling job and we look forward to working with her.

On behalf of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I would like to place on record our thanks for the significant contribution made by Nick Garthwaite over the last two years, especially with the creation of Bradford Manufacturing Week, which has encouraged countless young people to consider careers in industry. With role models like Nick, Judith and Suzanne, they won’t be short of inspiration to follow their dreams in business.

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

TV producer praises unique talent and skill in Bradford

For those unfamiliar with The Inbetweeners, the Channel 4 show chronicled the painfully funny and puerile escapades of four adolescent males as they struggled with the coming of age. It ran for three series, produced two hit films and earned its place in telly history as pure gold.

The trials and tribulations of Jay, Will, Simon and Neil have helped to inspire a new British-Asian sitcom set in Bradford and currently in pre-production for Channel 4. The comedy producer Stu Richards of Rockerdale Studios confirmed he is casting for five South Asians from Bradford who are “funny and fresh” for the roles of 18-year-old college students. He is also looking for local people to join the production crew, including make-up artists and prop designers, and is hopeful that Bradford College can supply some of the talent.

Mr Richards told the local paper: “It’s not literally a remake of The Inbetweeners, they’re all slightly older for a start. But it is about the camaraderie between four lifelong friends who are useless in their different ways. So there’ll be a cool handsome one, a hapless one, a conspiratorial one etc. They’re all young lads who are trying to deal with the world and the struggles of becoming a man.”

It’s a timeless theme and I cannot think of anywhere better to bring it up to date for modern Britain. “For me, Bradford is unique,” added Mr Richards. “There’s so much talent and skill in the city and this is a real opportunity to tap into those resources.” I’m told Channel 4 will announce more details soon, including the identity of the Bradfordian writer.

With the Bradford Literature Festival in full swing, the cultural renaissance is gathering pace as the district welcomes distinguished guests from all over the world. These include Tasneem Chopra, the Australia-based international diversity consultant. She told the BBC how she only knew about Bradford through its literature festival. Ms Chopra said: “When I see events like this, I see people who look like a microcosm of the world. I see little children who can look up and see ‘that could be me’. You can only be what you can see.”

That’s so true. We need to make sure that young people from our district are exposed to successful role models during their formative yearsl. This is why initiatives like Bradford Manufacturing Weeks and the Bradford Education Covenant are so important in raising aspirations and showing children there really should be no limit to their ambitions, whatever their background.

This was underlined by Anita Rani, the TV presenter born in Bradford to Indian parents, who returned to her home city to host Channel 4’s diversity festival which took place earlier in June. Speaking to an audience of industry executives, she challenged the dominance of “posh white men” working in TV: “I feel I have to justify why I should present things more than anyone else because I’m an Asian woman, and on top of that I’m blimmin’ northern.” We need more people like Anita blazing trails for others to follow.

Opportunities are growing in the cultural industries. Arts Council England has just announced National Lottery funding worth £1.5m for a group of Bradford organisations to create a Producing Hub in the district. This will help develop the local performing arts sector and talent and increase the capacity to produce work.

Evie Manning, director of arts organisation Common Wealth, said: “Bradford is a city that over the years, despite limited formal arts infrastructure, has created so much brilliant work in a very grassroots way. The Producing Hub will encourage artists at all stages in their careers to experiment, express themselves and help build a narrative of Bradford that is proud of what makes us unique – as a city that has always been radical and is a home to people with lots of experience and lots of stories to tell.”

To keep up to date with some of those stories this summer, look out for the Sparkling Bradford campaign. This is backed by Visit Bradford, Broadway shopping centre, Bradford Council, Bradford BID and Bradford Economic Partnership. All the organisations with a stake in the future of our district have joined forces to deliver a life-enhancing package of things to do, many of which are free of charge. Pure gold.

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

Power up the Powerhouse with new Bradford city centre station

Five years ago this summer George Osborne captured the imagination of many in the business community when he launched the Northern Powerhouse. The idea of unleashing the unfulfilled potential of the North was irresistible. Here was a Chancellor with the economic vision and the political will to bring together northern cities, towns and rural communities to supercharge economic growth through the ramping up of transport networks and devolution of decision-making powers. He even got the Chinese president on board.

Sacked by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016, Mr Osborne swapped politics for a job in the newsroom and now edits the London Evening Standard as well as earning a few bob on the side as an £650,000-a-year advisor to BlackRock, the US fund manager. To be fair, he did set up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership with Lord Jim O’Neill, his former Treasury minister, which bangs the drum for more investment in our part of the world.

Amid fears the Northern Powerhouse is running out of steam, 30 newspapers of the North including The Yorkshire Post have united in an effort to apply some pressure to those vying to succeed Mrs May in Number 10, urging them to spell out what they intend to do and how they will work with others to narrow the North-South divide. It is a fine campaign and puts down a marker for the new incumbent that the case for regeneration is urgent.

A new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research North will certainly fuel concerns about rising inequalities in England. It found that between 2009-10 and 2017-18 the North had a £3.6bn cut in public spending, while the South East and the South West together saw a £4.7bn rise in real terms. London also saw a cut in spending, but by far less, at £256m.

IPPR North also found transport spending rose by more than twice as much per person in London, at £330 per person, as in the North, at £149 per person, in real terms. Most concerning of all, 200,000 more northern children are now living in a poor household since the launch of the Northern Powerhouse in 2014, meaning there is a total of 800,000 children living in poverty in the North.

Commenting on the report, Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: “While positive steps have been taken to address the economic challenges facing the North, this analysis underlines the need to dramatically increase the pace and scale of investment if we are to truly rebalance the economy and raise living standards for all our communities.

“As a starting point, the Government must recommit to delivering HS2 in full and fund Northern Powerhouse Rail, with a line going through Bradford city centre, as fundamental building blocks of the 21st century transport system the North needs to unlock its full economic potential.”

Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, raised the issue in Parliament recently and afterwards said: “The difference in spending between London and the South East and the North of England cannot go on. We are still boarding decades old stopper trains to get from Bradford to Leeds, while London gets significantly more investment in transport.

“I want the North to have its fair share of funding across all Government departments, but transport would be a good start. Northern Powerhouse Rail needs to be a project that won’t be scrapped by the next prime minister, and it absolutely needs a city centre station in Bradford, the fifth biggest city in the country.”

Challenges aside, let’s not forget all the progress our district has made over the last five years: with the ongoing regeneration of the city centre, new business creation, jobs growth, high productivity, skills development, manufacturing exports and a cultural renaissance, Bradford is getting its mojo back. We’re doing our bit in business; now Government, whatever its political persuasion, needs to rebuild trust and confidence that it is for the North. That would be a very welcome boost for social solidarity.

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

Celebrating Bradford’s heroines who fight for our rights

It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Lillian Armitage had plenty and more than a century after she was jailed for her part in the suffragette movement, a Bradford street is being named after her.

Local teacher Lillian was Secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union and clearly a very determined woman, so determined in fact that she attempted to enter the House of Commons on February 14 1907 to demand voting rights for women. Predictably, the Establishment was outraged. She was arrested, tried and sent to prison for two weeks.

Without the bravery of Lillian and others like her who fight for human rights, Britain would be a very backward place. It is great that our district is taking a stand and celebrating the contributions of these women through a new campaign called Pioneering Bradford Lasses, starting with Lillian Armitage Close at a new development on the corner of Green Lane and Lumb Lane.

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Better Health, Better Lives, told The Yorkshire Post: “I work in City Hall most days and while there are rightly many pictures of the old industrialists and aldermen who helped shape our district, these are by and large, male figures. This campaign offers the chance to redress this balance and promote more of our district’s pioneering lasses.

“I look forward to seeing more of the women from our past in my visits to City Hall, and indeed throughout the district and hope that Lillian Armitage will be the first of many women to be publicly honoured in in the district. By raising the profile of our Pioneering Lasses in Bradford we hope to inspire young women across the district to go on and make their own history.”

There are many exceptional role models to be found in the Bradford civic community. Take the following as a few shining examples: Bradford Chamber chief executive Sandy Needham, Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, council chief executive Kersten England, Bradford Literature Festival director Syima Aslam, manufacturing MD and LEP board member Joanna Robinson, charity chief Adeeba Malik, University of Bradford vice chancellor elect Shirley Congdon and health care commissioner Helen Hirst. I could go on.

We have many outstanding female entrepreneurs, such as Gemma Andrews, the 31-year-old co-founder and managing director of Superfood Market, who transformed a popular food blog into a successful whole foods supply business with annual sales reportedly nearing £10m.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I really love my job and the business we have built over the best part of a decade. I’m really proud of all the work we do, but I’m especially proud of the hardworking and dedicated female team leaders, managers and department heads at Superfood Market.

“I hope that my leadership of the company serves as a positive example of modern times in business, and inspires other women to reach for positions at the highest level. I hope though my hard work and dedication I pave the way for fellow Yorkshire lasses like myself to pursue and achieve their dreams.”

Suzanne Watson, the managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR and the Vice President of Bradford Chamber, is another example of an outstanding female entrepreneur in our district. She said: “The political, cultural and business landscape is changing at an incredible rate and now more than ever do we need inspiring female leaders to step forward and share their experiences, their skills and their vision with the next generation of women to encourage more entrepreneurship, more courage and more self belief to achieve our potential and secure the careers we deserve and truly make the difference we are capable of.

“Recognising female achievement in all areas is long overdue and as Bradford moves to acknowledge and promote the important role of women in the district’s history with its Pioneering Bradford Lasses campaign, I am looking forward to a future where Bradford’s example of female leadership is the norm, rather than the exception.”

Suzanne becomes Chamber President later this year, the second woman to hold the post after the advertising guru Judith Donovan CBE, another outstanding female entrepreneur from Bradford. Over the years, our district has produced some truly great women who have risen from diverse backgrounds to become figures of historic significance. Recognising their often courageous contributions to business and civic life helps pave the way for others to follow.

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

Humanity scholar and boy band brother sum up genius of festival

One is an internationally-renowned Islamic scholar who believes that humanity is the foundation stone upon which religious practice should be built. The other is a 1980s boy band star turned Hollywood actor and viral video sensation. Both are proving to be among the hottest tickets for this year’s Bradford Literature Festival.

That Habib Ali al-Jifri, the UAE-based author of Humanity Before Religiosity and founder of the Tabah Foundation, and Luke Goss, one half of Bros and now LA-based actor, are leading online sales sums up the sheer brilliance of our very own world-class festival. This year’s showcase features 500 writers and 400 events over 10 days, running from June 28 to July 7 and taking place at venues small and large across the district. Have a look through the programme: there really is something for everyone, particularly young people.

Habib Ali al-Jifri will be in conversation with the Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines on Saturday July 6 at St George’s Hall. They will be discussing the turbulent times of the day and the key issues confronting not only people of faith but humankind as a whole, drawing on insights from their respective religions and personal experiences in a multi-faith event that, judging by the demand, is not to be missed.

Luke Goss, meanwhile, will be talking about his new book, Desert Conversation. It is billed as “a stream-of-consciousness reflection on solitude, love, faith, consumption and more that truly answers the question, what happens After the Screaming Stops”. That’s the title of the BBC documentary charting Luke’s reunion with twin brother Matt nearly 30 years after they were one of the biggest bands in the world. The film has gone viral, just like ticket sales for this event at the University of Bradford’s Great Hall on Saturday June 29.

For fans of economics, there is plenty to get stuck into. The event titled Living on Another Planet: The Super-Rich 1% caught my eye as it poses the question, is there a scenario in which the uber-wealthy can co-exist without disrupting the economic and social cohesion of the wider world? Grappling with this tricky issue will be Oliver Bullough, author of the best-selling Moneyland, Deborah Hargreaves, former FT journalist and founder of the High Pay Centre think tank, and Daryl Cunningham, the Yorkshire-based cartoonist and writer. This takes place somewhat appropriately at the Banqueting Suite in City Hall on Sunday July 7.

Business readers will know that capitalism is getting a bad press at the moment, not helped by the excesses that will no doubt be pilloried at the above event. The general sense of uncertainty isn’t helping. Paul Mason, the journalist and film-maker, will be offering a tonic with his new book, Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being, which promises “a vision of humans as more than puppets and consumers” and highlights the importance of language, innovation and cooperation. (Bradford is a living and breathing example of that, Paul.) The ex-Channel and BBC Newsnight economics editor will be at Waterstones on Monday July 1.

In an increasingly polarised political landscape, it’s easy to overlook the vital role that business plays in creating and maintaining prosperity. Capitalism might not be perfect and certainly needs improvement, particularly in spreading more evenly the opportunity to succeed, but it does pay for an awful lot of what we all take for granted.

In this spirit, I would like to thank all of the sponsors and funders without whom this festival wouldn’t be possible. Bradford Literature Festival represents a fantastic opportunity for companies from a CSR perspective, given its focus on accessibility, literacy and cultural engagement. With its national profile, it’s also a great marketing platform.

This is just a small selection of highlights from this year’s inspirational showcase. The founder and director Syima Aslam is doing a fine job as the author of one of Bradford’s biggest and best success stories of recent years. She said: “It’s important to me that as the festival grows in stature nationally and internationally that we stay rooted in Bradford.” We know the district has extraordinary challenges as well as extraordinary opportunities. In that respect, it’s a microcosm of the world in 2019. Where better to find the solutions?

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

How to inspire school children to dream of business success

A green Jaguar and a nice suit – that’s what sealed the deal for me. It was 30-odd years ago at my Bradford comprehensive and a former pupil was visiting as part of an employer engagement programme to talk about careers in accountancy. He told my class about aspiration, hard work and that doing well at school had set him up for a great career.

As a teenager growing up in Bradford, my aspirations at the time were pretty much limited to playing football. But this talk made an impression on me. The nice suit and the Jaguar XJS parked by the school gates caught my eye and my imagination. But more important was seeing someone like me getting on – if he could do it, why couldn’t I? A seed was planted that day which led in time to setting up my own company.

I told this story recently at an event designed to get employers in the Bradford region to support young people in the workplace. Nav Chohan, Principal at Shipley College, also spoke about how employers can support the district’s Industrial Centres of Excellence (ICE). These centres enable 14 to 19-year-olds to link up with local businesses to earn qualifications, learn new skills and gain valuable employment experience.

Nav has 25 years’ experience in education and is chair of both the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC) and Leeds City Region Skills Network. When he speaks, people listen. He noted how some young people from modest backgrounds don’t have access to the same opportunities as middle class kids. Meeting someone in a business, charity or public sector organisation through skills programmes might be the first time that they hear about different careers from someone who isn’t a parent or a teacher. What Nav said really struck a chord with me and took me back.

There are currently five ICEs in the region, offering young people work placements, mentoring visits to employers and advice on career development. Nav urged more businesses to get involved with the ICEs because he’s seen first-hand what they can do: Shipley College was first, with the Centre of Excellence in Business (Cofe4B) opening its doors in 2013. The Centre of Excellence in the Built Environment came in 2014. Next was the Centre of Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering (Creative and Digital Technologies), which launched in 2015. Two more Centres of Excellence – in Computing, Science and Environmental Technologies; and in Health and Social Care, have since followed.

The Bradford region is home to many fantastic businesses which need a supply of talented employees to grow. But we need to get much better at connecting businesses with the educational needs of young people.  ICEs are different because the curriculum has been developed in partnership by local businesses, schools and colleges to provide routes into work, training and education. They work well precisely because employers and educators work together with a shared aim.

As part of Bradford’s economic growth strategy, we want to add £4bn to the district’s economy, create 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of nearly 50,000 people by 2030. We are already making good headway. Everyone can contribute to this, but as the youngest city in the UK, it is Bradford’s young people – the entrepreneurs and employees of tomorrow – who will make the difference.

The aim is that ICE programmes will support 3,100 students on placements in 20 secondary schools in the region. There are plans for four new ICEs in the next two years: the creative, digital and the arts will launch in September and will be followed next year by centres in hospitality and tourism; public service and law; and transport and logistics. To make them successful we need the support of local employers.

There’s lots of ways employers can help our young people to get on – support an ICE; offer extended work experience to a young person; become a governor of a school or college; or go back to your old school and talk about your education and career. The point is that business needs to roll up its sleeves and get involved.

My taste in suits and cars has certainly evolved since that classroom visit 30-odd years ago. But the importance of each generation doing its bit to raise the aspirations of our young people never changes.

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

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

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.