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

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