One of the region’s key business leaders has highlighted how more needs to be done to allow local and sub-regional economies to thrive more.
Gerald Jennings, the Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, spoke to business leaders at the organisation’s annual meeting in Leeds recently. While highlighting the activities and services provided to businesses during the previous 12 months, he also set out the upcoming challenges and opportunities in years to come. Central to those challenges is the skills agenda, said the former Land Securities boss. Identifying the extent of the skills gap and its likely effect in the future was now key to the continued success of Bradford, Leeds, York and North Yorkshire, he said.
“Automation is going to change the face of the workplace – as many as a third of current roles in the labour market could disappear over the next 20 years. Let’s really understand what this change will mean for business and see it as an opportunity”, he said.
Following the theme of opportunity, Mr Jennings said that devolution and the Northern Powerhouse concept need to be delivered in order for West & North Yorkshire to fulfil its potential.
“We want to ensure that we play a full role in the economic future of the UK and in the social well-being of all”, said the business leader; but failure to secure a devolution deal in this part of the world was handicapping aspirations. “We must secure a deal in order to catch up with other regions and create our own future.” He hinted that “a West Yorkshire settlement could be an initial step towards leading to a larger devolved arrangement when the time is right. We need to see an agreement with the right governance arrangements and a clear business voice at the table.”
Finally, Mr Jennings offered to lead a more “positive and dynamic” lobbying campaign on transport investment. Acknowledging that the calls for improved connectivity within and beyond Yorkshire are sometimes perceived negatively elsewhere, the property specialist said that the case for investment, connectivity and social mobility need to be spun positively in order to gain influence.
The Chamber Board Chairman rounded up with some of the business support organisation’s success over the last 12 months, many of which can be found in the published annual report, here.