Yesterday, Worcester City Council announced a £150,000 injection of cash to help improve skills in the city. Councillors cited the need to remove the “obstacles to growth” as one of the reasons for the new batch of funding. However, the rest of the county needs support too if we are to stop the brain-drain to the south-east.
Spirit Ventures is an ambitious group. We operate across the training, hospitality and construction sectors. We are already a prominent local employer, and as we grow, we want to keep our base in Pershore and West Worcestershire. We’ve made a commitment to the community and we intend to stick to it.
However, when we were building our ambitious growth plan for the next 5 years, we realised that there was potentially a big obstacle in the way: the size of the local population, and the talent pool within it.
Many ambitious local employers have encountered a similar problem. Local young people with talent go off to university, and many don’t return. London and the South-East in the particular, for ambitious and talented young people, are much as California was for the dust-bowlers. It has a hold over the imaginations and the ambitions of our most skilled and talented.
But help is not coming immediately. The national government benefits enormously from the tax revenue created by our capital, and London’s stakeholders will jealously protect their rights and interests. Local businesses and local government have to help themselves.
We’ve already started. We have a proud history of investing in the ongoing professional development of our team. As well as funding for external qualifications, we have recently completed the second run of our internal Management Development Programme. We are set to launch our inaugural Leadership Development Programme in the Autumn. We are also in the process of rethinking our whole PDR and appraisal system to ensure people’s career aspirations are aligned with those of the business. We are lucky that we have managed to attract a lot of very talented and very committed people, and we try to do our best by them.
However, we, and other local businesses can do more. We have to argue very clearly that there are clear benefits to working locally and not following the crowd to the South-East. House prices and the cost of living are cheaper. We can offer a better work-life balance. There is simply a better chance of getting the quality of life you want much quicker.
And let’s not be squeamish about it: many local companies can provide just as lucrative financial rewards as those in the South-East. Young people should also think that there is an opportunity for much more high-level exposure – and much quicker – than they would get at a corporate giant in the highly competitive and overcrowded national capital.
Of course local government can help. To its credit, Wychavon District Council is seeking to work much more closely with the business community to support growth. All local agencies and local businesses should work together to help end this brain-drain.