OPINION: The future success of Harrogate’s economy rests on its ability to attract investment and grow its existing workforce

21 June, 2022 12:15 pm

The future success of Harrogate’s economy rests on its ability to attract investment, grow its existing workforce and expand current enterprises with the support of education institutions such as Harrogate College, writes Haddleton’s Chief Executive Officer, James Haddleton 

As part of its ongoing commitment to support the local economy, Harrogate college has set up an employers’ network aimed at delivering the skills and courses local firms need. This initiative has come at an opportune time as the economy continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic. 

Harrogate College is the ‘one-stop shop’ in the district for your skills needs and should be the first place to visit, whether you are in trade or in a profession. People think of apprentices sometimes as tradesmen, but it is broader than that and we need to promote the benefits of apprenticeships and why employers should consider taking a few on. The college is currently part of a ‘100 in 100’ campaign, which aims to get 100 apprentices hired in as many days and the significance of this campaign is one the district desperately needs. 

Currently with the employers’ network, members’ feedback is helping shape the content and structure of the college’s courses to make sure they better reflect employers’ needs and deliver a suitably skilled future workforce. I think it is imperative for businesses to form a relationship with the local college and to establish the gaps they have within their organisations where the college can support. 

What I am hoping for as an outcome, is a discussion about how we can broaden the offer across the district and get more employers engaged with the FE sector to fill the gaps they are currently experiencing. As a small business owner in Harrogate, I wasn’t aware that I have a training need and a need for an apprentice until I engaged with the college.  

Harrogate is a relatively affluent town. The proportion of pupils who go on to study A Levels and then on to university is high. But there is now an increasing trend of pupils veering towards more practical subjects and course options. 

As a provider of T Levels and other Level 3 courses, Harrogate College provides a vocational and technical route into higher education, which will to some extent, result in them becoming employees in many local businesses further down the line.  

This is in addition to providing high level technical education and training, as well as apprenticeships up to degree level. All this combined, makes the college central to bridging those gaps required by a wide range of industries or sectors in the district. 

Through this apprenticeship campaign and the employers’ network, we (both the college and employers) can create those apprenticeship opportunities, help businesses find the right fit and support existing and new apprentices to progress and take their careers to the next level. 

As a small business that is always looking at ways to scale up, ready access to an appropriately skilled workforce is a prerequisite for growth. Now, more than ever, apprenticeships will play a key role in driving growth and helping retain the talent businesses need to level up on a local and national scale. 

With employer leadership or input becoming increasingly embedded within our post-16 skills system, it is important that engagement between employers and further education (FE) organisations such as Harrogate College work closely together to address how they can work together to equip learners with the skills required in the workplace.  

Existing relationships between local employers and Harrogate College appear limited and ripe for further development. Which is why I believe that the work that the college is doing so far to collaborate with employers is a great start.  

Working together with education institutions such as Harrogate College is such an important step forward to tapping into local talent that is committed to the area. Having a workforce with a good transferable skill set is going to enable us to grow without having to spend additional time and money going around the country or using agencies to attract the talent we need when we have them right at our fingertips. 

The advantage of building relationships with the FE sector is that you can drop into your local college and find ways you can work together to support existing and new staff. I think it is about accessibility, commitment to the area and the right connections. 

For more information about Harrogate College and the employers’ network, visit the website.