Yorkshire firms are facing 'war for talent' to attract new generation of workers, Humber Business Week is told

The founder of Humber Business Week brought down the curtain on this year’s programme with advice for employers on how to win the intensifying “war for talent”.

Paul Sewell (left) was interviewed by former Home Secretary Alan Johnson
Paul Sewell (left) was interviewed by former Home Secretary Alan Johnson

Paul Sewell, who is also chairman of Sewell Group which has a workforce of 500, said the need to look after staff has never been greater at a time when young people hold all the cards.

He said: “There is more of a war for talent among businesses than there is for customers. You get the right team and you will be successful. Success is inevitable.

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But the young people coming out of colleges and universities today are more discerning than previous generations, according to Mr Sewell.

“They are not going to put up with some of the things we had to put up with. We have blended generations in our business and you can’t treat the Zs and Xs and millennials like the baby boomers.”

Mr Sewell, who failed the eleven-plus before gaining a first class degree 10 years later, said: “It was a crazy thing to judge kids at 11 years of age and put them on a path to working with their hands or going into academia. You see this enormous pressure to attain nowadays and I feel really sorry for the kids.

“I heard a great quote about when kids leave school – 15 or 16? No, they leave when you fail them. A couple of people believed in me and they found out what I was good at. If you do that you will get people to fulfil their potential.

“Social mobility enables businesses to fish in a bigger pool – it’s not a ‘do good’ thing, it’s a business thing. Talent is spread equally among the population but opportunities aren’t.”

Mr Sewell, who launched Business Week in 2005 having previously played a role in running the Yorkshire International Business Convention, was speaking at the last of the Elevenses interviews which were a highlight of this year’s programme.

Earlier in the week he interviewed Neil Hudgell and Adam Pearson – owners of Hull’s two Super League clubs – broadcaster Steph McGovern, East Yorkshire- based entrepreneur David Hall and Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim to serve in the UK cabinet.

The final interview saw the tables turned, with Mr Sewell interviewed by Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary and MP for Hull West and Hessle, who drew on themes from the “Half A Lettuce” book published by Mr Sewell last year.

Mr Johnson, an author himself, said: “I am making this interview all about this book because it’s a fabulous story It’s a .. fascinating slice of social history."

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