A new business centre created in Wakefield city centre will help create high skill and well-paid jobs as well as retain talent in the city, it has been claimed.
Simon Baldwin, head of enterprise and operations at Leeds Beckett University, said the newly-created business hub at Wakefield College would promote inclusive growth and make the city centre a hot bed of entrepreneurialism.
The new centre follows the successful creation of a similar initiative in Leeds and will be followed by a comparable unit in Halifax as the university looks to expand its business support service around the region.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Baldwin said he wanted the facility to become “the go-to Wakefield business centre hub”.
He said: “Through the relationships between the university and the college, we will create opportunities for the businesses based here to access our student talent, through placements, projects and employment, giving our best students direct opportunities with great local employers.
“This gives us the tantalising possibility of positively affecting some of Wakefield’s long-standing economic challenges.
“We have all heard local politicians and leaders refer to the loss of skilled workers to neighbouring areas where universities exist and produce and retain graduate jobs.
“We know a low wage/low skill economy does not create inclusive growth which benefits the local area. This business centre will attract new and growing businesses.
“They will engage with employers and employees, the college and university graduates.
“And being based here in Wakefield city centre will mean more of that graduate pound will be retained and spent here.
“This growth in graduate level jobs and encouragement of local students to stay in jobs that reflect their qualifications should crate economic growth and create capacity to enable lower-skilled workers to climb the employment ladder in jobs vacated by graduates who can now be employed in graduate jobs.
“This will generate inclusive growth. What we are doing is putting the building blocks in place.”
Coun Denise Jeffery, deputy leader of Wakefield Council, said that the new business hub was a “great step forward in supporting business and bringing jobs and prosperity into our district” and said the city was committed to creating a university.
Citing figures showing the high level of growth seen of late in the city, she said: “This is welcome news and shows the good work that has already been done, but we recognise we have more to do.
“We have major advantages in terms of where we are in the network, our land availability and our transport links.
“We also have one of the most transformed city centres in England over the last decade.”
Sam Wright, chief executive and principal of Wakefield College, said her organisation had ringfenced hot desks for students who had left within five years to get support and guidance with their businesses.
“A recent survey showed 94 per cent of students found jobs or further education after leaving,” she said.
“As much as we work with big employers we will strive to support SMEs.”
The business hub has been endorsed by the Institute of Directors in Yorkshire.
Leeds Beckett now has business hubs in Leeds and Wakefield and will open a third in March in Halifax.
Each centre will have its own unique specialisation reflecting the economic strengths, in order to prevent its tenants from competing.
In Wakefield, the specialisation will be food manufacturing, in Halifax it will be fintech while Leeds is focused on digital, finance, fashion and textiles.
The launch was supported by Ad-venture, the IoD, WGN, Yorkshire Bank, Lupton Fawcett, Mid-Yorkshire Chamber and Johnston Press.