Mmove to Leeds and take advantage of the jobs boom, says Melissa Berthelot, boss of medical device maker WarnerPatch, who relocated her business from London two years ago to benefit from booming high-tech industry in the town in West Yorkshire.
With a shortage of skilled data science and software engineers in the South East – and most other parts of the country – Leeds has proven a happy hunting ground for Berthelot, an engineer turned managing director who has used the first lock to make the jump north.
Deep technology refers to sectors such as artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnology. His blade runner-as the picture may seem worlds away from the Emmerdale village tour offered just west of the city, but Leeds manages to straddle old and new as it climbs the UK rankings for job creation and productivity.
The city has earned a reputation for developing the skilled personnel and financial strength needed to fund startups and innovation, particularly in healthcare, but also in the city’s more traditional areas of expertise – financial services and legal, manufacturing and retail.
This reputation has seen major employers, including the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority, open offices there, and Britain’s new infrastructure bank choose Leeds for its headquarters.
According to the latest UK Powerhouse report by law firm Irwin Mitchell, produced by the Center for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), Leeds will be one of the few cities in the North to improve in terms of job creation. by the end of 2023.
While soaring energy costs and a Brexit-related shortage of skilled workers are expected to dampen GDP growth across much of the country in the second half of this year, Leeds is set to reverse the trend. It will create around 19,000 jobs by the end of 2023, taking it from ninth place in the city jobs rankings six months ago to sixth by the end of next year.
“Leeds’ strong jobs performance contrasts with its regional rivals, and while neighboring Sheffield produced similar economic output in the fourth quarter of 2021, Leeds’ job creation record is markedly better in 2021 and is expected to be even better in the fourth quarter of 2023,” the report said.
In a recent interview, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said the deep well of data science graduates was a key reason the central bank chose Leeds for its new base.
“We wanted a place that was present in terms of financial services personnel,” he said, “with universities that we could recruit from and that we have partnerships with. Data science is one of our growth areas.
The Bank will house about 500 employees in a new building that Bailey has not yet approved.
Manchester holds the top spot for startups outside of London, says Irwin Mitchell, but Leeds’ growing portfolio of big business is starting to put its rival to shame. Asda, First Direct, Yorkshire Bank, Centrica, parcel company Evri (formerly Hermes) and Direct Line are among the big names based in the city.
The UK infrastructure bank will be housed in refurbished city center offices by the River Aire, and Channel 4’s new national headquarters will be in Leeds. While doubts remain over its status as a public television station, around 200 of its 912 employees will initially be housed in the former Majestyk nightclub.
The city has battled competition from Birmingham and Manchester, and the fact that 90% of London staff are leaving the chain rather than moving will boost the few media job opportunities in Leeds.
The Financial Conduct Authority is another public institution heading to Leeds, joining the Bank of England in moving a branch to the city. As with Channel 4, few London staff are expected to take up the relocation packages, which will provide job opportunities for people in and around Leeds.
Transport, however, remains the city’s Achilles’ heel. Decades of wrangling over a tram system means Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without a public transport network. And with only one main train station, getting in and out of the city is also a struggle.
Berthelot develops a device capable of monitoring blood diseases at home, making routine hospital visits unnecessary. She says a pop-up innovation center that was part of a major overhaul of Leeds hospitals and now supporting a cluster of health business startups, was a major attraction.
“In the UK, and Europe as a whole, it’s hard to find talent,” she says, “but we found it, and that’s why we’re now based in Leeds.”