27 Sep 2023

Event roundup: techUK fireside chat with West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin

On 21 September techUK was delighted to partner with Shoosmiths and UKTN to deliver a fireside chat with West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin as part of Leeds Digital Festival.

Tracy covered a range of topics including the regions ambitions to deliver a diverse tech sector, new career opportunities, ways to supporting growing businesses in the region and the new West Yorkshire Digital Blueprint.

The conversation started by addressing some of the numerous strengths found in the West Yorkshire region, from media production, gaming, software development, data analytics, radio transmission, MedTech, FinTech and more. All this alongside Digital Leeds, an inclusive digital programme which the Mayor has helped roll out across the entire West Yorkshire, provides a way to make the most of the regions strengths and provides an opportunity to bring people together, share knowledge and network.

Mayor Brabin also talked about what the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is doing to promote exciting innovation by developing a new digital skills plan, and convening people, places and businesses, to ensure the regions responds to climate change by innovating in the green economy. For instance the Mayor noted the need to reinvent the ex-mining communities to become a green communities, and the green skills taskforce and Mayoral commitment to develop green skills of young people, is helping deliver this. The Mayor noted that inclusivity is important for the sector and region, and rolling out skills programmes needs to reach all people across the entire region and intervene early to help with work readiness including preparing young people to start their careers journey. In a similar way interventions to make sure the regions provides for those neurodiverse in the region is also providing new career opportunities in the tech sector.

The Mayor also highlighted the need for a new strategy for the 21st Century to place West Yorkshire at the centre for inclusive digital growth, suggesting the importance of having a more agile approach to understand what is needed to tackle the skills shortages, in particular the green skills, and how can we support knowledge transfer and support businesses with talent.

In the context of the Prime Minister’s announcements on net zero policies, the Mayor commented that businesses want certainty and long term thinking when it comes to funding they are receiving. Climate change is a “vital issue” and the West Yorkshire’s Mayor is sticking to her net zero plan to achieve zero carbon by 2038 and “powering forward” with the environment plan, retrofitting projects, bus fare campaign, increasing bus routes and making them safer, and developing mass transit.  She also called for further and deeper devolution for Mayors in the future, noting that Mayors can provide the route to delivering local solutions including on cost of living.

Tackling the climate emergency is tackling the cost-of-living crisis.

Tracy Brabin

West Yorkshire Mayor

The Mayor would also like to champion more of the tech specialisms such as SpaceTech (where Bradford has a thriving cluster), AI, VR, virtual production, health tech including examples such as ways to prepare anxious children for hospital visits.

On Investment Zones, the West Yorkshire Mayor said that whilst this policy has been on a difficult journey, she’s looking to make the most out of the £80 million over 5 years provided for the region, including actively working with Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds Universities and Government, with a focus on health tech as it plays to the strengths of the region. The Mayor and WYCA are also working on a new trailblazer settlement to benefit the region, and when it comes to working with the private sector, the Mayor said she is spending more time with businesses to understand their needs such as support for apprenticeship levy schemes to train people and deliver upskilling for the specific needs of SMEs.

We are pursuing a trailblazer deal on skills, transport and tackling the climate emergency… and a West Yorkshire wide careers service to give every young person the chance to pursue a career and a great job.

Tracy Brabin

West Yorkshire Mayor

The Mayor called for Westminster to give powers to Mayors to support more initiatives and have deeper power over skills development starting from early school years and having computer science on the curriculum, as well as powers over transport, infrastructure, and climate emergency.

As the first female elected Mayor in the country, Mayor Brabin talked passionately about the recently launched male behaviour change campaign, which has quickly gained notice and highlights the need to deliver safety for women and girls and calls out public harassment. You can watch the video and find out more about the ‘Just Don’t’ campaign here.

The Mayor was also questioned about the recent Online Safety Bill, and she suggested the Bill was “insipid” and could have been stronger but noted the need to address hate speech and misogyny online and the damaging repercussions from hate speech.

The conversation concluded by noting that West Yorkshire needs to shout about its successes much more, such as having the highest retention in digital companies across the North and having the most digital spin outs from the regions Universities. However, the region needs to also focus on bringing in more investment in culture, attracting local and international talent, seeing the positives in adopting emerging technologies such as AI which can help the workforce to upskill, earn more and become more employable and create more partnerships to support the development of tech across the region.

techUK is delighted to be a partner of Leeds Digital Festival and so many of our members are speaking, hosting or involved with a huge number of events. Thanks again to Rob Scammell from UKTN for posing the questions and techUK member Shoosmiths for hosting us in their Leeds office.

For more information please contact:

Ileana Lupsa

Ileana Lupsa

Programme Manager, Local Public Services and Nations and Regions, techUK

techUK – Building Stronger Local Economies

techUK champions the tech sector throughout the UK. We work with local authorities, devolved government, and local and national policy makers to advocate for the tech sector in strengthening economic growth and resilience. We provide opportunities for our members and local stakeholders to meet, build relationships, and collaborate to drive forward local projects. For more information or to get in touch, please visit our Nations and Regions Hub and click ‘contact us’. 




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