The Edge 2016 – How to Achieve the Northern Powerhouse

We have all heard about the Northern Powerhouse in the media. Launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, the idea behind the Northern Powerhouse is to rebalance the UK economy. However there are many who are understandably negative, due the lack of reliable information, understanding and doubts surrounding it. From my perspective, I understood the reasoning behind it, but I had my doubts about how it could be realised.

Equally there are many others, who seriously believe it is possible for the Northern Powerhouse to be achieved. Last week, I attended an event on this subject, organised by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Liverpool. Held at the city’s stylish Radisson Hotel, as part of The Edge 2016 festival, I was to discover that the Northern Powerhouse is not only real, but it is also a viable long-term prospect.

The event opened with an introduction from Pete Radcliffe of the IoD, followed by Andrew Rudge of The Prince’s Trust. This focused on the Trust’s work in supporting disadvantaged young people, and how the Northern Powerhouse impacts them, from jobs to training. Andrew also talked about the work of the Trust in supporting young people, with setting up their own businesses.

The event continued with three notable speakers, each giving their input on how the Northern Powerhouse can be achieved. These speakers were Patrick Walters from Peel Ports, Paul Kenyon from Avecto and Jenny Stewart from Liverpool & Sefton Chamber of Commerce. What all three had to say was not only interesting, but their firm and passionate belief for the Powerhouse was evident. As I listened, I started to revaluate and realise that there was more substance to the idea of the Powerhouse, than I had originally thought beforehand.

Listening to each speaker, I picked up on some reoccurring themes, which underpinned the essential requirements for the Northern Powerhouse to succeed. These included the importance of connectivity from a transport, technological and cultural perspective, communicating and collaboration between all local authorities, cities, businesses, towns and rural communities. Another reoccurring theme was the importance of having a single unified vision and coherent strategy, which includes an incentivised outcome.

In addition, the speakers also talked about the importance of education in addressing skills and knowledge gaps.  This involved describing how these gaps need to be addressed by focusing on personal and technical-based skills, for the next generation of employees. This includes apprenticeship schemes (you can read my post on benefits of apprenticeships here), as well as attracting and retaining Northern-based talent.

Other things I learnt from the discussion included:

  1. The Northern Powerhouse is not just about cities, but also towns, villages and rural communities across the North.
  2. Young people need to be involved, as they are the creators, innovators and pioneers for the future.
  3. A positive can-do attitude and a willingness to drive forward are essential.
  4. Important to get involved with grassroots through communicating changes effectively, to incentivise and convince others.
  5. Apprenticeships will be important in developing resources required for the Northern Powerhouse.
  6. It needs to be owned by all of the North!
  7. The digital and transport infrastructure needs to be in place to support it.

Looking back, I came away from the event with a different opinion on the Northern Powerhouse, realising it is inevitable. This is because it will affect everyone from North Wales, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, Lancashire, all the way to the North East. Therefore I believe the Northern Powerhouse is an opportunity for the North of England, to economically grow in strength. In these uncertain and difficult times where public funding is scarce, it is important that the public, private, voluntary and education sectors, as well as communities across the North of England, work together for the long-term. Only be doing so, can the Northern Powerhouse be realised and achieved.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Patrick, Paul and Jenny for giving an excellent talk and sharing their passion for the Northern Powerhouse. I not only enjoyed listening to them speak, but it also opened up my mind to the possibilities, the Powerhouse brings to the North. My thanks also go to Pete Radcliffe of the IoD, the staff of the Radisson Hotel, and everyone involved for putting together this effective Edge 2016 event.


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