Financial and business advisory firm Grant Thornton has launched a campaign to bring together local business and community leaders.
The thought behind the venture is to share ideas on how to make the city a more productive, progressive and vibrant place to live and work.
Following a series of group discussions, three key areas of improvement were highlighted in order to build upon the City’s success to date and continue to drive growth in the region: skills shortages, Milton Keynes’ reputation and the use of land and infrastructure.
Georgina Gray, audit associate from Grant Thornton’s Milton Keynes office who is leading the ‘Driving Growth in Milton Keynes’ initiative, said: “Milton Keynes is a fantastic place to live and work and the City continues to go from strength to strength. But today’s business environment is changing rapidly, from the UK exiting the EU to technological advancements, which affects the way we work and the jobs we do.
“Like any city, Milton Keynes has its own unique challenges and it’s important to recognise and identify how these can be overcome. To do this, we are bringing together all sections of the community from businesses and local councils to community groups to start a conversation about how we can create a vibrant economy that works for everyone at all levels.”
The skills gap, experienced across many sectors, was a recurring theme and the need to improve collaboration between businesses, colleges and schools, whilst placing a greater emphasis on apprenticeships, was widely voiced.
Jane Horridge, commercial director from Milton Keynes College, said: “Organisations often highlight difficulties in finding the right people with the right skills to take their business forward. Whilst the Apprenticeship Levy has highlighted the importance of training new and existing employees, the employment market is rapidly changing and by 2025, 50% of today’s jobs won’t exist.
“To keep pace, greater collaboration and communication between business and education at all levels will be key. Ideally, all companies should aim to offer work experience projects for students in a real world environment to support the development of the next generation of skills. Businesses supporting the complete cycle from work experience to apprenticeship to career, will find it is a far more cost effective way to upskill employees.”
Milton Keynes’ reputation was the second key area of focus and the main theme emerging from discussions was that whilst the City is a great place to live and work, more needs to be done to promote its virtues to the rest of the UK.
Pam Gosal, head of economy and culture from Milton Keynes Council, said: “Milton Keynes has a real sense of achievement and excitement for the future and people who move to the city tend to stay here for the long term. However, this reality doesn’t match the perception people often have of Milton Keynes and we need to do more to shout about everything the City has to offer to attract more people to visit, live and work here.”
The final theme which came out of discussions was the use of land and infrastructure. Milton Keynes has changed significantly over the past 50 years from a group of small villages and towns to the busy city it is today.
But businesses questioned whether land in Milton Keynes is being used effectively and shared ideas as to how the remaining space should be prioritised.
Grant Thornton is inviting businesses and community leaders to a Vibrant Economy dinner later in the year to facilitate further discussions. The firm will then develop a report outlining key recommendations for the future success of Milton Keynes.