By Charlie Baker
AQL’s Salem Chapel hosted the final instalment of Yorkshire Mafia’s Leeds Business Week on Friday as Dr Simon Jones from Leeds Beckett University hosted a Q&A in the style of Question Time.
Panellists included a range of business people in Leeds, from the founder of AQL, Adam Beaumont, to the vice-president of Leeds Beckett Student Union, Stephen Ross.
Questions were pre-decided and shown on a big screen so audience interaction was limited. The main themes were along the lines of an independent Yorkshire, trolleybuses and the upcoming Leeds bid to be named the European Capital of Culture 2023.
Discussion continued to be polite and calm with no controversy as all panellists were in relative agreement about their opinions on the previously mentioned issues. There was one theme that was recognised as important from all members of the panel, and the audience, once they were given the opportunity to voice their opinions. This was that there is a noticeable lack of digital skills in Leeds.
As MP at Johnston press, Helen Oldham knows about the necessity for digital skills in the workplace. She was the first to voice concern about this matter. “77% of businesses realise they have a digital skills gap.”
It became clear she believed this is a very important issue, also voicing it during the support of Leeds Capital of Culture bid, stating “this would be a chance to show what Leeds can deliver, especially in the creative and digital sectors.”
When asked about the link between businesses and universities in Leeds, digital skills came to the surface again. Stephen McFarlane from the HS2 project stated Leeds should go further than the universities. “It’s important for the businesses and universities to link, but beyond that we need school kids to get excited about these industries.”
The panellists were also asked what could be done to change the lives of the 26% of under 16’s that are classed as living in poverty. However, none seemed to have a bold or definitive answer, with Helen Oldham saying it is “unacceptable” and that “it is not just a public sector problem”.