Applications Now Open to Join Next Generation of Engineers and Scientists

Teenagers with an interest in engineering, science and tech will be able to test their robot programming skills and try out virtual welding when UTC Leeds opens its doors to potential new students in January.

The school, which opened in September and focuses on high-tech engineering and advanced manufacturing, is holding two open evening for future students and their families.

Young people will be able to test some of the high-tech equipment used in lessons and projects at the £11m school.

UTC Leeds is unique because it partners with the University of Leeds and more than 60 employers across the region. Employer partners and the University have helped develop the curriculum to ensure young people are excellently prepared for entry to employment or university.

A dozen employers including Agfa Graphics, Siemens, Unilever and Sound Leisure will be on hand during the events on January 12 and 19. Students who started at UTC Leeds in September will give guided tours and explain how they’ve worked on live projects at partner companies during their first term.

Mark Kennedy, principal at the school which is sited within a rebuilt wing of the Braime Pressings factory on Hunslet Road, said the open evenings offered the opportunity for interested students to come and find out more.

“The UTC is Leeds’ newest school and offers a first-class educational experience through a range of academic and vocational qualifications in both new and core subjects.

“Attending the UTC gives young people the opportunity to build exciting and rewarding careers in engineering and industry.  Leeds has a proud history of manufacturing and engineering and the UTC is helping future generations to gain and develop the skills they need to succeed in industry.

The UTC is situated close to Leeds City College Printworks campus, Leeds College of Building and the new Ruth Gorse Academy and is for pupils aged 14-18. The open evenings which run from 6pm to 7.30pm are for students entering Year 10 and Year 12 in September 2017.

For more information about UTC Leeds visit and download a prospectus.

Army veterans receive funding boost to expand businesses

 Three businessmen who collectively served 56 years in the armed forces have received a funding boost totalling £100K to help them expand their businesses.

The funding was granted by Yorkshire lenders, the Business Enterprise Fund (BEF), and will enable the creation of five jobs alongside business expansion.

Bill Plant from Ripon left the army in 2004 and decided to apply his leadership and communication skills to teaching others how to drive. His business, Bill Plant Driving School, is now the UK’s largest driving school with 530 franchisees and a £6 million turnover.

Earlier this year, Bill was granted a loan by BEF which enabled him to purchase top quality BMW 1 Series vehicles for the instructors he employs.

Bill commented: “We have always had ambitious growth plans to take the business up a gear and thanks to the money from BEF, are now able to teach people to drive in high quality vehicles. We’re also currently offering a training scheme for would-be instructors and are training 500 people across the country.”

Roy Thomson and Philip Carter spent 36 years between them in the armed forces before retiring in 2005 and deciding to become partners in a Subway franchise. The duo set up their first restaurant in Catterick Garrison in north Yorkshire.

A loan from BEF has enabled them to set up another Subway franchise in the newly-constructed Princes Gate retail park complex at the army base.

Roy said: “Since retiring, we were both dedicated to the idea of still being involved at the army base so owning two Subway franchises in this location is a great achievement for us. Santander encouraged us to apply for BEF funding and we’re thrilled that the loan enabled us to invest further.”

BEF investment manager, David Winspear, commented: “Having served with the armed forces, Bill, Roy and Phil are shining examples of people that have used their unique leadership and organisational skills to become successful businessmen. While all are successful in their own right, we were delighted to see them using funding from BEF to expand their thriving businesses even further creating jobs and training opportunities for their local areas.”

For further advice about funding for businesses visit

Sara gets into gear as new transport head

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has elected a new chair of its transport group.

Sara Gilmore, a Legal Director at Addleshaw Goddard, has ten years’ experience in specialising in transport matters, and succeeds Nigel Foster of Fore Consulting.

Transport continues to be cited by businesses in the region as a major concern, and the group is expected to be kept busy during 2017. Sara will be assisted by the group’s new vice-chair, Adrian Kemp of WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff.  Both were elected at a recent Chamber meeting.sgilmore

Sara said of her appointment:

“The Chamber transport forum is fundamental in collating the requirements of the business community and assimilating these with public sector aims and constraints.  I want to use my role to help push the Chamber’s transport agenda. I can draw on a wealth of wider experience from others within my firm, although I already have a broad base of influence, acting for stakeholders like Network Rail, the Department for Transport and Keolis UK, but also in the wider business community.”

It is expected that, in the coming year, the group will focus on issues including lobbying for investment in infrastructure (e.g. HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, trans-Pennine electrification and road upgrades) but also monitoring projects that have begun.

Sara qualified at Addleshaw Goddard in 2006. She specialises in transport sector deals but has considerable experience of PPP and PFI projects. Sara acts as project manager on major transactions, co-ordinating numerous work streams and chairing key multi-disciplinary meetings.

Adrian Kemp is a director at WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, responsible for strategic growth.  He has 25 years’ experience in the public and private sector; his current role enables him to interpret current market conditions for the benefit of the Chamber’s members.

The pair have both paid tribute to Sarah’s predecessor, Nigel Foster, on his “exemplary leadership” of the group.

India delegation in region as part of Powerhouse event

A high profile delegation from India will visit our patch to forge new and innovative trade links with businesses across the Northern Powerhouse area.

In February, the delegates will visit Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle as part of a trip to the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference.  The group, led by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) is made up of medium to large businesses from sectors including health, life sciences, education, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

Building relationships with India is a top priority for Prime Minister Theresa May, who recently led a trade mission to India to re-boot the UK’s relationship with the country and forge a stronger strategic partnership between the UK and India.

The conference is to be held in Manchester on 21 and 22 February.  Topics during the event include manufacturing, transport and infrastructure, finance & delivery, devolution, competitiveness and productivity and energy.

BCC Economic Forecast: 2016 momentum not set to continue

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has today (Monday) upgraded its UK GDP growth forecast from 1.8% to 2.1% for 2016, and from 1.0% to 1.1% in 2017. However, it has also downgraded expectations for 2018 from 1.8% to 1.4%.

The leading business group upgraded its forecast for 2016 after the UK economy recorded stronger than expected growth in the third quarter. However, the current level of economic momentum is set to slow over the next two years, as continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU and higher inflation are expected to dampen growth in the medium term. Based on the data and our own Quarterly Economic Survey, the BCC does not expect the economy to enter into a recession.

The depreciation in the value of sterling since the EU referendum is expected to push up inflation, impacting both consumer spending and business investment. While average earnings are to hold steady, real wage growth is likely to be eroded by inflationary pressures.

The BCC expects UK public sector net borrowing to be £15.2 billion higher over the next three years than predicted by the Office for Budget Responsibility at the 2016 Autumn Statement, with slower expected growth likely to weigh on the UK’s ability to generate tax revenue.

Key points in the forecast:

  • UK GDP growth forecasts for 2016 is upgraded to 2.1%, but is expected to weaken to 1.1% in 2017 before picking up to 1.4% in 2018
  • The improved growth forecast for 2016 is driven by stronger than expected growth in Q3. Growth of 0.5% is expected in Q4 2016
  • GDP growth forecast for 2017 was upgraded slightly from 1.0% to 1.1%, but is still the weakest annual rate of growth since the financial crisis
  • GDP growth for 2018 has been downgraded from 1.8% to 1.4% with higher inflation curbing household consumption and more muted levels of investment, particularly business investment
  • Inflation is expected to breach the Bank of England’s 2% target next year, with a forecast of 2.1% in 2017 and reaching 2.4% in 2018. This is higher than our previous forecast of 1.6% and 1.8% respectively
  • Weaker economic activity and erosion of real wage growth by inflationary pressures are expected to cause household consumption to slow down from 2.7% in 2016 to 0.6% in 2017 and in 2018
  • Business investment is expected to fall by -0.8% in 2016, -2.1% in 2017 and -0.3% in 2018 – better than the previous forecast of -2.2% in 2016 and -3.4% in 2017, but significantly worse than the +1.9% growth previously predicted for 2018
  • Export growth is set to slow from 4.5% in 2015 to 2.6% in 2016 and 2.3% in 2017, before increasing to 2.9% in 2018. This is partly in response to the effect of the falling value of the pound on exports being previously overstated
  • Looking at sectors, we predict growth in services at 1.7% per year, while construction activity is forecast to fall by -2% in 2017. Manufacturing growth is expected to remain steady but muted at 0.8% over 2017 and 2018
  • Public sector net borrowing in the full financial year 2016/17 is predicted to be £3.8bn higher than the OBR predicted in the 2016 Autumn Statement


Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“In the absence of a clear road ahead, many companies have been adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach in the months since the referendum, which has kept conditions buoyant this year and prevented a sharp slowdown in growth.

“While some firms see significant opportunities over the coming months, many others now see increasing uncertainty, which is weighing on their investment expectations and forward confidence. Lower sterling and rising inflation are now starting to affect business communities and consumers across the UK. While a lower pound is a boon for some exporting businesses, many others see the latest devaluation of sterling less positively, as they are unable to benefit from it.

“Given our findings, deeper incentives for both investment and exporting will be needed in the months and years ahead. As the Brexit negotiations commence, steps will need to be taken to help ambitious firms overcome the risks, real and perceived, borne out of political uncertainty.

“It is imperative that government do all it can to help UK businesses overcome risk and take advantage of opportunities. Ministers should start by clarifying the future status of existing EU workers as soon as possible, to end the insecurity now facing employees and businesses alike.”

Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the BCC, said:

“We have upgraded our growth forecasts for 2016 and 2017, but the near-term outlook for the UK economy remains challenging, with the recent resilience in growth expected to weaken. That said, we do not expect the economy to enter into a recession over the next few years.

“Higher inflation and continued uncertainty over Brexit will weigh on the UK’s growth prospects, with consumer spending and business investment likely to be hardest hit. Average earnings should hold steady but inflationary pressures are expected to erode real wages, which will hit the spending power of households.

“Exports will continue to grow but at a slower pace, and the UK’s net trading position is expected to improve as import levels weaken. The decline in the value of the pound is likely to help some exporters, although the lack of responsiveness of UK exports to other sterling devaluations in recent years suggest that its impact on overall export growth has been overstated.

“Uncertainty remains over the longer-term outlook, but the UK’s structural imbalances, including the over reliance on services and household spending as drivers of growth, continues to leave the UK vulnerable to rapid changes in economic conditions.”

Airport link to finally get approval

A railway station serving Leeds Bradford Airport is part of £270 million proposals to transform transport in Leeds.

Details of the airport parkway station have been revealed ahead of the release of a new transport strategy by Leeds Council, which the leader has described as a “transformational step change for public transport”.

It would be built on the existing Leeds to Harrogate line, connecting to the wider rail network and would also act as a park and ride station to be used by commuters to Leeds and Harrogate.

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “We support the proposal for a parkway station to the airport as improving transport links to the airport are vital for the region’s future economic growth.

“Securing a Bradford stop on the northern powerhouse rail line, which Leeds support, will massively enhance this proposal by shortening journey times to the airport further and projects like this further emphasise the importance of Bradford getting off the branch line once and for all.”

The Chamber lobbied for a station to serve the airport during a consultation process on the airport’s future strategy earlier this year.

Although it is acknowledged that the station does not support Bradford directly, and that it is still approximately one mile from the terminal, it was felt better to support the proposal in order not to delay improved links to the airport for the region generally.  Today’s Telegraph & Argus editorial rightly points out that Bradford’s citizens also need to be fully supported by a regional transport strategy and the Chamber is speaking to the local authority on how that will best be achieved.

Technology funding available

A new scheme is offering up to £10,000 of funding to SMEs using digital technology to support business growth.

The ‘Digital Enterprise’ scheme works by the company applying for digital growth vouchers which need match-funding from the business in equal value.

The vouchers can be used to buy IT and telecoms hardware, software or upgrades to current digital connectivity.  Businesses need to demonstrate the anticipated economic impact of the investment by showing business growth by an increase in jobs or turnover.

The scheme is live from January 2017, and more information is available by contacting the Chamber here.

Manufacturer meets Brexit minister

Thursday saw Parliamentary-Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union Lord Bridges visit Leeds-based jukebox manufacturer Sound Leisure to discuss concerns and expectations surrounding Brexit.

The visit, part of the Government’s current consensus on the approach of negotiations and the UK’s future relationship with the EU, was arranged by Leeds Manufacturing Alliance in their continued support of firms on issues likely to affect them.

Speaking on behalf of LMA, Carolyn Townsley welcomed the visit, saying: “One of the aims of LMA is to bridge the gap between government and local manufacturers with the aim of bolstering globally competitive trade in the area. Thursday’s visit from Lord Bridges gave a local manufacturer the opportunity to share their experience and voice concerns around Brexit. The LMA welcomes visits like these and looks forward to continued discussions surrounding Brexit.”

Chris Black, Managing Director of Sound Leisure, gave Lord Bridges a tour of the family-run business, which is coming to the end of its most successful year to date. Much of Sound Leisure’s success comes from international trade, so Brexit negotiations will directly affect their future business and as such Chris and the team were keen to express their thoughts.

Speaking about the visit, Chris said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with Lord Bridges, not only for us to have the opportunity to discuss some of the potential concerns that we have as a major exporter to the EU, but also to discuss some of the possible benefits that would make a real difference to our manufacturing business moving forward.”


Office workers sought for TV fitness programme

Concerned about your lack of fitness?  Want to do something about it?

ITV is making a programme and looking for volunteers to take part.  Read more below.

ITV is making a programme about the state of the population’s fitness levels, entitled “The Truth about Exercise”, explaining that physical inactivity or lack of fitness costs the UK £20 billion a year.  One of the biggest risk groups is office workers because they spend so much time sitting down.

Leeds-based Professor of Exercise Paul Gately will test fitness levels in a lab and conduct a month-long exercise plan before re-testing in January.  Time-wise, it would mean spending an afternoon with ITV week commencing 12 December, then another afternoon in January to re-test you. An occasional video diary comment is also requested.

It’s an opportunity for someone who is unfit to adopt a new fitter lifestyle for the New Year, with expert advice.

If you are interested, contact / 0161 952 1028.