Spencer Group Managing Director David McLoughlin has told an event focused on the Humber economy that the Siemens investment in Hull must be used as a catalyst to promote all that is great about the region.
David said that, having relocated from Milton Keynes to East Yorkshire six months ago, he had been struck by the “passion and energy” of the city of Hull where Spencer has its headquarters. “I love the confidence and passion that the city has. I see a city that is up and coming.”
He said the £310m investment by Siemens and partners Associated British Ports could be a springboard for transforming the area’s image.
“We have to use that as a catalyst. Hull and the Humber should be more than just Siemens,” he said. “We need to invest our energies into promoting all that the region has to offer.”
He was speaking during a Question Time-style event at Hull’s KC Stadium, staged by Yorkshire Business Insider magazine. The panel also included Humber Local Enterprise Partnership Chief Executive Kishor Tailor; Jonathan Chapman, Director of Strategy and Business Development at infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty; John Laverick, a Director of global programme management and construction consultancy Turner and Townsend; and Carol Stansfield, Assistant Director – Research & Technical at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
David, a former senior executive at Network Rail, said the area could build on its growing reputation as the UK’s Energy Estuary to become a skills centre of excellence, pointing to the success of the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in London, a world-class facility which is training workers for the giant Crossrail project.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do that in Hull around energy, renewables and wind power. It just needs the will, leadership and focus to do it,” he said.
David said in London and the South East skills in the labour market were plentiful, but there was little loyalty in a “transient workforce”.
He added: “People here love the area and they want to work here. Recently we took on 12 apprentices and I have been so impressed by them. They see it as a career, not just a job – they see themselves working with Spencer Group for their entire career. We can really build on that energy and passion. It bodes well for our business.”
He also said it was important to make Hull a “cool city to live and work in”, citing the positive impact of events such as the city’s Freedom Festival. “You have to attract the people, not just the companies – that is vital.”
Mr Chapman said Hull and the Humber had to work harder to build its reputation outside the region to attract further investment. “The power of brands should not be under-estimated,” he said. “There are a lot of distractions and lot of cities across the UK fighting for attention. I don’t see Hull and the Humber getting enough of that attention.”
And he said the region needed inspirational leadership: “Who is the Richard Branson of Hull that other leaders are attracted to and want to be around?”
Mr Tailor said promoting the Humber as the UK’s Energy Estuary gave it “uniqueness” on a national and international scale. “We need everybody to buy into that as ambassadors in selling the concept,” he added.
He agreed with Ms Stansfield that skills provision was fragmented and confusing, but said the creation of a virtual Humber Energy Campus was a welcome move to develop collaboration between colleges and other training providers.
Mr Laverick said the Siemens effect could be similar to that seen in the North East after Nissan invested in Sunderland. He said an “incredible number of businesses” were created and Nissan kick-started the region’s regeneration.
To maximise the long-term benefits from the Siemens investment he said the region should set out its stall to establish a “world-renowned energy training institute in the Humber”, with the fullest range of provision from apprenticeships to post-graduate qualifications.