Proposal backed to investigate possibility of new Retail and Hospitality Skills Centre opening in Leeds

Leeds, Leeds Star

Senior councillors have backed a proposal to investigate a new Retail and Hospitality Skills Centre for Excellence opening in Leeds.

Submitted as part of a report to Leeds City Council’s executive board on 8 February 2017, members supported a recommendation for a business planning sustainability study to be undertaken into the establishment of a centre of excellence. Subject to the findings of the study, Leeds City Council and LeedsBID (Leeds Business Improvement District) will then work in partnership to develop the scheme later in the year.

In moving forward with this concept, both the council and LeedsBID are keen to capitalise and build on the significant retail and hospitality sectors that exist in the city. Leeds currently ranks as the highest destination for retail spend in England outside of London, and just outside the European top 20, with employment alone in the wholesale and retail sector and the accommodation and food services sector forecast to grow by 12% and 13% over the next 10 years.

To ensure that this success can continue, the value of a centre for excellence offering a high quality specialist base of employer led training and skills for new entrants and current employees within the industry has been identified. A key element of this future work would be to improve progression, opportunities and productivity in both sectors. Also featuring in the centre would be a ‘talent pool’ to match candidates with employment opportunities and a recruitment service providing a range of help from drafting job descriptions to sifting applications and supporting interviews. A key focus of the centre would also be to give residents from disadvantaged communities the chance to learn new skills and compete for job openings. A potential location for the facility will be considered once the business planning and sustainability study is completed and approval is given to proceed with the project.

Councillor Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council’s executive member for employment, skills and opportunity said:

“While the retail and hospitality industry in Leeds has and continues to experience some fantastic growth which is obviously great news, we are extremely keen to keep the momentum going and strengthen our base further to ensure that even greater success can be achieved in the future.

“Having spoken to businesses and liaised closely with a variety of partners, we have with LeedsBID, identified a lack of a dedicated centre in the city that can help meet the challenges faced by employers to attain and retain employees and the public being able to access high quality training to work in both of these sectors. The creation of a Retail and Hospitality Skills Centre for Excellence offering a wide range of employer focused support would therefore we believe, be an excellent addition to help bridge this gap.

“With that in mind, we are pleased that the executive board has approved a business planning and sustainability study being undertaken into the establishment of a centre of excellence in Leeds. If the findings of this study are positive, we will be recommending that this project be moved to a next stage of development later in the year.”

Andrew Cooper, Chief Executive of LeedsBID, said:

“This sector is of vital importance to the local economy with retail and hospitality businesses accounting for 47% of businesses in Leeds city centre. Working collaboratively in creating a centre for excellence demonstrates the ambition Leeds has in sustaining, growing and supporting this sector alongside changing perceptions and inspiring young talent to actively pursue careers in this area.

“We have consulted with businesses who agree that attracting and retaining talent is a challenge shared across a number of sectors, therefore working to create a ‘Retail and Hospitality Centre of Excellence’ will be warmly welcomed and a significant step forward for Leeds.”