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West Yorkshire Finance & Professional Skills (FPS) Report Launch Event Write-Up

On Tuesday the 14th of May, FinTech North brought together a highly focussed and engaged audience at Leeds City College Printwork’s Campus for the West Yorkshire Finance & Professional Skills (FPS) Report Launch Event. The report, commissioned by Luminate Education Group in partnership with West Yorkshire Colleges and Whitecap Consulting, acted as call to action to address the region’s skills needs to drive growth across sectors in West Yorkshire.

After a vibrant networking session, attendees came together in Printwork’s’ state-of-the-art ‘Oracle’ event space. Gemma Simmons- Blench, Deputy CEO – Curriculum and Quality, from Luminate Education Group shared a warm welcome on behalf of the organisation, before handing over to Joe Roche, General Manager at FinTech North, to introduce the organisation and share information about our Skills-related strategic thinking for the year.

Next, David Malone, CEO and Principal from Calderdale College presented a keynote which expanded onThe Local Skills Improvement Plan and Funding (LSIP & LSIF).He underscored the significance of addressing local skill gaps and outlined key focus areas for West and North Yorkshire. David emphasised the importance of collaboration, citing the Chamber of Commerce’s active involvement in local skills improvement plans, and highlighted the digital imperative in all facets of skills development.

Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting and Queralt Smith-Vila, Junior Consultant at Whitecap Consulting then introduced the organisation, contextualising their role in the FinTech and LegalTech ecosystem and setting the stage for an enlightening presentation on the findings of the FPS report. Julian and Queralt delved into the current position of the finance and professional services sector, both regionally and nationally, offering valuable insights into emerging trends, particularly in FinTech and LegalTech. They emphasised the need for colleges to align their offerings with industry demands, particularly in areas of evolving skills and technology adoption.

Following the report overview, a panel discussion, chaired by Julian, provided a platform for a range of industry experts from different backgrounds  to reflect on the report’s findings and share their perspectives.

Gemma made a return to the stage, alongside fellow speakers:

  • Becky Fores, Associate Dean of Higher Education, University Centre Leeds
  • Alex Meek, Head of Operations Delivery, PEXA
  • Macs Dickinson, Director of Engineering , LHV Bank

After each organisation shared their role in the professional skills landscape, Gemma kicked off the discussion by highlighting the importance of equipping individuals with the correct language to represent their skillsets, and called for action in creating qualifications that represent these skills. Expanding on this, she explained that there isn’t a lack of professional skills, but rather, a lack of representation of the skills which employers find the most valuable.

Becky shared Luminate’s strategy, calling for the building of relationships connecting employers and further education institutions. She stressed the rapidly evolving nature of technology, explaining that the communication between academia and industry needs to be frequent to keep content and needs aligned.

Macs, who has recently been promoted to from Lead Engineering Manager to Director of Engineering, spoke next, sharing insight from an industry perspective on bringing in, training and retaining talent. He highlighting the importance of ‘soft’ interpersonal skills, stressing  that ‘most problems are people problems.’

Alex provided insights from the legal perspective, highlighting the challenges of technological adoption within the sector. He noted the legal sector’s risk aversion and discussed the need to adapt business models to incorporate technology effectively, particularly in-house functionality and tech-led solutions like PEXA. Alex emphasised the necessity of navigating uncharted waters and adapting to evolving market dynamics, stressing the importance of embracing change while maintaining regulatory compliance.

Throughout the event, the audience engaged with various questions and answers, reflecting their keen interest in the varying viewpoints across organisations, roles and sectors. One question focused on what employers seek from colleges to establish trust as partners. Alex emphasised the importance of a modular approach, while Macs highlighted the significance of integrating practical as well as theoretical aspects. Becky emphasised adaptability and responsiveness to industry needs, proposing collaboration with employers to develop courses. Gemma stressed the need for curricular reform and effective communication with awarding organisations.

Another question addressed the need for involvement of industry experts in schools, to which Alex agreed. Macs encouraged continuous learning and the value of curiosity, especially in the face of evolving technology. Regarding AI, Macs highlighted its potential threat to entry-level positions and called for balanced regulation.

The audience also discussed the influence employers could have on further education, with Alex advocating for immersive experiences and longer work placements. Becky highlighted the importance of retraining older individuals, interested in upskilling, due to ongoing technological advancements. The group unanimously agreed that because of the evolving nature of technology, many people, across sectors would have to retain. Building on this,Gemma discussed challenges in adult education and the need for investment and innovation, while emphasising the value of sharing experiences and promoting age diversity.

As the content drew to a close, several themes were clear: the importance of soft skills, project management, and data literacy in the modern business environment, as well as adaptability to change, and the need for intervention from industry experts in shaping relevant content. To find out more about the report, click here.

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