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Shaping Futures: Local Authority, Digital Transformation, and Future-Ready Skills with Louise Wood and Piers Collins

Louise Wood, MBA, Employment & Skills Senior Manager at Leeds City Council talks to hundo's Co-founder, Piers Collins as they explore how local authorities prepare youth for work and share insights from Leeds.

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Piers: Hi, everyone. My name is Piers, and I am one of the founders of Hundo, and I am delighted to welcome Louise, uh, who works on the employment and skills team at Leeds City Council, um, and wanted to ask her a few questions about things that she's seeing, uh, in the city of Leeds itself. Because I know they have great ambitions as a city for their future skills and future workforce.

Piers: So, Louise, thank you so much for joining us today. First question I think is, you know, what is Leeds City Council's role in ensuring young people are ready for the world of work? 

Louise: Hi, everyone. Um, yes, so I think for us as Leeds City Council, we kind of play a really kind of pivotal role in Understanding employer's needs.

Louise: So thinking about what the sectors are in Leeds that are really key and are going to be key for us in the future and then trying to translate that into [00:01:00] schools and into careers information for young people as well. So it's really about connecting that information. So. Being that kind of connector between the employers, understanding what they want and working there with our schools and colleges across the region to really connect with the young people, inform and inspire them about future job opportunities, skills that might be needed as well.

Louise: So we've kind of got this. Big kind of connection, this big loop of things that are going around and everything's connected, and there's a place for everyone in terms of what their skills and interests are that will fit into what our employer needs are in the city as well. So, it's really about understanding all of that and making sure we've got things in place to really.

Louise: Connect those two dots, um, and have things aligned for the future. So thinking about future skills needs, um, future employment needs as well. 

Piers: Amazing. And absolutely. I mean, when you go to Leeds itself, you can see the growth that's happening in the city just by the amount of building that you can see going on.

Piers: Um, I know there is a already large and growing tech community in the city, and I'm sure you've been impacted by the, you know, huge digital transformation we've seen. Um, over the last five or 10 years, what are the things that you've noticed in terms of the impact of digital transformation in Leeds? 

Louise: So, yeah, just saying, I mean, there's been loads of change happening in Leeds.

Louise: There's loads of growth going on, um, in the digital sector and others as well. So, Leeds really is a place where things are happening, um, and it's really exciting to be part of that and see what's growing in the city. And digital transformation has been one of the key things, a key growth areas. So, in the digital sector itself, especially during things like COVID, People change the ways they work, the ways they shop, the way they lived, um, and businesses had to adapt to that.

Louise: So that kind of sparked this really sort of growth area, um, and as well for, you know, after that, people's habits have changed and people are stuck with that. So there is still ongoing growth for that. So what's that, what that's meant is that Leeds is kind of becoming known as a real digital powerhouse.

Louise: So. Outside of London, Leeds is kind of a city to be in terms of digital organizations. So businesses that are going to expand from other locations and move into Leeds are people that want to start up a business as well. Leeds is really known for somewhere that's key for that. And it's a really collaborative ecosystem as well.

Louise: So there's lots of organizations already in the space in different areas of tech and digital. And it's a really supportive environment to be in Leeds. And what's that also has meant is that there's a really big increase in employment and skills needs as well. So as. Companies take on digital transformation.

Louise: They need employees to be able to, um, work on those digital transformation. They need new people in the business to help, uh, with that growth as well. So it's all kind of sparked a big kind of cycle of unemployment and skills needs and businesses keeping up with trends and things that will really support that digital transformation.

Louise: So it's also about still looking in the future about what digital transformation will look like in 12, 5 years time, you know, whatever that might be. What the skills that will be needed and what the jobs that will be created as part of that as well. 

Piers: Absolutely. And I think, you know, that's one of the big things that at Hundo we've been wrestling with for many years is the pace of change that we see in the workplace, you know, exemplified in leads, not just what jobs are and what jobs look like, but actually how you do jobs.

Piers: Um, I think that, you know, especially post COVID and especially in tech industries, you can. you know, a lot of people can work from home, um, at least for a certain number of days of the week. And I think that that then allows a bit more flexibility in terms of your lifestyle. So where do you actually choose to live?

Piers: You don't have to live 15 minutes or 20 minutes from the office if you're not going in five, five days a week. So it'd be interesting to see how that's impacted, um, you know, how people work, especially in Leeds itself. To that point, obviously the skills required have changed and the skills. Um, you know, you want to have in the city to attract those businesses are obviously very important.

Piers: We know you have fantastic education, uh, partners across the city and universities, schools, colleges, um, things like that. What's been the council's role in terms of operating with those groups and working with those education 

Louise: partners? Um, so I think a little bit sort of what I alluded to earlier, it's a bit about being that connector.

Louise: So we're a kind of a trusted partner for our, our local schools, colleges, our education providers as well in terms of being a point of contact. So when, um, those colleges, those schools, those education providers want to know what skills employers are looking for, what skills will be needed in the future.

Louise: Where that point of contact for them to either connect them into employers. And again, likewise, employers to come to us to say, we want to really tap into future talent. We want to let young people know about who we are, what we do, what jobs they'll have with us in the future, because they've got a big growth plan.

Louise: And they want young people to really get excited about opportunities with that company. So where that central point of contact in connecting those two as well. And I think what we also do really well is look at. different options for young people. So we're looking at apprenticeships. You know, apprenticeships have been on the agenda for quite a number of years, but it's not something that all young people are aware of.

Louise: So, it's about making sure young people have got informed choices about what happens when they leave school or education. Have they got different routes into it? So, an apprenticeship is a really good example of anyone being able to access that qualification and that employment opportunity, potentially getting up to a degree or a master's qualification without having the university debt to go alongside that.

Louise: So, it makes Education and qualifications and employment much more accessible for a whole range of people and it's our role in that as well to make sure young people are aware of that. So, going in ourselves to schools and colleges talking about apprenticeships, getting employers to go in to talk about apprenticeships, running large recruitment affairs like we've got the Leeds Apprenticeship Recruitment Fair.

Louise: So a whole host of employers coming along to offer apprenticeship opportunities and really just showcasing the whole range of sectors that offer apprenticeships and the employers as well and offering that different career pathway for people that maybe wouldn't have thought about university or a degree being an option for them.

Louise: So really making sure that everyone has. As that whole information, they can make that informed choice about their future as well. And really kind of showcasing what opportunities they have, but also what's available here in the city locally for them as well. 

Piers: Yeah, I love that. And I think, you know, that's fantastic to hear that.

Piers: I think there's more routes now than ever before to getting into that industry. You want to break into, you know, it's not so much of the state, you know, school, university, then graduate scheme route, which seemed to be the. The single conveyor belt for everybody for a period of time. Um, final question. We haven't got too much time, I guess.

Piers: You know what? We get the benefit of having so many different roles and so many different routes in means there's a lot of information. What has been the appetite you've seen in terms of having more innovation around the way that we actually approach the traditional methodologies, I guess, of getting a young person from education into the right job for them.

Louise: Um, so I think, you know, as we said, times are changing, technology's out there, there's lots of new advancements, lots of new things available. And it makes sense to put that into an education kind of aspect for young people as well. And having platforms and information that's accessible to more young people is only going to be something that's beneficial.

Louise: It means those people that aren't kind of comfortable with going to a large recruitment event, um, or that can't attend for whatever reason, they've got access to information. As of when it's comfortable and accessible and easy for them as well, and it's something that is probably a lot more engaging use of things like AI and tools like that.

Louise: It really makes actually the information that is given to your people is up to date. It's current. It's based on employee needs and trends, and it provides a lot more. depth of information that your general probably, you know, careers advisor can keep up with as well. People are limited by how much information they can attain.

Louise: Whereas something like new technologies, use of that is only going to be beneficial. And there's been a lot of, a lot of interest from schools and colleges that we've worked with to use tools like that because they're much more motivational and engaging for young people to access things like that. And it also gives them use of technology as well.

Louise: So they get hands on with the tech. Rather than just, you know, building additional skills in that technology way as well. 

Piers: Fantastic. Well, I think the, you know, the amazing thing about the sort of answer there is that I guess we've identified that as well at Hundo and as we work with more employers, and obviously we've worked with you guys up in Leeds as well, we were, I guess, you know, blown away by the amount of information that was available for young people.

Piers: And I think trying to navigate that is particularly difficult. So we have built Copilot with a view that it. Can we use AI to actually create a personalized experience that allows a young person to navigate that landscape, but in a way that's tailored for them, um, because every student is different. Um, what do you think in terms of the employer appetite?

Piers: Do you think employers are open to taking more risks? I know we've got more routes, but do you think employers are so wedded to the,  um, sort of classic degree route, or do you think there's some, some more risk takers out there? 

Louise: I think definitely there is more risk takers now, and I think specifically the digital sector, employers know that there's a bit of a talent shortage, and they have to recruit differently.

Louise: So they have to think about different routes of talent coming into their business, and that traditional degree route isn't necessarily good and give them the talent they provide. And also, you know, people have different backgrounds and different skills routes now, and they can bring so much more diversity to that business and that organization, from their education routes, from their lived experiences, from who they are.

Louise: And businesses are much more aware of the benefits that a diverse workforce can bring in terms of them, different backgrounds as well. So I think businesses are much more open to different routes and willing to take risks. And I've seen the benefits of doing that as well. And it's sometimes it's necessity in terms of attracting a bigger talent pool, but also it means employers are more, much more modern and up to date with who they're bringing on.

Louise: And rather than just thinking of traditional kind of candidate models, actually. They can bring so much more to their business by thinking wider than that and attracting a much more diverse talent pool. 

Piers: Brilliant. Well, look, that's all we have time for today. Louise, thank you so much for giving us this time.

Piers: Um, and so much insight what you guys are up to, um, in Leeds. And, um, yeah, we hope to continue working in, in the city and, um, assisting in making sure we're plugging the best talent into those fantastic new businesses that I know are coming every month. So thanks for the time. Definitely. 

Louise: So thanks for yours.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Piers: Hi, everyone. My name is Piers, and I am one of the founders of Hundo, and I am delighted to welcome Louise, uh, who works on the employment and skills team at Leeds City Council, um, and wanted to ask her a few questions about things that she's seeing, uh, in the city of Leeds itself. Because I know they have great ambitions as a city for their future skills and future workforce.

Piers: So, Louise, thank you so much for joining us today. First question I think is, you know, what is Leeds City Council's role in ensuring young people are ready for the world of work? 

Louise: Hi, everyone. Um, yes, so I think for us as Leeds City Council, we kind of play a really kind of pivotal role in Understanding employer's needs.

Louise: So thinking about what the sectors are in Leeds that are really key and are going to be key for us in the future and then trying to translate that into [00:01:00] schools and into careers information for young people as well. So it's really about connecting that information. So. Being that kind of connector between the employers, understanding what they want and working there with our schools and colleges across the region to really connect with the young people, inform and inspire them about future job opportunities, skills that might be needed as well.

Louise: So we've kind of got this. Big kind of connection, this big loop of things that are going around and everything's connected, and there's a place for everyone in terms of what their skills and interests are that will fit into what our employer needs are in the city as well. So, it's really about understanding all of that and making sure we've got things in place to really.

Louise: Connect those two dots, um, and have things aligned for the future. So thinking about future skills needs, um, future employment needs as well. 

Piers: Amazing. And absolutely. I mean, when you go to Leeds itself, you can see the growth that's happening in the city just by the amount of building that you can see going on.

Piers: Um, I know there is a already large and growing tech community in the city, and I'm sure you've been impacted by the, you know, huge digital transformation we've seen. Um, over the last five or 10 years, what are the things that you've noticed in terms of the impact of digital transformation in Leeds? 

Louise: So, yeah, just saying, I mean, there's been loads of change happening in Leeds.

Louise: There's loads of growth going on, um, in the digital sector and others as well. So, Leeds really is a place where things are happening, um, and it's really exciting to be part of that and see what's growing in the city. And digital transformation has been one of the key things, a key growth areas. So, in the digital sector itself, especially during things like COVID, People change the ways they work, the ways they shop, the way they lived, um, and businesses had to adapt to that.

Louise: So that kind of sparked this really sort of growth area, um, and as well for, you know, after that, people's habits have changed and people are stuck with that. So there is still ongoing growth for that. So what's that, what that's meant is that Leeds is kind of becoming known as a real digital powerhouse.

Louise: So. Outside of London, Leeds is kind of a city to be in terms of digital organizations. So businesses that are going to expand from other locations and move into Leeds are people that want to start up a business as well. Leeds is really known for somewhere that's key for that. And it's a really collaborative ecosystem as well.

Louise: So there's lots of organizations already in the space in different areas of tech and digital. And it's a really supportive environment to be in Leeds. And what's that also has meant is that there's a really big increase in employment and skills needs as well. So as. Companies take on digital transformation.

Louise: They need employees to be able to, um, work on those digital transformation. They need new people in the business to help, uh, with that growth as well. So it's all kind of sparked a big kind of cycle of unemployment and skills needs and businesses keeping up with trends and things that will really support that digital transformation.

Louise: So it's also about still looking in the future about what digital transformation will look like in 12, 5 years time, you know, whatever that might be. What the skills that will be needed and what the jobs that will be created as part of that as well. 

Piers: Absolutely. And I think, you know, that's one of the big things that at Hundo we've been wrestling with for many years is the pace of change that we see in the workplace, you know, exemplified in leads, not just what jobs are and what jobs look like, but actually how you do jobs.

Piers: Um, I think that, you know, especially post COVID and especially in tech industries, you can. you know, a lot of people can work from home, um, at least for a certain number of days of the week. And I think that that then allows a bit more flexibility in terms of your lifestyle. So where do you actually choose to live?

Piers: You don't have to live 15 minutes or 20 minutes from the office if you're not going in five, five days a week. So it'd be interesting to see how that's impacted, um, you know, how people work, especially in Leeds itself. To that point, obviously the skills required have changed and the skills. Um, you know, you want to have in the city to attract those businesses are obviously very important.

Piers: We know you have fantastic education, uh, partners across the city and universities, schools, colleges, um, things like that. What's been the council's role in terms of operating with those groups and working with those education 

Louise: partners? Um, so I think a little bit sort of what I alluded to earlier, it's a bit about being that connector.

Louise: So we're a kind of a trusted partner for our, our local schools, colleges, our education providers as well in terms of being a point of contact. So when, um, those colleges, those schools, those education providers want to know what skills employers are looking for, what skills will be needed in the future.

Louise: Where that point of contact for them to either connect them into employers. And again, likewise, employers to come to us to say, we want to really tap into future talent. We want to let young people know about who we are, what we do, what jobs they'll have with us in the future, because they've got a big growth plan.

Louise: And they want young people to really get excited about opportunities with that company. So where that central point of contact in connecting those two as well. And I think what we also do really well is look at. different options for young people. So we're looking at apprenticeships. You know, apprenticeships have been on the agenda for quite a number of years, but it's not something that all young people are aware of.

Louise: So, it's about making sure young people have got informed choices about what happens when they leave school or education. Have they got different routes into it? So, an apprenticeship is a really good example of anyone being able to access that qualification and that employment opportunity, potentially getting up to a degree or a master's qualification without having the university debt to go alongside that.

Louise: So, it makes Education and qualifications and employment much more accessible for a whole range of people and it's our role in that as well to make sure young people are aware of that. So, going in ourselves to schools and colleges talking about apprenticeships, getting employers to go in to talk about apprenticeships, running large recruitment affairs like we've got the Leeds Apprenticeship Recruitment Fair.

Louise: So a whole host of employers coming along to offer apprenticeship opportunities and really just showcasing the whole range of sectors that offer apprenticeships and the employers as well and offering that different career pathway for people that maybe wouldn't have thought about university or a degree being an option for them.

Louise: So really making sure that everyone has. As that whole information, they can make that informed choice about their future as well. And really kind of showcasing what opportunities they have, but also what's available here in the city locally for them as well. 

Piers: Yeah, I love that. And I think, you know, that's fantastic to hear that.

Piers: I think there's more routes now than ever before to getting into that industry. You want to break into, you know, it's not so much of the state, you know, school, university, then graduate scheme route, which seemed to be the. The single conveyor belt for everybody for a period of time. Um, final question. We haven't got too much time, I guess.

Piers: You know what? We get the benefit of having so many different roles and so many different routes in means there's a lot of information. What has been the appetite you've seen in terms of having more innovation around the way that we actually approach the traditional methodologies, I guess, of getting a young person from education into the right job for them.

Louise: Um, so I think, you know, as we said, times are changing, technology's out there, there's lots of new advancements, lots of new things available. And it makes sense to put that into an education kind of aspect for young people as well. And having platforms and information that's accessible to more young people is only going to be something that's beneficial.

Louise: It means those people that aren't kind of comfortable with going to a large recruitment event, um, or that can't attend for whatever reason, they've got access to information. As of when it's comfortable and accessible and easy for them as well, and it's something that is probably a lot more engaging use of things like AI and tools like that.

Louise: It really makes actually the information that is given to your people is up to date. It's current. It's based on employee needs and trends, and it provides a lot more. depth of information that your general probably, you know, careers advisor can keep up with as well. People are limited by how much information they can attain.

Louise: Whereas something like new technologies, use of that is only going to be beneficial. And there's been a lot of, a lot of interest from schools and colleges that we've worked with to use tools like that because they're much more motivational and engaging for young people to access things like that. And it also gives them use of technology as well.

Louise: So they get hands on with the tech. Rather than just, you know, building additional skills in that technology way as well. 

Piers: Fantastic. Well, I think the, you know, the amazing thing about the sort of answer there is that I guess we've identified that as well at Hundo and as we work with more employers, and obviously we've worked with you guys up in Leeds as well, we were, I guess, you know, blown away by the amount of information that was available for young people.

Piers: And I think trying to navigate that is particularly difficult. So we have built Copilot with a view that it. Can we use AI to actually create a personalized experience that allows a young person to navigate that landscape, but in a way that's tailored for them, um, because every student is different. Um, what do you think in terms of the employer appetite?

Piers: Do you think employers are open to taking more risks? I know we've got more routes, but do you think employers are so wedded to the,  um, sort of classic degree route, or do you think there's some, some more risk takers out there? 

Louise: I think definitely there is more risk takers now, and I think specifically the digital sector, employers know that there's a bit of a talent shortage, and they have to recruit differently.

Louise: So they have to think about different routes of talent coming into their business, and that traditional degree route isn't necessarily good and give them the talent they provide. And also, you know, people have different backgrounds and different skills routes now, and they can bring so much more diversity to that business and that organization, from their education routes, from their lived experiences, from who they are.

Louise: And businesses are much more aware of the benefits that a diverse workforce can bring in terms of them, different backgrounds as well. So I think businesses are much more open to different routes and willing to take risks. And I've seen the benefits of doing that as well. And it's sometimes it's necessity in terms of attracting a bigger talent pool, but also it means employers are more, much more modern and up to date with who they're bringing on.

Louise: And rather than just thinking of traditional kind of candidate models, actually. They can bring so much more to their business by thinking wider than that and attracting a much more diverse talent pool. 

Piers: Brilliant. Well, look, that's all we have time for today. Louise, thank you so much for giving us this time.

Piers: Um, and so much insight what you guys are up to, um, in Leeds. And, um, yeah, we hope to continue working in, in the city and, um, assisting in making sure we're plugging the best talent into those fantastic new businesses that I know are coming every month. So thanks for the time. Definitely. 

Louise: So thanks for yours.

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