University city Leeds facing graduate challenge
The key to Leeds’ success as a tech city is retaining talented graduates for its workforce.
Leeds is truly a university city, with four higher education establishments providing a rich seam of talent for potential employers to mine.
But are graduates choosing to stay and build a life in Yorkshire?
“Two-thirds or three-quarters of graduates from Leeds Beckett (formerly Leeds Polytechnic) stay in Leeds,” Simon Brereton, head of economic policy and sector development at Leeds City Council, told a roundtable hosted by BusinessCloud.
“Typically a third of Leeds University graduates get a job and stay locally, while about a third leave – and there’s an interesting third in the middle who try and build a career here.
“They stay as long as they can, but after six months or a year, if they haven’t managed to land that job, they move away from the area.”
Entrepreneur Adam Beaumont, CEO of aql, a telecommunications and datacentre company headquartered in Leeds, agrees that retaining students is key.
“There are 100,000-plus students in Leeds and it’s important that they know there is capability here and that there are exciting places to work, otherwise we’ll lose them to other cities,” he said.
There is an issue particular to tech positions which may be preventing graduates from contributing to the city’s fledgling success story, according to Brereton.
“The real challenge with tech companies is finding graduates with two years’ experience. The question is: how do you get that two years’ experience?
“During those three or four years as an undergraduate in this city, rather than getting a job in Primark to pay their way through, we need to help them get work on short-term projects in IT companies – maybe they can build up that experience as a student.”