Manchester: A Destination for Business

by Melanie Robinson | February 4, 2022 |  4 min read

Manchester: A Destination for Business

Img: Manchester Central

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Following the opening of the new Manchester office for our sister company Ryder Architecture, BIM Academy was invited to join the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) with an ambition to increase our presence in the North West and to support the drive to increase digital skills in the region.

We aim to expand on our portfolio of North West projects, which currently include the £170m refurbishment of the Grade 2 listed Manchester Central Library and the ongoing work on The Factory, a ground-breaking new arts and cultural venue in the centre of the city.

Earlier this week I was invited to sit on the panel for the GMCC’s “Manchester: A Destination for Business” event, held at Manchester Central on Monday 31 January. The event is the third in a series, seeking to define shared business priorities and, as the name suggests, promoting Manchester as the leading destination for business.

Hosted by Chris Fletcher, Policy and Campaign Director for GMCC, I shared the event panel with Shaun Hinds, CEO of Manchester Central, Adam Jupp, Director of Communications at Manchester Airport and Caroline Bacon, Director of People & Culture at Walker Sime.

As with other metropolitan cities, Manchester has witnessed a slow return of people to its centre, with Chris challenging us to think about how to entice businesses back into city centres and to bolster the local economy.

The panel discussed several key themes, including sustainability, human resources, digital transformation and diversification, all of which struck a chord with everyone in the room in some form or another, regardless of business size or sector.

The session started by reflecting on the challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic, with Chris remarking that we’ve had 5-10 years’ worth of industrial change in the space of 5-10 months. It was interesting to hear how other industries dealt with the sudden lockdown and need for remote working, particularly given the varying degrees of perceived physicality required within each sector.

Shaun reflected on how the business events and hospitality industries have been affected and as we start to emerge from the pandemic, questioned whether we are starting to see a shift in how businesses and groups interact more generally, drawing on how gaming – a traditionally stay-at-home activity – is starting to demand in-person championship events.

Adam also explained that as with hospitality, the airline industry has had a tempestuous time over the past two years, having seen 90% of travel cut during the first lockdown and when the UK did reopen its borders, dealing with unstandardised travel restrictions all around the world.

Through discussions it was also recognised that while we had demonstrated that we can work effectively outside the office environment, there is still very much a benefit to collaborating, networking and ultimately building rapport with others in person. In this spirit, Shaun encouraged more live events, to share ideas and create new opportunities for businesses within the region.

Caroline spoke about how Walker Sime’s sudden thrust into remote working has evolved into a hybrid model which demands the business to be more agile and responsive to its workforce. A focus on employee wellbeing has also become a central objective, with Caroline pointing out that prospective employees are beginning to challenge the business about the organisation’s values and their ability to cater not only for physical health, but mental health too. Businesses need to ensure that returning to the office and our cities becomes more than just a ‘return to work’ exercise.

I pointed out how the pandemic created an impetus to embrace digital technologies in more and more facets of our lives, and how BIM Academy have subsequently witnessed a growing awareness surrounding the value of digital information from our clients. I spoke about the rise in interest around our learning and development activities and how we saw an opportunity to rehaul our offerings and build a new learning system built around blended learning.

This led onto a discussion surrounding the need to both upskill our workforces and to provide appropriate education to our future workforces that delivers the skillsets needed within businesses. This generated a lot of further discussion on synergies and differences being drawn between the various industries.

For example, we spoke about the poor perception of the construction industry which has led to skills shortages, which was juxtaposed against the hospitality industry which doesn’t necessarily suffer from shortages but has a perception of being a ‘temporary stop’ job, in which the workforce is using it as a stopgap between school and graduating from university, rather than viewing it as a skilled career in its own right.

A lot of ground was covered during the event, here I have only just scratched the surface of topics discussed and points made. However, the main take away was clear; there simply is no substitute for in-person collaboration, which will be key for making Manchester the destination for business.

To discuss any of the topics raised in this article, please contact Melanie Robinson on [email protected].