Julia Muir appointed to the Board of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

Julia Muir, Founder and Chief Executive of Gaia Innovation, and Founder UK Automotive 30% Club has been appointed to the Board of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (SCR LEP), for a three-year term.

Local Barnsley MP and newly appointed SCR Mayor Peter Jarvis invited Julia to apply for one of five Board positions. Speaking of SCR LEP’s plans for future regional growth, Julia says it’s an exciting opportunity to create a powerful region that would be a counterweight to London: “There’s tremendous economic potential in the entire region.”

The private sector is recognised as being pivotal to the successful development and growth of the local economy over the next decade. Julia explains how she sees her role in that strategic economic growth: “There’s a three-fold focus: infrastructure (roads, and rail network), attracting inward investment, and then skills – and that third focus is where I come in.”

She adds: “’To grow the economy, we need better jobs and more of them. We need higher paid, fulfilling jobs. That’s what I’m passionate about, creating a talent pool in the wider region with skills that would help achieve economic growth.”

Julia explains that many companies are now in an Industry 4.0 growth phase, which encompasses digital technology, automotive, advanced robotics, mechatronics. “There is a huge skills deficit,” she says. “And that’s because such work needs a higher level of skills, and as we haven’t valued practical skills for a long time, we can’t get enough people in sufficient volume fast enough for the growth that is needed. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation where we can’t grow economically without the skills, but until we grow there’s no need for the skills.”

She adds: “The SCR region also has the poorest education levels in the country, combined with high levels of poverty. There are few employment prospects. It’s quite a challenge.

“What needs to be done now is what I’ve done with Gaia Innovation, and that’s where my expertise in looking across sectors, in schools, and from a young person’s perspective is valuable. We need to identify which companies are growing, determine their skills needs, and then go to schools to inspire the kids to empower themselves with future skills, and become this employable pipeline of talent over the next few years. It all needs to be scaled up, with the imagination and research to identify the skills needed in 5, 7, 10 years. That’s why it’s so important to reach the kids as that’s where the volume of skilled people will come from.”

The next challenge, she explains, will then be to efficiently and effectively get the best value for the taxpayer’s money, while also targeting any other resources for additional funding to make the best expenditure.