Louise Kilbride Capital

NW in 2019 | Co-locating is king

With Brexit looming in 2019, organisations are expecting even tougher competition for well-qualified talent, writes Louise Kilbride of Capital & Centric. Could co-location of businesses and universities be the answer?

Taking the search for talent right to the source – higher education institutions – makes total sense. By co-locating with universities and colleges, businesses can get at the grassroots of their next generation of employees, snapping up talent first. More than just a smarter way of recruitment it could give businesses a real competitive advantage.

It’s not just access to talent that is attractive for businesses, but also the potential to share resources. Manchester Metropolitan University has invested £6m in a 3D printer and with vast construction budgets, universities should be courting the private sector. The University of Manchester is part way through a £1.2bn programme of new building, an investment that many companies couldn’t hope to match up to. The University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores have shown an effective partnership in delivering innovation hub Sensor City, giving support to start ups from a variety of sectors and starting to bridge the gap between higher education and the private sector.

But what’s in it for the universities? With potential debts of £50k putting many would-be students off the higher education route, universities are having to fight harder to fill places. In 2018 around one third of students said they felt “mismatched” to the jobs they find after leaving university. Students are demanding more from their courses and access to guaranteed vocational training, industry professionals and jobs they actually want makes that money well spent.

Many businesses already have hooks ups to universities, with over half of them increasing their ties in 2018. Co-locating could provide a frictionless link. It means businesses can influence university courses, so they are relevant to the real world and produce graduates ready to fit right into the workplace. Rather than students scrabbling around to find a home for their ‘year out’ in industry, they will have access throughout their courses, to apply the knowledge they’re learning.

The way we work is changing. With many more traditional sectors starting to emulate the more laid back culture seen in tech, creative and digital companies, the tie up with universities makes even more sense. At Capital & Centric’s Littlewoods Film Studios in Liverpool, filmmakers and associated industry will be taking about two thirds of the space, with further or higher education taking the rest, and a communal area in the middle to bring the two together. The shared café will provide the perfect place for students learning their craft to bump into a producer, director or sound engineer.

Twickenham Studios has already committed to taking 85,000 sq ft, its first base outside of London, and talks are ongoing with education providers. Liverpool has a great creative talent pool and Littlewoods could help in growing the next generation.

Co-location has worked for years elsewhere; the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park hosts several innovative businesses alongside the Faculty of Science & Engineering, giving students first-hand experience of the application of their studies.

It’s a win win. Businesses get access to tailor made talent and students get a route to a career. I predict we’ll see much more integration between the private sector and education in 2019. The property sector needs to sit up and see the change that’s coming.

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