Wrexham growing into a powerhouse

Wrexham is fast becoming the economic and educational powerhouse of North Wales.

The town is geared up to serve business with some of the highest skilled and experienced professionals and the best educated – and the best paid – young people in the country.

That was the message from the business community and the men running the region’s higher and further education institutes to a meeting of 60 business leaders in Wrexham.

Sir Jon Shortridge, the Chancellor of Glyndwr University, told a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals at the Ramada Hotel that it is top of the Welsh league for employment opportunities.

Later this year the merger of two of Wales’s top-performing Further Education colleges,  Deeside College and Yale College, Wrexham.

David Jones, the Chief Executive and Principal of Deeside College in Connah’s Quay, is the man chosen to lead the new college which will be launched on August 1.

He said: “Coleg Cambria will be the 1oth biggest Further Education college in the UK with a budget of £65 million.

“Expectations are high and Yale and Deeside together must be able to do more than we are doing because otherwise there’s no point in merging.

“We have to drive out wasteful costs and put those savings out into the front line and provide more and better and do that in what is a challenging economic environment.

He stressed the importance of the links between the new college and businesses in North East Wales and he said: “It is not just about students walking out with rafts of certificates.  If they’re not able to work in your businesses than we’re not fit for purpose.

The link between education and business is important and Yale and Deeside are two of the highest performing colleges in Wales and we score very well in working with employers, our finances are very good.

“For the most recent financial year we both had surpluses of over £2 million and as a percentage of income that would put Yale at the top of the Welsh table with Deeside second.

“We do see ourselves as businesses and if we don’t provide the best business products then we won’t be around for very long – we have to manage really, really well, just like the best businesses do.

“We want to be the best college in Wales and the best in the UK and we are working with Glyndwr University to get into the international market as well.

“Coleg Cambria is a very exciting opportunity and we’re very, very ambitious about what we want to do and that’s about making North East Wales and Wrexham a place where people have got jobs and where people want to come to work”.

According to Sir Jon, he was keen to establish a close relationship between Glyndwr University and Coleg Cambria.

He explained that 99 per cent of the university’s intake came from state schools and that they were in the top ten in the UK for students from deprived area.

Sir Jon added: “We achieve the highest employment rates for its graduated in Wales.  Ninety-four per cent of our graduates are in employment within six months or are continuing in education and that’s the best performance in Wales.

“The starting salaries they receive are the second highest in Wales – only Cardiff University students will get into jobs with higher starting salaries and we’re about 12 per cent above average for starting salaries.

“Our student fees are also the lowest in Wales so we take students from some of the poorest backgrounds and give them huge employment opportunities and charge less than any other university in Wales.

“Glyndwr is also a most entrepreneurial university in Wales – we bought the Wrexham football ground, we bough Optic centre in St Asaph and at our own risk we are undertaking world-leading research there into mirrors for extra large telescopes.

“Our big contribution to research has been commended both by David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, and the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

“We are a community-based university which puts £100 million into the local economy any which supports local employers ad particularly local businesses, providing tailored opportunities for staff to get qualifications while in employment”.

The meeting also heard from Neil Ashbridge, the Bank of England’s Agent for Wales, who gave an off-the-record private briefing about the current economic situation and the outlook for the future, and Stephen Waring, the founder of lawn care company GreenThumb, who has developed his business into a multi-million pound franchise operation.

Anthony Lewis, of Chartered Accountants Coxeys, a member of Wrexham Business Professionals, agreed it was vitally important for businesses and education to work closely.

He said: “In coming together we can identify the skills needed to enable businesses to become more successful.

“It’s important that Universities and Colleges develop courses which provide all the skills business and industry needs to help them develop.

“As a business person and an employer and from what our clients tell us the business community like to clear training and career paths from school to further and higher education and into work.

“That means providing the right people with the right skills – small and medium sized businesses don’t have the skills to manage that transition themselves and need that support to come from the educators.

“North East Wales in general and Wrexham in particular is becoming an economic and educational power house that’s making a huge increasing contribution to the regional economy”.

The guest speakers at the next meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals on June 11 will be retired industrialist and
former Lord Lieutenant Trefor Jones CBE CVO and business guru Professor Dylan Jones-Evans. For more information contact Nicola Mathews at Coxeys on 01978 355477.

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