Pitmans’ innovative campaign to shape Reading’s future kicked off with two lively roundtable discussions in October.
Business leaders met at The Forbury Hotel for the first roundtable in a series on the topic of Achieving Sustainable Growth in Reading. They heard from Rob Irvine of the CBI who emphasised the decline in UK productivity, probably linked, he said, to limitations in infrastructure, skills, management practices and innovation/exporting.
Meanwhile Jane McKay of national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm Crowe addressed three issues – What does doing business in Reading mean to Crowe now and in the future? What are the opportunities and challenges that Crowe are seeing? Is there enough awareness of diversity of funding and support for business – what is coming down the line in terms of tax post-Brexit?
Representatives from the Department of International Trade, BIP Insurance Brokers, Invu Services, Oculis, Osirian Consulting, Hicks Developments, Rolabotic, Waylands Automotive and more attended the gathering.
The question-and-answer sessions after the talks provided a revealing glimpse into how businesses feel about Brexit which cropped up during almost every interaction.
Conclusions were that Brexit can be viewed as an opportunity for UK SMEs to look outside of the EU to do business on a more global scale rather than relying solely on its neighbours. But this may result in a post-Brexit slow-down.
And it became apparent that Crossrail does not necessarily assume a drain of talent from Reading – the desirability of the Thames Valley increases as the challenges of owning property and living costs in London increase.
The issue of talent cropped up frequently and linked well with the second roundtable the following week, on the topic of Attracting and Retaining Talent. Guests from Kawasaki, Bayer, Wade Macdonald and Firsty Group attended the discussion held at the Thames Valley Science Park.
Gurprit Singh, founder of the organisation Ethical Reading, addressed the issue of employee wellbeing in the workplace and the importance of conducting recruitment ethically in order to retain employees. The conclusion was that ethical values in business must be embedded in an organisation’s culture to make a real difference, and not just be paid lip service.
Chaired by employment partner Angela Shields, the discussion began with a talk by Dr David Gilham of the University of Reading, who stressed the importance of forming deeper connections between academic institutions and businesses to develop local talent.