In Conversation With Gary Woodman Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership
The Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (WLEP) is an organisation at the forefront on innovation in our County. Their vision is to build a connected, creative, dynamic economy for all in Worcestershire.
WLEP is one of 38 LEPs in England and is responsible for creating and delivering economic growth and jobs through a collaborative approach with partners, including various business representative organisations, local government authorities and education groups. With current projects including the Worcestershire 5GTestbed, Betaden, Worcestershire Apprenticeships and the One Worcestershire Brand, as well as various developments from the Worcestershire Growth Deal, there’s a lot going on.
This month, Ruby chats with Gary Woodman – the CEO of WLEP – to learn more about these projects and why raising Worcestershire’s profile beyond its borders is such a challenge.
My alarm goes off and…
I am quickly thinking about the challenge of my day, week, month as these vary a lot across a range of topics and themes which the LEP is involved in. From skills, apprenticeships, business support, funding for key projects and ensuring the views of many stakeholder holders are taken into acount. The WLEP team are always striving to make an impact on the county both now and in the future.
What are you responsible for?
The Partnership is the lead economic body for the county, responsible for driving the future vision for Worcestershire. We work across education, business and local government too – focus on deliverying and making things happen.
We win and invest funding for projects like Worcestershire Parkway, Redditch Gateway, improvements to the A38, whilst also developing projects such as the ‘skills for our future workforce’ with the Careers and Enterpise Company to build relationships between businesses, schools and young people to show them the variety of skills and careers/jobs exist within the county and supporting local business to grow and expand.
What part of your role do you enjoy most?
Seeing the progress Worcestershire is making as a County. We have seen signifcant improvements in our connectivity, attracting businesses to the county and changing the perception as just a beautiful place to somewhere that has great energy and a place where you can be creative.
How did you land your job?
I previously worked at the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce and had a public private sector background. Although a varied career starting in Leisure Management. I’ve changed career a number of times. Being successful in the job is down to the team, the LEP Board and everyone playing their part.
How do people find out about you?
We are an open and transparent organisation – our website has all of the information about us and we have a good social media profile on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Our annual conference is one of the biggest business events in Worcestershire and showcases our work through delivery partners ie local govt, education and other organisations. We also host The Worcestershire Apprenticeships Awards with Worcestershire County Council and a skills show in March which attracts support from 120 employers, every school in the County and Further and Higher Education providers.
We then attend various business events and work with local business groups including #WorcestershireHour, The Worcestershire Ambassadors, Young Enterprise and Federation of Small Businesses to name just a few.
What makes you different?
With regards to the LEP – we have an infuencing and conviener role, working with a partnership of organisations, rather than having the resources to solely deliver on our own. The Partnership is our focus – a true and equal enterprise between our partners. From partners like local authorities that play a fundamental role in our success, to local businesses, key third sector bodies, schools and education providers. We try and encapsulate the views of not only the large organisations but also the small and dynamic companies too.
As a leader, I aim to be approachable to new ideas and I am looking to work with people who want to work with us for the betterment of the county – we stand up and be counted for the county, and I think we do that quite well – however there is always more to do.
Who are your partners?
Worcestershire LEP is designed to benefit businesses of all sizes and sectors in Worcestershire.
However, we do work more closely with specific businesses as partners on certain projects. For example, with our newly launched One Worcestershire Brand, we’ve worked with the likes of: Worcester Bosch, The Worcestershire Ambassadors, Morgan Motors, West Midland Safari Park, Mazak, Heller Machine Tooling and University of Worcester.
We don’t have a huge marketing budget – so when everyone comes together in partnership, we can make a significant impact. For example, around 40,000 people visit Morgan Motors every year, from all around the globe. They come to test drive, visit the factory, enjoy watching the skilled craftsmanship, but our County shouldn’t be defined by just one business or just one sector, so we want to merge the offering to say that this is a fantastic place, to those outside of the County and we need to communicate that better.
There’s a feeling in Worcestershire that we don’t sell our county well enough outside of our County, we like to remain hidden. We’re often in the background, so raising Worcestershire’s profile beyond its borders is a challenge we’re trying to address. Whether it’s our University, cricket, basketball or rugby club or excellent environment that gives it more of a profile, it’s difficult to say, however its time for us all to pull together to sell what is great about our County as a place, to live, work, vist and invest.
Also, we work hardto improve the digital connectivity for the County – this is a big part of our work. To ensure that the County is connected digitally, we lead the Worcestershire 5G Consortium to develop a 5G testbed that looks at new business models and how it impacts existing businerss pratices. Normally London, Birmingham and more urbanised areas are more likely to secure projects like this – so creating these innovative projects in an urban/rural setting and this is exciting and critical for the future of the county.
What’s your plan for the future?
For the LEP, we are defining what Worcestershire will be like in 2040? Lots of good projects have been delivered over the past severn years such as New Road, improvements to the Cricket Club, Hoobrook Link Road in Kidderminster, extending Evesham Vale Park –we’re now in a position to start to think about the county and what it looks like 20 in years’ time. Therefore responding to changes like increased digital delivery of service, the impacts of climate change on the County and our aging population will mean the economy has to adapt. Perparing for those is our role.
As somebody that cares hugely about Worcestershire, I have 2 daughters and I am looking at what the county offers them in the future as a place to live and work.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
My first job was in leisure management so I wanted to be more of a sporting star than I am now; I was a sprinter, both 100 and 200 metres – 400 was too was too far! I competed at regional and national level, training with and competing against future international stars! The similarities with sprinting and my current role are that both require focus, determination and hard work, but sprinting is a very individual sport and now in my current position I’m a team player.