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Leeds City Region shows gaming greatness with Festival

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06 Dec 2016

Bradford has historically always been a location for enterprise and innovation. As an international centre of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century it became the ‘wool capital of the world’.

With the decline of the textile sector from the mid-twentieth century, Bradford has had to adapt and find new ways to drive its economy forward. From growth in financial services and food and drink, to accolades such as becoming the first UNESCO City of Film, the city has worked hard to build an international profile and boost tourism numbers.

And it was to one of the darlings of modern day Bradford, the city’s renowned National Media Museum that thousands of people flocked for the recent inaugural Yorkshire Games Festival.

Created and hosted by the National Media Museum, in partnership with Game Republic and with support from Yorkshire Screen Hub and Bradford Council, the Festival celebrated both the UK’s and this region’s strength in game development and design with the cream of the industry coming together here in the Leeds City Region for this landmark event.

As a region experiencing a digital boom, it was fantastic to see the Festival take a closer look at games developed closer to home. Highlights included a 21st anniversary celebration of Worms. This classic, created by Wakefield-based Team 17, has sold millions worldwide across a host of formats.

What the Yorkshire Games Festival proves, if proof were needed, is that the Leeds City Region is a major player in the global games industry. Nine per cent of the UK games industry is based in Yorkshire alone.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) recognises the huge contribution the gaming sector brings to our economy in terms of jobs, innovation and investment and how it is a key fundamental driver of the City Region’s wider booming digital technologies sector.

From creative media through to data analytics, cyber security, financial technology solutions, telecoms and health and education technologies, the leading work being conducted in the Leeds City Region is truly transforming global businesses.

And with digital jobs in the City Region predicted to grow at ten times the rate of non-digital, it is clearly a sector worthy of continued focus.

Raising the skills of our people, especially amongst those in education to give them a better platform for when they enter the world of work and meet the jobs demand of the future, is of the upmost importance.

At the LEP, we have an ambition to become the UK’s capital of tech and digital skills by attracting and growing talent in programming, coding, software development and data analysis. This is one of the key reasons we launched our Enterprise Adviser Network in February this year. To date, more than 75 senior business leaders from across the City Region have been matched with schools to help provide strategic direction to their employment engagement strategy, helping to drive real business encounters for young people and supporting young people to make informed decision about their working futures.

One of our enterprise advisers is Mark Lloyd, former member of the Rockstar Games team and now owner of Mark Lloyd Consultancy, a business that helps small businesses, both in the games sector and outside it, to improve how they operate, help them to recruit new and talented staff and implement processes to help them grow.

For Mark, with young people starting gaming early, it’s up to the wider industry to inform and empower them to think of gaming, not just as a hobby, but as a potential career.

He feels passionately, like all our Enterprise Advisers do, that we need to educate schools and teachers that this type of creativity can offer a long and fulfilling career, and that we need to give teachers the tools and knowledge to pass that message on. His role as an Enterprise Adviser is fundamentally to get young people really excited and inspired about what work is and start thinking about their own careers at an earlier stage.  

By doing this, not only will the Leeds City Region’s digital sector continue to thrive, but crucially we’ll ensure the skills agenda remains at the forefront so that the next generation of games industry leaders follow the successful journey of their predecessors right here.

This article is reproduced from a column written by Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership Chair Roger Marsh OBE and printed in the Yorkshire Post on 15 November 2016