Powerhouse Perspective: Interview with Mike Lodge
Mike Lodge, Arvia’s former CEO, was interviewed by Insider in April 2018 to find out what the Northern Powerhouse means to him, the need for investment in education and infrastructure, and the importance of attracting the best talent.
What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?
The Northern Powerhouse is an opportunity to build more prosperous communities in the North of England by harnessing the incredible talent we have here, so we can grow innovative businesses throughout the region. We need to provide attractive employment prospects for a new generation, upgrade infrastructure, maintain and grow our reputation for innovation and create a culture that enables great businesses to become established and grow.
Three years have passed since the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was first coined. Has enough happened since then?
For us, one of the main areas of focus is the talent we attract and develop within the business. In the past few years we have employed four apprentices. They have embraced the opportunity to work in a vibrant and dynamic environment and have excelled in their development.
We employ highly trained chemical engineers and scientists who are the backbone of our business. Our talented employees in design, marketing and business are also vitally important to our continued growth.
Improved infrastructure and business support is key to being able to attract and keep talented people. We would like to see more done in this area. Obviously, the Mersey Gateway was a significant investment in the region but transport links in Runcorn where we are based are not particularly good. The M56 motorway is becoming increasingly congested.
How is the appointment of metro mayors starting to help the initiative?
Steve Rotherham, the metro mayor for Liverpool City Region and Andy Burnham, the metro mayor for Greater Manchester do have a part to play in the growth of this region. Both of course have different agendas and are focused on their own communities.
For this reason, their focus tends to be housing, law and order and health and homelessness. Their vision does include skills – apprenticeships being close to Mayor Rotherham’s heart. Mayor Burnham is keen to ensure good jobs are available with opportunities for people to progress and develop.
All this is music to our ears. Working with employers, colleges and agencies to ensure that businesses attract people with the right skills and qualifications is of paramount importance for business sustainability and growth. Degree level apprenticeships are an interesting development in capturing young talent that isn’t just looking for academic education but practical experience too.
What must the government do to re-energise the Northern Powerhouse?
Releasing the budget for both education and infrastructure reform is vitally important. Without that financial resource and freedom, it will be virtually impossible for the region to channel the resources needed to make a real difference.
Apprentices play a vital role in our business and we’d like to see more emphasis on apprenticeships schemes. We’ve seen an uplift in the calibre of people applying to be apprentices which is a great thing – our people are proud to be apprentices and rightly so. They stay with the business for the long term and are stars of the future. Attracting talent remains a challenge and must be the focus for the government.
More emphasis on the initiatives around the Northern Powerhouse would help. It’s difficult not to feel the UK is still London centric. The North West has much to offer and so much potential, it seems almost criminal not to harness that potential for the good of the region as well as the good of the UK economy.
What is the single main issue you would like to see dominate the Northern Powerhouse agenda?
We’re selling our technology on a global scale – all over the world, from Korea, to China, to Holland and the US – all out from our North West site. We need the best talent to be able to develop the technology and its applications, sell our products and nurture ongoing client relationships. Making the North West the greatest place in the world to be educated, work and live has got to be at the top of the agenda.
Arvia and the North must compete on a global scale. Forty per cent of our people are international and to attract these people, we need to be a great place to live and work. Crime levels, ease of living and public transport links really matter. We must look at the wider issues that make people choose to work in the North. Attitudes to the environment can’t be underestimated and play their part in attracting people and businesses to the region.
How would the success of the Northern Powerhouse agenda benefit your business?
Success makes a huge difference to our business – the priority must be investing in and attracting talent to the region. We need the best brains working in our business, so that we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the great technical hubs of the world.
Originally seen at Insider Media