Jessica Murray: It’s time for graduates to shape the future of Leeds

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The UK’s fastest growing city outside London, Leeds is evolving at a rapid pace.

As the home of so much innovation and creativity, it’s refreshing to see this increasingly coming from graduates of the multiple universities based here.

Like many northern university cities, Leeds has long suffered from the ‘regional brain drain’; thousands of students come to Leeds to study and get a degree, before taking their highly sought after skills to London in search of work. While this trend continues, graduates are starting to stay in their university city, and help shape its growth and development, whether that be by working for a local company or setting up their own enterprise.

Take Jack Simpson, for example. He studied Philosophy and Politics at Leeds University, and has since gone on to found and run the Hyde Park Book Club, a café and venue space which has added some much needed creativity and rejuvenation to the area.

Over the past few months the venue has hosted everything from comedy nights, art exhibitions and DJ sets, providing a valuable platform for Leeds-based talent. Many other graduates are making their mark in similar ways. Leeds University alumni Billy Collins founded healthy eating initiative Honest Edibles, and is now running the city’s first all-vegan café at The Old Red Bus Station. Geography graduate Amy De-Balsi founded and runs the Leeds Digital jobs fair at First Direct Arena, helping more people get jobs in the rapidly growing tech industry.

These graduates could have followed their peers into grad schemes down in London, but it’s reassuring to see so many choosing to make a meaningful and unique contribution to the Leeds area instead. As a student I attended so many careers fairs which pushed me towards the job market in London, so if Leeds wants to harness the talent of its graduates, it’s time universities and Leeds City Council came to together to show students the amazing opportunities available right on their doorstep.

Leeds is a city which has helped to shape so many young students; it’s time for these graduates to help shape the future of Leeds.

Leeds: The city of enterprise

With a booming economy and a hub of cultural activity, it’s no surprise that Leeds has become a magnet for start-up businesses.

In the first three months of this year, 1232 start-ups were created in Leeds alone, and at a time of so much political uncertainty, this is a welcome surprise.

There are a number of reasons for this trend. Back in 2015 the government launched StartUp Britain, a nationwide scheme to encourage entrepreneurialism and aid start-ups.

Other initiatives have since sprung up elsewhere, such as business accelerator Entrepreneurial Spark, which has a base in Leeds, helping to get start-ups off the ground, and the University of Leeds have developed similar schemes to help students put their business ideas into action.

But the rise in start-ups also shows a disillusionment with traditional career paths and corporate industries. Students now want to forge their own path, and strive for greater job satisfaction by creating their own enterprises imbued with the values they believe in.

People want the freedom and challenge that comes with creating a business of your own.

Start-ups look to be the economy of the future, and Leeds is at the very centre of the trend.

Jessica Murray is the Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon at Leeds University.