Production Park
16 May 2023

Challenging perceptions, championing clusters: Production Park’s Jim Farmery on BBC R5 Live

Sean Farringdon’s early morning BBC Radio 5 Live show ‘Wake Up To Money’ invited Production Park’s Jim Farmery to join as business guest on May 15, providing insight on the day’s stories, including immigration, a new coal mine in Whitehaven and the importance of business clusters and communities.

With Suella Braverman set to deliver a speech on reducing immigration numbers later on in the day, Sean and Jim talked about the link between immigration and the world of work.

“We’ve gone through a bit of a double whammy of people leaving our industry, either during the pandemic or through Brexit changes.

“We need a ready supply of talented people to come into the industry to service the demand that we have across the board. Anything that can hinder the flow of talent is going to impact productivity, and as a business we’re really keen to ensure those barriers aren’t in place.”

When Sean asked whether British workers could be trained to fill those vacancies, Jim replied, “I think we need to do both […] I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and it’s been brilliant having a mix of people from all over the world – we’re a global business so you want people with language skills, people who have got local market knowledge and connections, as well as training people in the UK. 

“If you want to be a global business you need to reflect that in your workforce. The best way of doing that is by being as open as you can, and to be willing to both take in new talent, as well as and grow your own.” 

But there are challenges in recruiting, training and relying on the UK alone, as Jim explained, “People (especially young people) don’t really see our industry as being secure, well paid and as a career, rather than just a job.

“We want to challenge that perception – we’re in the middle of looking at statistics around pay, job security and scale of projects. Yes we need to retrain and open eyes to the opportunities we’ve got, but that’s not gonna be enough on its own if we’re to grow.”

Sean and Jim also discussed the story of Whitehaven, and how the first new coal mine to open in the UK in 30 years is a “very emotive issue for communities” who revolved around that industry.

Jim said, “I came from a mining community so I’ve seen the sports and social clubs pinned to those pits, and the effect when they closed. They never felt that same sense of bond. We still have a lot of heritage in the area and kids of ex-miners who work for us. We’re doing a project this summer with women in the area who came from mining backgrounds. Women working on our park, looking at technology to try and show new jobs and new career paths for people.

“What we need to do – and what we are doing at Production Park – is to create another sense of community going forward."

Jim continued, "It’s different kinds of clusters of employment now that are almost filling some of that gap. What we’ve got to do is make sure we’re taking everyone with us and that those kids are aware of the kind of opportunities that we have here.”

Listen again here.