Jobs, skills and infrastructure - Sheffield's Olympic legacy
Visiting the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park offered an insight into the strategic importance of this development to local jobs, skills and infrastructure. Situated in an up-and-coming part of the City, the Park is well on its way to building a tangible legacy for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.
It was a pleasure to meet Richard Caborn, Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park Project Lead and Professor Rob Copeland, Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), whose commitment and dedication have already achieved so much for our region.
The Park plays host to a dynamic but interconnected range of education and research institutions, each committed to delivering on four core themes:
- Sport – Creating an improved sports infrastructure, building on existing world-class facilities and providing access for all levels of ability.
- Community – Providing local people with improvements in health, wellbeing and the environment, promoting social integration, accessibility and inclusion.
- Environment – Creating a high quality environment for the neighbouring communities, enhancing the amount and quality of green space, promoting sustainable travel and conserving local biodiversity.
- Economy – Creating improvements in the education, skills, training and knowledge of the local labour force.
During my engaging visit I gathered new insight, not only into the Park’s strategically important research and innovation programmes, but also into their rapid expansion plan, which is already beginning to stimulate regeneration in the area.
Perhaps most inspiring was the breadth of the Park’s student catchment, and it was fantastic to hear that so many young people from the villages and communities across Penistone and Stocksbridge are able to benefit from the academic and vocational opportunities provided. Alongside which, the focus on areas where skills shortages are evidentially prevalent, such as engineering and advanced manufacturing, health and sports sciences, computing and creative digital media, demonstrates a strategic approach that can only benefit the long term success of our region.
All those involved in the Park should be congratulated for generating so many new, high-skilled jobs and employment opportunities, which are an essential part of the Government's levelling-up agenda. The work of the Park clearly demonstrates the importance of the North to the advancement of science, technology and research in critical areas such as health and wellbeing. Investment in our Northern institutions is having a transformational effect on our science and technology industries, whilst helping to cultivate an identity for Northern innovation.
Product innovation, design and production being key to keeping-up in such industries, so it was exciting to learn just how efficient the process which moves from design to investment to production is in the Park. Seeing first-hand the benefit which the levelling-up agenda is having on our local communities demonstrates the centrality of this process in stimulating development in those areas which have been left-behind. This is an outstanding example of external investment into South Yorkshire that has the potential to catalyse new productive jobs, improve social mobility and level up our region.
The Park offers a beacon of ambition, innovation and advancement here in the North, and its dedication to building a more prosperous and successful future for generations to come is truly inspiring.
My tour of the state-of-the-art facilities of the AWRC underpinned the importance of continuing to invest in such facilities – and as we learn the lessons of COVID - this investment is perhaps more important than ever as we seek new ways to improve our nation’s health.
I’m supporting plans to develop a Centre for Child Health Technology (CCHT) on-site, and I’ve spoken and written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock about funding options for the project. The CCHT will drive significant national and international investment to level up our South Yorkshire economy and provide the world’s most advanced healthcare for children and young people.
I am confident that the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is in a great position to play a major role in developing the new economy of the Northern Power House at the same time being a driver for the Government’s levelling up agenda.