Milton Keynes has been on a unique journey over the past 50 years with the combination of investment, collaboration and adaptability accelerating the town from a small business community into one of the fastest growing centres of the UK economy.
The pace of change has been quite remarkable. Milton Keynes’ total workforce has increased by 40% over the past ten years, compared to a 12% average for Great Britain, and is expected to grow a further 17% by 2031.
The town has also been a central powerhouse of our annual review of Buckinghamshire’s economic performance, driving double digit increases in turnover and profitability for six successive years. Later this year in November, we will also be launching a new report focussed on business growth in Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes remains at the forefront of growth and innovation and there is a strong sense of optimism for the future. We are, however, at an important turning point with change on a variety of fronts presenting new opportunities but also potential challenges.
As one of the longest standing national accountancy firms in Milton Keynes, we have witnessed the town go from strength to strength. Today, as well as providing local businesses with the expertise and tools they need to thrive, we are striving to create an environment where all parts of the community work together, from private and public businesses to the third sector to achieve real impactful progress which benefits everyone.
A collaborative mindset is essential if we want to maximise the opportunities from the government’s planned investment in the region through the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor. This is a fantastic opportunity but the three areas will need to work together to engage with and take ownership of the initiative, promote the benefits and ensure we have the necessary skills within our economies to maximise the corridor’s full potential. The onus is on us, not the government, to drive this forward.
Collective investment in infrastructure, in particular digital connectivity, will be equally important to the future of Milton Keynes. Rapidly changing technology has and will continue to have an impact on businesses across all sectors from consumer retail to industrial manufacturing. It’s vital Milton Keynes has the necessary foundations in place for these firms to stay ahead of the curve and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.
We fundamentally believe in the importance of encouraging and supporting collaboration which is why we have opened up our Milton Keynes space for local organisations to make use of, from businesses, start-ups to charities including MK Hospital, the Milton Keynes Homeless Partnership and the Royal British Legion.
Underpinning all of these opportunities are people. Without committed individuals with the necessary skills, none of these opportunities can be realised. Historically, with strong transport links and a thriving business community, Milton Keynes has successfully attracted skilled people to the region. However, the continued UK wide talent shortage is undoubtedly starting to have more of an impact locally.
Businesses also need to think carefully about the types of skills they invest in. The world of work in five or ten years’ time will be radically different to that of today as we continue to move more towards automation and utilising AI technology. This is already leading to the ‘digitalisation’ of certain job roles, so adaptability will be key.
Today, employees are looking for flexibility to achieve a better work/life balance. This could be through working at home or remotely and businesses which don’t adapt to these changing demands will miss out. In a competitive market, benefits are also important but firms should look beyond monetary incentives and consider offering an array of options from enhanced parental leave, discount vouchers and other ‘perks’.
Organisations should also look to the Apprenticeship Levy to help upskill existing employees and invest in the next generation of talent coming through. This is an area where many organisations are missing a trick. Take up of the scheme has been very slow, despite offering a low cost and structured path for developing future leaders. Many businesses in Milton Keynes will already be paying into the Levy and should seize this opportunity. At Grant Thornton we are also working closely with Cranfield University to deliver management and leadership programmes to utilise the levy to invest in your people.
More broadly, we all need to promote the benefits of living and working in Milton Keynes and shout about the fantastic opportunities we have here in the region. If we can achieve this, we can continue to lead the way in economic growth and prosperity.
As part of our commitment to collaboration, our Milton Keynes space is available to all organisations from businesses to charities to drop in or use. We offer an innovative approach to working with a range of spaces and pods for events, meetings and discussions to encourage interaction and collaboration. The hiring of our meeting rooms has also helped us raise over £2,500 for MK YMCA.
Grant Thornton’s Milton Keynes office has approximately 160 staff providing business and financial advice to dynamic organisations across Milton Keynes.
Find out more at www.grant-thornton.co.uk or contact CentralandEast@uk.gt.com