Inclusive Reading: a first step towards Reading’s economic recovery

The impact of Covid-19 on the global economy is predicted to be as much as 2-3 times more severe than in 2008-09.  The climb back, in productivity terms, even harder (Harris R. 7.4.2020*). In Reading, we’re hopeful that our globally-influenced knowledge economy and highly skilled workforce will pull our town through quickly as in 2008-09, but we must be conscious of the local impact Covid-19 will undoubtedly have. 

Reading’s economy: in the press

There is evidence to suggest that Reading’s economy may be resilient to the after-effects of the pandemic, with Grant Thornton’s Recovery Index placing Wokingham and Reading economies first and second for recovery and Centre for Cities predicting that Reading’s economy will be third-least affected by lockdown (alongside Oxford and Cambridge). Just last month, in June, the FT’s FDI Intelligence named Reading as the second-best European tech start-up city, after London, and BDO notes that the well-balanced economy of the M4 corridor puts Reading in a strong position to rebound, led by its technology and agriculture sectors.

However, despite some positive reports of a robust and resilient economy, Covid-19 will undoubtedly have an impact on Reading’s local workforce and labour market. As a first step towards recovery following the ‘economic lockdown’, Reading’s economic leaders will need to work alongside key community organisations to help meet the immediate needs of people who may be facing unemployment and young people approaching the workplace for the first time.

Supporting our local labour force

‘Inclusive Reading’ is one of the three key workstreams as part of Reading’s economic recovery strategy and has been designed to both reskill and upskill the local labour force while investing in digital and green technology skills and training. Paul Newman, Group Executive Director at Reading’s Activate Learning sits on the board of Reading UK and is sponsor of the ‘Inclusive Reading’ workstream of Reading UK’s economic recovery strategy, led by Reading UK’s Economic development Manager, Sue Brackley. Paul says that this workstream brings “an opportunity for us to work side by side, as One Reading, to support those most in need, and to ensure the economic recovery of our town – for businesses and individuals.”

Working with small business and the self-employed will be a key strategic area. Our local economy is underpinned by small business, and self-employment is the preferred route of work for many people. As the economic landscape becomes clearer the Inclusive group will be working to understand the immediate needs of the self-employed and put effective support in place.

Inclusive Reading: forming the group

The economic recovery strategy planning is now fully underway, with the ‘Inclusive Reading’ workstream forming from a group of key local organisations (including Reading College, DWP, Brighter Futures, MAPIS and New Directions) to co-deliver a support package for people in need within our community. All with solid backgrounds of delivering programmes to specific groups within the Reading community, members’ work includes (but is not limited to) support for the long-term unemployed, those in need of re-skilling or employment support, those wanting to work for themselves, the self-employed and small business owners, and young people needing career advice. The individual members bring with them a wealth of experience, as well as a variety of funding routes and will work together, and alongside the TVBLEP and other Berkshire authorities, to co-deliver a support programme which will ensure an aligned, cohesive approach to Reading’s economic recovery.

Sue Brackley, Reading UK, says, ““It’s exciting to be leading the workstream which focuses on supporting our local businesses. Our workforce is at the heart of Reading’s economic success and so it’s crucial we put in place as much as support as possible for those most affected within our community, focusing on the sector skills that will really drive recovery. The ‘Inclusive Reading’ workstream brings together some of Reading’s leading local providers and business organisations. I’m confident that we will create a strong package to support our people, and our companies, as our economy recovers over the coming months.”

The group’s first meeting took place on 17th June, where current knowledge was shared and the future shape of delivery discussed. Next steps will be agreeing the key targets ad beginning to shape the action plan for delivery.



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