Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, is one of AMAGAZINE’s 10 Most Influential Mancunians. Here she talks about her career journey and the future of our city.
“Everyone has knock BACKs in their life – the trick is to get BACK up again and keep going, and seek out the support and networks you need to do that.”
What makes Manchester a great place to live and work in 2018?
It’s not for nothing that Manchester was named the top city in the UK in The Economist’s 2018 Global Liveability Index. The city boasts an incredible talent pool, an international airport and ever-improving transport infrastructure, world-leading universities and research, thriving culture and nightlife, top class sport and a real sense of shared vision, leadership and ambition. You get a real sense here that Manchester remains a city of innovation.
Why do you think so many businesses have chosen Manchester as their central hub?
We’re a well-connected city, at the heart of the North of England with our own international airport and a large, dynamic talent pool. At the same time, employers also want to locate somewhere their employees want to be and are conscious of everything Manchester has to offer outside work too – our culture, nightlife and retail offer.
What do you think Manchester needs to raise its profile on the international scene?
Our international profile has never been higher. The city is attracting significant foreign investment and remains a hugely popular destination for international tourists and students, with our airport a genuine global gateway. The Corridor Manchester innovation district has helped establish the city as a global leader in advanced materials research, life sciences and smart cities. Our thriving cultural and sporting scene, including of course Manchester City and Manchester United football clubs, has ensured that the name of Manchester is carried far and wide and we enjoy a global profile that many UK cities would envy.
That said, we are competing on a global stage and cannot afford to be complacent for one second. Brexit, and the uncertainties surrounding it, make it more important than ever that we are able reach out to attract investment and jobs and ensure that would-be investors understand everything Manchester has to offer. Upgrading the city’s infrastructure is critical if we are to remain internationally competitive. This is why the £1 billion investment in Manchester Airport and expansion of the Metrolink to Trafford Park are so important, along with future planned investments in HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
What does Manchester need in terms of new talent coming through?
At the heart of our skills strategy for the city is ensuring that the skills system and our businesses are working together so we can meet the needs of our growing businesses while at the same time equipping Manchester people with the skills and attributes they need to access these emerging opportunities. This is particularly the case in key growth industries such as construction; cultural, creative and digital; business, financial and professional services, and science and R&D. We do well as a city in terms at retaining graduates and are now second only to London for this. Critical to our success is the availability of graduate level jobs and the city centre housing, as well as the culture, leisure and transport offer. However, as well as developing new talent, we know that we need to work with businesses to develop the talent of their existing workforces and work with learning and training providers to upskill residents with no or low-level qualifications.
What are the essential qualities that people must have to be a part of your team?
Honesty and integrity. The ability to work under pressure. A commitment to Our Behaviours which are: we work together and trust each other; we’re proud and passionate about Manchester; we take time to listen and understand; we ‘own it’ and aren’t afraid to try new things
How has the working world changed from when you started your career compared to now and how have these changes affected your industry?
IT and Digital have made a significant difference on all aspects of the work we do. Life has become more complicated for more people, placing greater demands on us all in the public sector. It also makes it harder for people to switch off, stepping away from the emails and social media. Also, people want instant answers, adding another level to how we respond, but, at the same, time social media is a positive way to engage with and have conversation with residents.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Responding to the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017, which claimed the lives of 22 people. As a city, we had to support all those affected by the horrific events, the families, emergency respondents and our staff, while supporting solidarity and community cohesion and encouraging a sense that the city would not be deterred by this horrific incident and that we would continue to thrive. Out of this terrible incident evolved the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, which I am a Trustee for and from which we have distributed £20m.
What would you say to people who feel they haven’t ‘made it’ yet?
Take every opportunity you can. Keep trying and believe in yourself. Work on your personal resilience. Everyone has knock BACKs in their life – the trick is to get BACK up again and keep going, and seek out the support and networks you need to do that.
In what ways would you like to see Manchester businesses giving BACK to their city and community?
Businesses in Manchester already make an enormous contribution to the life of the city and many have a keen sense of community responsibility. Some of this goes BACK to what I was saying about skills – businesses are working with schools to provide work experience, mentoring and help inspire the workforce of the future. They are also providing pathways into work which can help people grow into roles, with paid internships and apprenticeships being obvious examples. Many of our businesses are very good employers but we would like to see all businesses in the city meeting the highest standards, including for example paying everyone the Living Wage, providing progression opportunities and looking after the health and wellbeing of their employees. This is why we are supporting the GM Mayor’s Good Employment Charter, which is now out for consultation.
The other way that businesses contribute to the life of the city is in countless examples of generosity – employees giving their time to volunteer to support community projects or charitable causes. We saw in the aftermath of last year’s Manchester Arena attack, for example, how businesses rallied around and contributed to the remarkable resilience shown by the city. Many businesses also provide support for new businesses and social enterprises, helping to continue to drive the growth of the city and increasingly businesses are looking at how they can derive value beyond purely financial through their supply chains.
What industries do you think will be booming in Manchester over the next 5 years?
Our largest growth industries include construction; cultural, creative and digital; business, financial and professional services, and science and R&D. But sectors such as advanced materials – graphene being the highest profile example – and life sciences also have enormous potential, with Manchester right at the cutting edge. But although their business models might change as a result of digital innovation, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that some our core sectors and largest employers such as food and beverage will continue to remain important in the economic and social life of the city.
‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’ sees some of Manchesters most inspiring professionls talk about the future of our city and share their career journeys. If you’d like to get involved with 2019’s ‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.