Published on 26/09/18

Big Debate

Birmingham triumphed over London in a graduate talent debate – but with some suggestions on how it might stem the flow of young people to the capital.

The Progressive Employers Group (PEG), a thought platform set up for business leaders in Birmingham to promote innovative ways to strengthen the region’s employment market, held the debate between young professionals from both cities.

The event, held at iCentrum at the Innovation Birmingham Campus and was streamed live, looked at four major elements which influence whether graduates should start their careers in London or Birmingham.

They included elements such as work ethic and culture, and whether London attracted graduates because it was seen as the home of national decision makers.

The home audience ensured that Birmingham triumphed in the five questions put to the 100-strong audience taken from a range of companies and organisations – but there was some advice for the city from a man with a foot in both camps.

John Mortimer, CEO of recruitment firm the Angela Mortimer Group, which includes Birmingham-based Katie Bard, was on the London team although he runs a business in both cities.

“There is no doubt that Birmingham does not perform well when it comes to retaining its students, and there is a great pull to London,” he said.

“In many ways it is natural for young people to want to work in the capital, especially with it being so close, but Birmingham has to do everything it can to counter that pull.

“What came out in the debate was that there are many really attractive elements which should work in Birmingham’s favour but don’t.

“The ‘Second City’ tag was mentioned as not being helpful. That implies that the decisions are made in London, rather than in Birmingham and might reflect that larger businesses are not prepared to empower their staff in the regions.

“Birmingham needs to forge a stronger identity across the areas in which it is strong such as start-ups, digital companies and its Business Professional Services Academy all of which are real assets.

“The debate was feisty and these sorts of discussions are vital if employers want to attract the talent the region is undoubtedly producing through its world-class universities.

“London is not for everyone, and Birmingham needs to ensure it is the first choice for those who do not want to head for the capital and has the power to turn the heads of those who are London-bound.”


Paul Kehoe, President of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said the city was set for a very positive future.

“Birmingham and its city region is the place in the UK to invest and grow. The people are friendly, innovative and welcoming – all 187 nationalities. This has been the melting pot for industry and people for a very long time.

“It is a well-connected city region which, with effective leadership and the next generation of leaders with an eye on the world, will project the ambitions of the region to places others have dreamed about.

“HS2, Commonwealth Games, Coventry City of Culture and other great projects mean that the city is set for a very friendly future.”


The Birmingham team was Verity Stokes (Katie Bard), Cllr Alex Yip, David Blackadder Weinstein (Midlands Connect), Suzie Branch (Business Professional Services Academy), while the London team was Daisy Page (Angela Mortimer), Ari Ratnakumar (Wiser), recent graduate Richard Meredith and John Mortimer (Angela Mortimer and Katie Bard).

The event was compered by Pete Morgan.