As an organisation dedicated to championing Oxfordshire’s economy, we are counting down to the opening of the £440m Westgate Oxford development on 24 October, bringing top-class retail to the city and thousands of new jobs and training opportunities with it.
Westgate Oxford – which has 800,000 square feet of shopping space, restaurants, cafés and a variety of entertainment-based companies, including a cinema – will undoubtedly make a positive impact to Oxfordshire’s economy.
It really is a welcome addition to our historic city and will complement existing retail and tourism in Oxford.
The new development will also attract thousands of new visitors to Oxford – good news for our many and much-loved independent stores, such as those based at the Covered Market.
Westgate Oxford is generating around 3,000 new jobs. Roles vary from cinema screen projectionists to chefs and even mixologists – so undoubtedly there will be many diverse and exciting opportunities available.
We work with a variety of organisations – across all sectors in Oxfordshire – to achieve our vision for the county as a: ‘vibrant, sustainable, inclusive, world-leading economy – driven by innovation, enterprise and research excellence’. In-line with this, we are proud to have been closely involved in the development of a Community Employment Plan for Westgate Oxford, ensuring that Oxfordshire residents are truly benefitting from opportunities.
We have worked hard to ensure that local people – particularly young people and those who may have been in longer-term unemployment – are equipped with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
This has been achieved thanks to two schemes we agreed back in 2013 with Landsec. This covered the construction stage of the development, as well as ‘every day roles’ following the opening of retail units and restaurants.
The initiatives are helping around 750 Oxfordshire residents into training, apprenticeships and work at Westgate Oxford.
There have been a number of notable successes so far, particularly through Sector Based Work Academies (SBWA) – a Job Centre Plus initiative, which is used to support the most marginalised in the workforce.
A total of 52 local unemployed people have been trained in construction, health and safety and have been supported to obtain a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card.
Among them were 17 trainees from SWBA who came to Westgate Oxford for a week of work experience and – at the end of which – they were guaranteed a job interview.
Seven of them have since been employed by Laing O’Rourke.
These are shining examples of the life-changing opportunities that Westgate Oxford has already given to our region.
I am sure that the training and employment successes that we have witnessed during the construction phase of the development will continue to be repeated as the new shops and businesses – that are due to open later in the month – bring a glut of training and employment opportunities for people from all walks of life.
The opening of Westgate Oxford will make 2017 a momentous year for our world-renowned and historic city, as well as those who live and work within it and the wider Oxfordshire community.
I believe we will all have much to celebrate as its doors open to the public for the very first time.
Nigel Tipple (Chief Executive)