HELEN Simpson has prioritised jobs, employment and skills as she takes up a key role in driving the region's economic growth.

Helen joins the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as it plays its part in steering the economy out of lockdown.

She succeeds David Kerfoot as chair of the LEP's main board, and draws on a wealth of experience in leadership through change, digital innovation, business growth and community development.

Helen, who has held senior roles at BT and also chairs Broadacres Housing Association, said: “This is a pivotal time for the region. The LEP is in a good position to help lead the local economy as it emerges from the pandemic and support Devolution through to fruition.

"The immediate priority is to protect jobs, create opportunities for new employment and upskill workforces and that can be achieved through strong regional collaboration and delivering on major projects.

“York and North Yorkshire is a fantastic place to live, work, study and visit.

"Looking ahead, I believe our region can transform its role in strengthening the economies of the north.

"By turning evidence and research into clear action, we can be a driving force in delivering the UK’s ambitions for carbon neutrality.

"Further still, in striving for our own ambition to become a carbon negative circular economy by 2040, our region can attract investment and take our place on the international stage as a global hub for innovation in bio and agri-tech businesses.

"We will do everything we can to create opportunity and build on the quality of life for those who live, work, play and do business here. At the heart of what we do for our economy and our environment will be what we want for our people and communities.

“The distinctiveness and diversity of our region is our strength. Working in collaboration, with a clear vision and a focus on action, I believe York and North Yorkshire can thrive as a greener, fairer and stronger place for all.

“The LEP plays a key role in bringing people together and ensuring that everyone, from our region’s small businesses to large public institutions, can play a role in and benefit from the opportunities we have before us. I am excited to take up the mantle and work with colleagues and partners, locally, regionally and nationally to deliver on our ambitions.”

The LEP is a business-led partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses, which play a key part in driving economic growth.

Helen is joined by three new board members, following a recent recruitment campaign.

Among them is Bruce Heppenstall, plant director at Drax and an engineer by profession, with more than 30 years of experience in managing large-scale power generation and manufacturing businesses in the UK, Europe and the USA.

Joining him is Helen Boaden who was previously director of BBC Radio, and sits on the UK Statistics Authority. She is also chair of Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre and patron of the town’s Books by the Beach festival. Specialist interests include culture and arts-led regeneration.

Meanwhile, Sue Jefferson has more than 30 years in UK director and global leadership roles. Her experience in strategy and change management has transformed teams, businesses and brands with Danone Group, Jeyes Hygiene and McCain Foods, before she set up her own management consultancy company, Possibilities Realised.