Unlocking Success Business Conference at Open, Norwich. MP for South West Norfolk Elizabeth Truss and Chi Onwurah MP for Newcastle Central debating how Westminster is addressing the challenges faced by business. Photo: Steve Adams

MPs debate the need for young entrepreneurs at Norfolk Chamber business conference

By Ben Woods Business writer
Friday, November 23, 2012
8.09 PM

The need to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurial youngsters came under the spotlight today as opposition MPs debated the challenges facing Norfolk businesses.

South West Norfolk Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss and the Labour MP for Newcastle Central Chi Onwurah were pitched head-to-head at the Unlocking Success Business Conference attended by more than 150 Norfolk businesses.

Ms Truss argued young people should be armed with basic skills such as mathematics and science, and be encouraged to forge relationships with local businesses to gain the skills needed for working life.

But Ms Onwurah said youngsters should be encouraged to set up their own businesses – although many faced the prospect of earning less than their parents.

Meanwhile, both MPs highlighted the importance of improving infrastructure in Norfolk if the counties businesses were going to thrive in the future.

The debate, held at the OPEN venue on Bank Plain, Norwich, was the highlight of the conference, which gave business leaders the chance to hear expert advice on how to ‘unlock success’.

Speaking about the need to inspire more young people to become business savvy, Ms Truss said: “Government has a role in making sure business skills are available to young people, but we shouldn’t be micro managing what business does. Let’s arm our students with the basic skills they need so they know about topics like interest rates.”

Ms Onwurah said: “What we need to do is to infuse the education system with entrepreneurial skills. For example, team building and business skills need to become part of the school experience.”

The event was hosted by ITV Anglia’s business correspondent Matthew Hudson and included speeches by Martyn Pellew, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, Rob Mears, managing director of Bernard Matthews UK and Robert Ashton, The Barefoot Entrepreneur who talked about unlocking success as a Norfolk business.

Peter Hawes, managing director of Norse, said: “Amid these highly challenging economic conditions, it is vitally important that Norfolk businesses are creative and imaginative in finding new ways of unlocking success. This conference has encouraged a spirit of enterprise, explored fresh ways of working and offered tips and advice from experts who really know what makes businesses tick.”

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, which organised the event, said: “At a time when we hear a lot of doom and gloom it was great to be truly inspired by our speakers about how to unlock success. “The atmosphere in the room was buzzing with business being done within the networking breaks.

“We are so fortunate to have loyal members able and willing to sponsor these event to enable them to be able to really help the wider Norfolk business community”