Elizabeth Truss MP at the Unlocking Potential of Norfolk's young people conference at Norfolk chamber of commerce's

Norfolk businesses seek to unlock the potential of young people at conference with MPs and colleges

By shaun lowthorpe Business editor
Saturday, February 9, 2013
6.30 AM

Unlocking the potential of Norfolk’s young people was the focus of a conference yesterday aimed at bringing businesses face to face with education leaders, MPs and the workers of the future.

Nearly 200 people attended the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce event at Dunston Hall, near Norwich.

Tackling youth unemployment and improving access to apprenticeships is becoming a hot topic among local business leaders and policymakers.

Among the areas considered were how to bridge the gap between business and education, strengthening the opportunities for young people in the business world and helping young start-up businesses to get off the ground.

The session also heard from South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss about changes to the national curriculum announced this week, particularly changes in maths and computer sciences.

Caroline Williams, Chamber chief executive, said: “What we wanted to do was get businesses, schools, colleges and young people into one room, first to get to know one another and understand one another’s viewpoint.

“This is just the start and I want to highlight key actions we can do as a community so that we can work together to make a difference.”

The event ties in with an ambitious project known as Norwich For Jobs, which aims to find 1,000 jobs for the city’s young people in the space of two years.

The Norwich Foundation For Jobs – the group behind the campaign – is calling for businesses to pledge their support by creating opportunities for young people.

In signing the pledge, business leaders will also be asked to specify what kind of opportunities they hope to be able to offer.

Ian Hacon, chief executive of Blue Sky Leisure and Chamber vice-president, said young people formed a key part of his workforce.

But he added that schools needed to make sure pupils were equipped with the skills needed for the world of work.

“Young people make a significant contribution to our business,” Mr Hacon said. “My message would be to help make them work-ready, so that they come in not just with the right qualifications, but also the right attitude.”

Ms Truss said that, with industries such as farming demanding more technological know-how, it was vital youngsters were equipped with the skills to compete in a global marketplace.

“Even more important than the infrastructure is the human capital that we have in this county – that’s what’s really going to deliver for us in the future.”

Michael Rose, head of the Wayland Academy, said it had successfully placed 140 out of 146 students into work and training, but he stressed it was also vital to provide employment opportunities for youngsters in rural areas.

Don’t miss the chance to find your perfect job – visit Archant Norfolk’s Jobs Fair at Norwich City Football Club on Thursday, March 7, 9am-6pm. Admission and car parking are free. For more details, contact Alison White at 01603 772115 or alison.white@archant.co.uk

The foundation will also keep a monthly watch on the number of businesses taking the pledge and the number of opportunities they are offering local young people. To find out more, go to www.norwichforjobs.org.uk