Former CBI boss at bursary scheme launch in Norfolk

Former head of the CBI and outspoken champion of business, enterprise and youth opportunity Lord Digby Jones was in Norfolk last night to launch a new work experience bursary for school leavers.

The Work Experience Money Can't Buy scheme will provide the lucky winner with a work experience placement in an industry of their choice, a high profile local mentor and financial support.

The Norfolk Way Enterprise Bursary is aimed at helping school leavers aged between 16 and 18 who are not going on to academic studies to access opportunities and work experience in a business, organisation or sector that they are interested in but would otherwise not be able to access.

The inaugural 2011 award, sponsored by Norfolk businessman Henry Cator, was launched last night at a ceremony at World Horse Welfare Charity at Snetterton attended by Lord Jones.

Lord Jones, UK business ambassador, crossbench peer at the House of Lords, former UK trade minister and former director general of the CBI, said he thought it was a 'wonderful initiative'.

He added: 'It's about a non-academic route into the world of work and the world of skilled work.

'What this is saying to so many young people is we will give you a chance, a leg up, a chance to get into the world of work by giving you a ticket and be trained by a business mentor and making sure the opportunities are there.'

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In order to succeed Lord Jones said the scheme needed the support of businesses, the support of students to take the opportunities offered and for money to be available to make it happen.

The scheme, part of the Norfolk Way, a foundation set up three years ago to promote rural enterprise by George Freeman, now Mid Norfolk MP, will initially see the bursary going to one teenager from the Dereham area. But it is hoped the scheme will be rolled out to offer further bursaries to more teens from across the county in future years.

But for the 2011 award, which will have Ali Clabburn, founder of Attleborough-based Liftshare as mentor, staff at Neatherd High School and Northgate High School in Dereham as well as Dereham Sixth Form College will each have to nominate five candidates for the award by April 8.

The winner of the first bursary will then be announced at the end of June/beginning of July before the students started their work experience in September.

Mr Freeman, who urged businesses to support the scheme so it could expand, said: 'Norfolk can be a tough place for youngsters seeking opportunities to get on.

'If we're serious about rebalancing the economy with a renaissance of British enterprise and more sustainable local economies, we need to be helping school leavers who are not academic and creating opportunities for them. We don't need to wait for a government strategy to do this – we all have a responsibility to the next generation.'

peter.walsh@archant.co.uk