Let’s put Team Norfolk to work

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Here’s an anomaly. Surveys undertaken by Norfolk schools show that our young people are pessimistic about their future. At the same time, and although there are economic challenges, and some sectors are finding it very difficult, as a whole, Norfolk’s business community are quietly optimistic about the future.

I find that not just sad but unacceptable. Sad that our young people feel that way. Unacceptable because it appears we have a communication gap.

So the question is, how do we pass on that optimism about opportunities to Norfolk’s young people?

There’s a lot of talk about the links between education and business, and a new programme encouraging businesses to become voluntary Enterprise Advisers was launched this week. But what is business’ role?

I believe it’s simply to inspire our young people about the opportunities that are open to them. I say simply, but in reality this is going to be very challenging.  It’s going to take teamwork.

Ironically, given the ‘gap’, many schools are now run as businesses. (As a slight digression it’s a bizarre fact that, as businesses, many are grappling with considerable Apprentice Levy charges).

But it’s within schools that the ‘gap’ comes into sharper focus and the objectives become clearer. The education leaders in schools are the experts at how students are taught.  What the business community can do is add value by making real the reason our young people are learning.

Primarily that reason is to be able to become part of the workforce.  

That’s why we need need to equip them with a flexibility of skills. We need them to know that there are jobs which will enthuse them. Jobs that may not exist yet, such is the rate of change!

This is no longer a ‘nice to have’ agenda.  As a business community we need to give our time and problem solving ability to address it. As well as being important to the lives and wellbeing of our young people it makes good business sense. They are our future workforce.

Norfolk’s Education leaders within our schools, colleges, universities and our local authorities are open to finding ways to make this work. The Norfolk Chamber has taken up the mantle on behalf of the business community to help facilitate change. There’s a lot of good work already happening in schools, and many businesses are already giving time and expertise. But, I believe we have to do more, and do it more effectively.

So, this is a call to action. Be open to how you, and your organisation, can help.

I believe that even a small contribution of collective time from the business community can help motivate our young people, improve the county’s exam results, and support our education leaders and their staff. Most of all it can ensure that Norfolk’s young people understand their options and opportunities and are looking forward to the future.

We talk a lot about Team Norfolk. This is one objective that it can achieve. It’s where the team work comes in.

Let’s put Team Norfolk to work.

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