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Ask the Panel: Can all businesses truly support North West’s future talent?

Ask the Panel: Can all businesses truly support North West’s future talent?

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s ‘Educating the North’ report recently called on “every northern business to mentor or otherwise meaningfully reach out on careers and enterprise skills” to help bridge the education and skills gap between London and the North. With this in mind, we’re asking experts:

How feasible is it for businesses of all sizes to help give genuine careers support and enhance the North West’s future talent pool?

> Related | ‘Educating the North’ report calls on businesses to help close the skills gap


Emma Degg
chief executive, North West Business Leadership Team

Last year the North West Business Leadership Team, in partnership with the Institute of Directors and CBI (Confederation of British Industry), published a charter calling for businesses to become even more involved in influencing, resourcing and engaging with the skills agenda.

The evidence is clear – every meaningful engagement with business makes a difference to the future life chances of young people.

A significant amount of effort is already going on, but we need to really scale this up and work together more coherently if we are going to make the step change needed.

It is, of course, much easier for larger businesses to become involved, and one of our challenges is to seek to find ways to make it much more straightforward for SMEs to do the same.

Whether it is offering work experience, taking on an apprentice or helping to support the local school, businesses large and small really can make a difference.


Phil Adams
corporate tax manager at Langtons and chair of Merseyside Young Professionals

Benjamin Franklin said ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn’.

This proposal is a step in the right direction but in its current form, whereby one person is mentored for every one staff member a business has, just isn’t feasible.

My clients – SMEs with multiple mouths to feed and plates to spin – already feel hindered by excessive red tape and bureaucracy and believe – relatively – that they pay more tax than multi-nationals. This would be another drain on resources and evidence of an ‘unlevel’ playing field.

Clearly, inactivity is not an option: SMEs account for 60% of private sector employment and have a duty to assist.

The apprenticeship scheme has garnered positive results thus far – incentivising SMEs in a similar fashion and helping them deliver strong, structured learning experiences could make this plan succeed.

This initiative is worthy. But it must also be workable.


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Sarah Seasman
senior quantity surveyor at Faithful+Gould and chair of RICS Matrics Liverpool and Cheshire

With skills shortages across a number of industries regularly being highlighted it’s vital that businesses of all sizes provide careers support, not just for their own benefit but to help enhance the North West’s talent pool.

My employer, the SNC-Lavalin group’s Faithful+Gould, shows it’s feasible for a large business to provide not only continuous career support but to promote our industry as an exciting career, identifying and nurturing talent that will benefit the whole region. Recently we hosted a school open day highlighting construction as a career and we regularly engage with STEM work at junior schools.

A more personal and tailored approach to development, including mentoring and exposure to different projects and clients, is also used by employers of all sizes in our industry to support career progression.

There are development opportunities outside of the workplace too in the form of industry support networks and groups which employers should encourage their staff to utilise, helping them to progress and increase their contacts.

As much as employers of all sizes can and should provide careers support to retain and attract talented professionals, all employees should look at what support and development opportunities there are outside of the workplace as this combined effort would help enhance the region’s future talent pool.


Greg Sheen
chief executive, 360vu

Building a career is more than providing an opportunity to work within a ‘successful’ company.

Often it appears that executives in ‘successful’ companies hire talent with the notion of ‘you’ll go far, with us on your CV’.

But is that enough? No, growing start-ups and longstanding successful businesses must refocus what career actually means.

Building careers must begin with building the ‘person’. In order to achieve this, it is important that executives and managers consciously share their experiences and impart skills into talent, especially young professionals.

It is impressed upon the role of today’s manager to develop a coaching and mentoring style of relationship with their staff. This takes listening to staff, learning about their backgrounds and then shaping them in line with the business’ vision.

We can make a sustainable difference in the North West talent pool by encouraging executives to listen, learn and shape talent – consciously.