Rebalancing Act

I had dinner last night at The Hilton Hotel – cooked rather well by students from NCN. Amongst those on the table were Councillor Nick McDonald from Nottingham City Council and Graham Allen MP for Nottingham North.


The topic of conversation was the imbalance in Nottingham between the (relative) well-off South and the poor North. This may be too simplistic a headline – but the geography tells different stories.

Graham’s constituency is seemingly in the lowest 10 in the UK – in terms of teenage pregnancy, unemployment and social deprivation. Some of the constituents are third generation “out of work”.

It is easy to forget that across a large City like Nottingham that there is a wide variance in fortunes. We do tend to forget this when we see the good things (many of which I have blogged about here). There are some areas of desperation.

Graham and Nick are championing how we rebalance the local economy. It is no easy task – the loss of some of the major manufacturing and employers (coal, Raleigh, Imperial Tobacco and others) is still being felt 30 years after some of these changes occurred.

I am not sure that we have easy answers. It is going to take a long time – but ‘education’ was clearly one area where we all felt some change could be made. Getting kids to school and then to College is part of that process. But is also important that we train kids with skills they can use. We need to stop teaching them all ‘Geography’! (Sorry Geography teachers everywhere – you know I don’t mean that literally!). They need Maths and English. And life-skills.

I was blind to the suggestion that some of this generation of kids in some of these communities are not even contemplating ‘work’. That we have to fix.

The future looks bright

All to often we read headlines about the ‘lost generation’ of young people. There are estimated to be over 1 million 16-24 year old NEETS (not in employment, education or training). In the current climate the prospects are not good for them. It’s a true fact that it is easier to get a job when you have a job.

Sat Bains - watch out!

Last week I was at a Dinner where I heard an inspirational talk by Michel Hyman – an entrepreneur who has helped set up StartUp Britain. You can read about the organisation here on their web site. But in essence they are an organisation set up by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. The intention is to try and harness the talented people around. The object is not to take jobs but make jobs…

Michael talked about the future – citing Shakespeare’s idea that it was un ‘undiscovered Country’. It should be regarded as something to look forward to! We should enjoy the challenge.

But there were some other more down-to-earth points. I full agree with these. Success is about doers and grafters. Making progress in business and life requires some effort. Sadly no one gives you anything for free. Lottery winners are few and far between.

One of the young speakers at the Dinner was a restaurant manager from La Rock – a local restaurant. Matt Roe is 21 years old and spoke eloquently about his apprenticeship. I spoke to him afterwards and asked him what his ambition was. He wants to be the next Sat Bains. I was impressed!

The only fly in the ointment was that Matt had told his teachers that he wasn’t going to University – he didn’t feel it was for him. The reaction, in my view, was appalling – most teachers thought it a ‘waste’ and some rolled their eyes. We need to get away from this notion that everyone should go to University. It isn’t for everyone.

I was heartened to hear some great stories of some of these young people. It looks pretty bright up front there to me!