September 23 2014 Latest news:
Shaun Lowthorpe, Business editor
Friday, February 7, 2014
Businesses were today urged to help play a leading role in raising the aspirations of young people in Norfolk and improving levels of educational attainment.
Nearly 200 businessmen and women attended a Norfolk Chamber event with MPs aimed at helping to put the county on the map.
Caroline Williams, chamber chief executive told the session that the county as a whole suffers from “Norfolk’ lack of visibility” and businesses were determined to play a part to help put Norfolk on the map.
Among the issues raised were poor broadband connections, infrastructure and red tape.
But skills and agenda appeared top of the agenda for the parliamentarians and the session heard that tackling the county’s poor educational performance was one of the key challenges facing Norfolk.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb threw the gauntlet down to businesses urging them to help take a leading role in raising standards.
“If we are to make this a great and successful county, we have to do so much better at education,” he said. “There are lots of really exciting things happening but 46pc of our youngsters in this county at the age of 16 do not get 5 GCSEs including in maths and English.
“That’s a scandal and we need to change that. We want to be really ambitious to make Norfolk a real success.
“Let’s take control of our destiny - it will involve a real collaboration between the business community and the public sector.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, education and childcare minister, said businesses had a key role to play.
“We can raise aspirations and make this county a leading centre for education,” she said.
However during a question and answer session the MPs were told that many businesses worried that too many youngsters lacked basic skills making them unready for work, from knowing how to behave during an interview to how to shake hands.
Thetford businessman Richard Bridgman who last year abandoned plans to open an apprenticeship academy in the town after becoming fed up with red tape also bemoaned slow decision-making processes within Whitehall.
“You keep talking about skills, but I have been trying to start an apprentices school in Thetford for ages. I would love to have civil servants here, you keep pointing me towards them, but they are taking months, why when you ask them to do something does it take so long?”