East Anglia: New Anglia Next Generation conference to highlight role of firms in raising aspirations of the young

Paul Drechsler will be the keynote speaker at the New Anglia Next Generation conference where he wil

Paul Drechsler will be the keynote speaker at the New Anglia Next Generation conference where he will underline the need for businesses work together to improve opportunities for young people - Credit: Archant

Businesses across Suffolk and Norfolk can play a huge part in raising the aspirations of young people to help put them on to a successful career path ? that is the key message set to be underlined today at a major conference focusing on how to raise skills levels among the workforce and particularly young people.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk, and Will King, the Lowestoft entrepreneur who founded King of Shaves, will be among those speaking at the New Anglia LEP’s Next Generation Conference, where LEP chairman Andy Wood is set to unveil a skills manifesto for the two counties.

Also speaking is Paul Drechsler, chief executive of Wates plc, and chairman of business in the community, who said that firms have a huge part to play working alongside teachers and government.

“There are 1.8million children at least in the UK living in workless households where neither parents work,” he said. “If you look at the poorest families, 29pc of the children are never read to by their parents. Clearly as parents we can make a difference. I go into a lot of schools and I see teachers doing a fantastic job, providing they have got a co-hort of children with aspirations.”

He said while many businesses worked with schools, there needed to be a more strategic approach so that both sides could actually gain something tangible from the experience.

“People in business can do a huge amount to raise those aspirations,” he added. “If we can do that, then talented teachers can do the rest. The good thing about Norfolk and Suffolk is that people want to, and that is a great starting point.”

Today’s event, at Wherstead Park, Ipswich, is a sell-out and Mr Drechsler said he was impressed by the commitment being shown to the issue by business leaders.

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“It’s hugely about leadership in the Anglia region. You have got Andy Wood and other business leaders who are clearly collaborating through the Lep and more widely saying we can make a difference and we want to make a difference.

“That’s the crucial first step, but you can’t do it by yourselves. Teachers can’t do it by themselves, and the government cannot do it - but we can through collaboration. My sense is that Anlgia is a place where you are about to demonstrate this.”