A new pilot project to encourage businesses to have greater involvement with local community groups across south Leeds has been launched by the Holbeck Urban Village, as part of a wider regeneration strategy for the area.
The pilot will be delivered by social enterprise Leeds Ahead, and is set to cover the themes of education, employment, enterprise, environment and community. The new initiative will broker relationships between businesses and community groups, schools and local residents, to establish a programme of enterprise awareness and business support.
The project is the result of an extensive consultation with south Leeds businesses, schools, community groups, residents and service providers. Research found that businesses were keen to become more involved in the local opportunities to share their skills and experience and that residents and school pupils were looking for support in developing business skills and acumen.
“The survey had clear commonality across all audiences,” comments Brian Ablett, programme manager for Holbeck Urban Village at Leeds City Council. “This scheme matches the services, training and development needs of businesses with the educational, employment and business needs of schools, community groups and residents across South Leeds.”
There are a range of activities including one-to-one business mentoring and career advice for individuals, business coaching for new start-ups from established entrepreneurs, CV workshops, work experience visits for schools, and working with school leavers to develop interview and practical skills for the world of work.
The pilot scheme also extends to business volunteers providing a tutoring and supporting role to school children who struggle with numeracy and literacy.
Alister Bould, Senior Associate at the law firm Pinsent Masons has taken part in a schools mentoring scheme for the last five years: “Pupils taking part in the scheme not only get the benefit of a dedicated tuition but they also become accustomed to a working environment. We have worked with students from Cockburn College of Arts for a number of years now and when the project first started their GCSE pass rate was 17%. Due to a combination of hard work from the teaching staff and programmes like this the school now has a 70% pass rate at GCSE level.”
For the businesses operating the volunteer programme, staff are given the opportunity to take part for their own training and development and can often use the programme as evidence of their commitment to continued professional development.
John Waterhouse, Operations Director at Leeds Ahead will be co-ordinating the pilot on behalf of Holbeck Urban Village: “Many people think of allotment clean ups and painting community centres when they think of corporate social responsibility policies. While these activities are valuable and the work we do does include these options we run programmes that have a much longer-term benefit to the community.”
“This pilot aims to raise aspirations of children from a very young age, giving them additional skills and support which may ultimately lead to better employment prospects.”
The pilot will continue to run until the end of September 2010 when an evaluation will be conducted to determine if the approach should be applied across the city.
For more information about the pilot scheme and the different options for businesses and community groups please contact Shelley Riley, Business Broker at Leeds Ahead on (0113) 246 7877.