You know it’s going to be an interesting night when the Mayor of Greater Manchester stands up and says: “We live in a qualification obsessed environment. Schools are treated like exam factories!”.
At the recent Bury Means Business seminar, there was a whole host of business and community leaders speaking candidly on the relationship between employment and education.
Prominent figures were present, from the local education, business and political backgrounds. Bolton University and Bury College representatives were there, Dream Agility’s CEO, Elizabeth Clark, was on hand to offer a business perspective, and of course, Andy Burnham. His presence offered gravitas and emphasised the evening's importance.
With the entire discussion taking place at the Elizabethan Suite in Bury Town Hall, the night was largely focused on local issues and was organised by the Bury Business Leadership Group, Bury Council, CLES and the GMCA.
From the outset, there was a refreshing sense of real purpose. Forthright opinions were expressed on the prevailing issues that underpin many of the region’s frustrations, with the gauntlet immediately being thrown down by the jovial Mr Burnham:
"Sorry I’m late, traffic was awful. If only I knew someone who could do something about it!".
Enthusiastic laugher rippled throughout the hall, reflective of how informed this audience were about the local region. This moment effectively highlighted the true communal spirit in the room. A feeling that was to typify the optimistic and productive evening.
Burnham went on to talk more specifically, exploring the theme of skill shortages in the local work place. He highlighted the ‘snobbery’ that still pervades our culture, and its ability to put young people off pursuing vocational over academic careers. Another issue raised was the rising transport costs - for young people looking to get into work.
After the speech the master of ceremonies, Neil McInroy (CEO of the Centre of Local Economic Strategies), introduced a series of short speeches, given by members of the panel. Each talk neatly tied back into the main issue: how a reformed education and skills system needs employers at its heart.
As CEO of Advertising Technology company, Dream Agility, Elizabeth Clark’s contribution to the discussion offered a valid insight. Approaching the subject from a business perspective, relevant observations were raised, particularly given Bury’s impressive number of start up’s, which have consistently accumulated.
In a relatively short period of time, the tech start-up company has established itself as a fast growing innovator, whilst consistently remaining in the heart of Ramsbottom.
The company specialises in helping online retailers increase sales through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Initially, Elizabeth acknowledged that this was potentially a complex service, yet it was communicated with such clarity and enthusiasm that it became hard not to comprehend. Her presentation showed an infectious passion for her company and the community in which it resides.
The entreprenuer went onto state the companies specific relevance to the evening. Stating that, despite being a start up in Ramsbottom (‘Silicon Rammy’), it already has a global reach ‘Paris, Australia, US, Seoul’. The company is also the fastest growing agency in Australia ‘without us ever having set foot there’.
This clearly proves that, in the digital age, apprenticeship budgets and the education system does not need to have such a limited focus. It does not need to place so much emphasis on huge economic areas such as Manchester centre. Greater Manchester, as a whole, has the potential to offer so much more to future generations.
For many of those present, Bury means Business wasn’t just a personal networking event, but a way for everybody to unite and enforce change. This sentiment was at the heart of Elizabeth’s presentation. A strong advocate for the Hire an Apprenticeship schemes, her speech culminated in a rallying cry to other Tech companies:
"If they came together and put the government under pressure then we can change the shape of education and how kids get into the work place without huge student debt".
Contrary to the seminars and speaking events which often build to little consequence, the night ended with inspirational and personal reflections from a senior teacher, compounding the sense that the evening should, indeed, yield meaningful actions.
Hopefully this will mark the moment that real steps will being taken to, as Neil McInroy put it:
“Create a greater affiliation between business and public policy”.
Dream Agility offers award-winning, machine learning and cloud based, software for optimizing online advertising. Giving faster, better, results in a shorter time.