Inspiring and helping care leavers to develop their own businesses

ambition: Sasha is hoping to set up her own 'sweet treats' bespoke van and pitched her idea in a Dragons' Den-style environment.
ambition: Sasha is hoping to set up her own 'sweet treats' bespoke van and pitched her idea in a Dragons' Den-style environment.
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As board members we tend to work more strategically than on the day to day operations at the LEP, but a few weeks ago some of us had an opportunity to become more involved.

Working with North Yorkshire County Council’s new Leaving Care Opportunities team and our Social Inclusion Officer, Jude Knight, myself and a few others took part in a Dragon’s Den style event to help inspire enterprising care leavers and youngsters like Sasha to set up their own businesses.

It is just one of the many ways our Skilled and Inspired People team here are trying to grow the economy and in this case, by helping our area develop a socially inclusive workforce in which everyone contributes and prospers from it.

For the local authority, it is an opportunity as corporate parents, to continue giving more guidance and support. For us, in our role unlocking the area’s economic growth, it is an opportunity to help grow our area’s businesses and share our expertise. I’ve been at the LEP for six years, and it was one of the most rewarding activities I’ve been involved in so far.

The story began when Sasha, a former North Yorkshire care leaver, turned to the county council for help. Sasha, who has a five-year-old son, Alfie, is hoping to set up her own “ultimate sweet-treats” bespoke van called Nula’s Fancies inspired by her gran. Sasha dreams of selling her homemade cakes, bakes, pastries and hot and cold drinks using local sources and organic products.

She has spent a long time putting together her business case. In the long run, she dreams of turning it into a franchise to help care leavers in the industry. A true inspiration.

In order to ensure everyone, irrespective of their background, is able to achieve their potential, there needs to be a change in employers’ culture and their “unconscious bias” to look beyond an individual’s personal challenges and focus on what can be achieved instead.

By doing so we can maximise this often overlooked pool of talent to benefit from the opportunities our growing economy offers and contribute to its continuing success. The time has come to act and do things differently.

Yorkshire and Humber does not fare well in the Social Mobility Commission’s report State of the Nation 2017. It finds that our region has below-average outcomes from early-years through to working lives, and the gap between social mobility hot-spots and cold-spots is widening. We have more work to do to ensure everyone in our communities has the chance to achieve their potential. For example, some enormous progress has been made creating opportunities in Scarborough, and the North Yorkshire Coast has been made one of 12 Opportunity Areas – a flagship £72m Government programme to target areas of the UK which face the greatest challenges in relation to social mobility.

The complex mix of factors that results in poor mobility requires a localised response. This forms the basis of our Social Inclusion Strategy and much of the motivation for this event.

As mentors, our role with the Dragons’ Den is to advise on the viability of the young people’s business ideas, support in their business planning and help apply for funding if required.

The tales from many of our small and micro businesses alone speak of the benefits of having mentors and reaching out into the community for support. Surely, it’s our joint responsibility to help these young people shine. The county council hopes the event will encourage other care leavers thinking of setting up their own business.

Employers being hit by skills shortage

The Chartered Institute of Personal Development has found that well over half of employers struggle to fill vacancies due to skills shortages.

Evidence suggests it affects all sectors, not just traditional areas like hospitality and logistics. Financial services for instance, experienced the sharpest rise in skills shortages of any sector last year.

The last Employer Skills Survey also shows that over two-thirds of employers struggling to fill vacancies experience a direct financial impact. Being more open-minded about who to recruit can help you overcome this.

The Industrial Strategy is a big focus for government currently, and social inclusion is a key priority within this. Here at the LEP we are work-ing hard on it as we update our local economic strategy.

Strong, highly articulate and passionate about her business, Sasha represents a massive pool of talent. Let’s do more to help people like Sasha to get involved.