We. Are. Very. Nearly. There.

No, I’m not talking about the football – I don’t think we ever quite arrived, sadly – but the General Election which is now mere days away. With an avalanche of debates (big hair), polling (is anyone safe), mudslinging (or was it concrete), and conjecture (take your pick), I shall refrain from adding my two pennies other than to say, credit to the French, whose parliamentary elections only take three weeks. 

As ever, the Jobs Foundation has been setting a brisk pace with a range of events focussed on entrepreneurialism, including our first live podcasting evening drinks with Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group (you can find a video teaser here). We also hosted Alison Cook MBE, the founder of Make It Your Business, who talked about why we need more female entrepreneurs and her pathway in forging a successful career.

In our ongoing tour of the country, speaking to business owners from companies of all sizes and all sectors, we went to Stockton-on-Tees where we were taken around the site of Pickering Lifts, a fifth-generation family business. As ever, seeing the entrepreneurship that powers the British economy, providing jobs as a route out of poverty for so many people, continues to inspire us.

Coming up in July, we have the launch of our first report, on Sheffield, looking into businesses and jobs in the city, followed by similar reports focussing on Loughborough and Hartlepool and Pembrokeshire. So, a busy summer ahead, feeding into the policy debate in the new parliament.

Also, to note, we have a packed events programme including a webinar with the Rt Hon Robert Halfon on Monday 15th July, discussing his skills revolution as former Minister of State for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education (do sign up here, if you haven’t already). 

Very best wishes,
Georgiana Bristol
CEO, Jobs Foundation

PS, here is what the major parties have to say about jobs and training if you do still have an appetite to learn more!

Charlie Gilkes live podcast

This month, the Jobs Foundation held its first live podcasting event, where we welcomed Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group, as our guest speaker. A day of firsts, the evening also marked our first partnered event, as we were fortunate to co-host the evening with 1 Club, a digital members club for current and future business leaders founded by Akshay Ruparelia.

During the interview, we listened to Charlie’s entrepreneurial story; from when he was at university and organising club nights for his friends, to now, where he stands as the co-founder of an award-winning hospitality group which boasts fourteen venues across London and employs over 500 individuals.

Charlie spoke with much insight when describing the key to the Inception Group’s success, reflecting that their commitment to providing ‘hospitality’, rather than ‘service’, has been instrumental. Charlie also acknowledged the need for business owners to sometimes step back from ventures that have proved less fruitful, noting that the lessons learnt from these experiences have often proved the most useful. 

Overall, the evening proved an exhilarating and inspiring window into the entrepreneurial mindset, and we are excited about hosting similar podcasting events in the future. An enormous thank you must be extended to both Charlie and Akshay, and we are very grateful to have them both on the Jobs Foundation Advisory Council. We are always on the lookout to feature successful entrepreneurs, so please do get in touch if you have any recommendations or ideas for future events of a similar nature.

Our visit to Pickerings Lifts, Stockton-on-Tees

This month saw the Jobs Foundation head to the North East of England again, this time to visit Pickerings Lifts in Stockton-on-Tees. While there, we met with Donald Fothergill, Chairman of the company, Kiran Fothergill, the Company Director, and Paul Brooks, the Managing Director. They took us on a tour of their HQ, which is one location of many for the company these days – while Pickerings Lifts was founded in Stockton and their head office remains there, they have sites across the UK, including a recent location that opened in Cardiff.

Pickerings Lifts is a 170-year-old family business, one which focuses on installation, servicing and maintenance of lifts, plus a more recently added mobility division. They also work with escalators.

While Pickerings Lifts would be interesting to the work of the Jobs Foundation just by dint of being such a solid business, they are also of note for the training and retaining of staff that they do. As Pickerings themselves say, “We train to retain”. There is a lift tower at the Stockton HQ to deliver product training, and they run a “Senior Leaders Apprenticeship Programme” to help promote from within. They are currently developing an internal mentoring strategy to strengthen the practical training they require, as well as to formally recognise the valuable contribution that mentors bring to the development of training apprentices.

It was a fantastic visit, a chance to see how business is a societal good in action once again. Plenty of interesting trips for the Jobs Foundation coming up this summer, including a trip to Thatchers Cider in Somerset. Stay tune

Our breakfast with Alison Cork MBE

In the latest of our series of breakfasts, we were happy to welcome Alison Cork MBE as a guest speaker. Alison has enjoyed a highly successful career as the founder of numerous businesses, including Alison at Home and Carnell Ltd, the latter making her the youngest female entrepreneur of a publicly quoted company.

Throughout her career, Alison has been a consistent advocate of female entrepreneurship, which she channeled into her founding of Make It Your Business, a nationwide network supporting and encouraging women to start their own business. Her services to female entrepreneurship were duly recognized, when she was awarded an MBE in 2023.

Alison discussed the ever-important topic of the environment for female entrepreneurship in Britain today. Describing how she caught the entrepreneurial bug early on, Alison delved into her extensive career history, and shed light on mental and physical benefits brought through business ownership. Resilience was central to this discussion, and she was candid about how her rejections and failures have only served to bolster this and fuel her ambition for success. Similarly, Alison spoke of the importance for entrepreneurs to have the stamina to withstand the turbulence of running a business and stressed the potency of the link between a healthy body and a healthy mind. This, Alison said, was pivotal to maintaining momentum in what can be an exhausting environment – something proven by the fact that she founded National Women’s Enterprise Week only last year.

Key to Alison’s talk was the suggestion that entrepreneurship needs to be cultivated in individuals early-on, by offering lessons in business leadership as early as primary school level. This, she noted, would not only instil in young people the confidence that they need to take risks, but would also teach them about the importance of, and normalise the prospect of, failure. Remarking on the lack of successful female entrepreneurs to look up to when she was founded her first business, Alison noted that by educating individuals, especially girls, earlier on, burgeoning female business leaders would have more mentors and guides to take inspiration from.

Our business person of the month: Sarah Martin, Hendy Group

The Hendy Group is an automotive group that operates on the south coast between Eastbourne and Exeter. Sarah is the Director of People and Organisational Development, responsible for designing the people strategy that develops, rewards and engages our talent and builds capability for the future.  

When Sarah joined Hendy five years ago, she wanted to get the right values and integrity into the company’s hiring practices, as well as encourage diversity into their workforce. They are looking to develop talent internally, more and more. Doing so has opened up opportunities for people searching for their first role – but also, for people who want to change careers. Hendy have a service targeted initiative called Switch which invites people from a range of backgrounds to be trained in vehicle preparation and smart repair which is proving to be successful.

Their apprenticeship programme is a three year one for service technicians, mostly populated by school or college leavers. These candidates not only become technicians, but the company offers apprenticeships in sales, marketing and other areas of the business. The overall learning curriculum supported by the Academy team does wonders for colleague morale, career progression, productivity and retention.

Read Sarah’s full story on here.