On Thursday, October 6th I chaired Girlings first Directors’ Dining Club at Eastwell Manor. Being a senior business leader can be a lonely place. Often as a business owner, CEO, CFO or a member of the senior executive team you will have been carrying your responsibilities without a lot of support for the difficult decisions you have to make. This event gave a group of senior business men and women based in Kent the chance not only to meet socially but also, importantly, to discuss their business issues in a convivial environment under ‘Chatham House’ rules, secure in the knowledge that they could build relationships and share issues confidentially.
As a corporate lawyer and also a non-executive director myself one of the key themes really resonated with me – the pressure of finding suitable staff, particularly for technical roles. We had a number of guests with business interests in car dealerships. One commented that they found it really hard to encourage young people into their industry as mechanics. These are well paid jobs – you can earn £40-45,000 as a skilled car mechanic in the automotive industry. The businessman concerned is one who invests significantly in developing skills, including offering apprenticeships. But he was finding little interest among school leavers. Given the earning potential this surely can’t be about the money! We all recognised that this problem in part reflected the continuing cultural problem we as a country seem to have in preparing people for and valuing technical roles.
As well as ‘talking business’ we also heard from Andy Corley, the CEO of Prison Fellowship International, which supports prisoners through national fellowships throughout the world, even running prisons in some countries. We were delighted to contribute an impromptu collection to the work of the charity. Hearing about this type of work really makes you value your own good fortune – and it was good to hear from one of our guests that they have as a business worked in rehabilitating offenders by training them with technical skills. It is something Timpson, the high street shoe repair business has done incredibly successfully over the years, and perhaps serves as a reminder that we should look in non-typical places for those missing technical recruits. In an era where diversity in career choices is encouraged, perhaps schools careers services should focus on supporting greater gender diversity for technical and engineering roles? I am sure some of our guests would be delighted to be asked to speak at careers evenings in girls as well as boys schools across the county!
So food for thought – and a really stimulating evening
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