When Parliament is not sitting, I get the chance to visit local businesses and services and talk with them about what they are doing. It is often highly enjoyable. A few weeks ago I visited Newham College and was very impressed by what I saw and heard. How much it had changed since I went there very many years ago.
There can be no doubt that a modern, skilled workforce lies at the heart of a successful economy. The borough needs to improve the skills of its residents to ensure we can maximise the gains for our borough from Olympic developments and business growth throughout London.
To make sure Newham doesn’t miss the jobs boat for ourselves and our children we need to wake up to the importance of training, and provide the places needed to make sure we can meet the skills gaps that businesses need, today and in the future. A third of Londoners are out of work, and a new report from the London Skills and Employment Board says that 1.9m Londoners do not have even the most basic skills in reading and writing.
Newham College offers a wide range of activities, from language skills, computers literacy, and merchandising and marketing skills. Core skills are crucial if the people of this borough are to cash in on new jobs available from businesses in London, and encourage them to hire local staff rather than just bring in outside staff with them.
New learning programmes have been developed by the College to encourage women entrepreneurs and Asian businesses, in addition to the UK’s first bespoke tailoring apprenticeship course, developed in partnership with a tailor from Saville Row.
Future work for the College will focus on developing tailor-made courses to meet local skills gaps and towards creating new and innovative resources to meet the East London economic and social agenda.
In Newham College’s specialist Centre for Innovation and Partnerships (CIPs), there is a Train to Gain programme, a national skills scheme that helps employers train their staff.
Companies like ISS Cleaning Services have been keen to sign up to staff training to improve the skills of the workforce and the competitiveness of their business. The company accepted that the out-of-hours working patterns of their staff meant that the night shift was missing out on learning opportunities – so after a conversation with Newham College a night shift course was provided. 65 people are currently under-taking an NVQ level 2 in Cleaning Services during the night, 10pm-6am, on location in Canary Wharf. This is not something I would find at all easy, teaching in the small wee hours of the morning. The tutors deserve a medal.
For her work to create opportunities such as this, CIPs’ Director Di Gowland was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2005.
Di and the “night shift” workers are examples of people making an enormous difference to our community, and it is people like them I would like to recognised in our national Everyday Heroes Day.
Two weeks ago I launched my appeal for you to nominate those quiet citizens whose work really makes a difference by nominating them for an award, the men and women, like Di, and the others who make personal sacrifices and are at the forefront of change but seldom in the public spotlight.
If you know an everyday hero down your street, in your local club or charity that deserves to be recognised and their work celebrated, and want to nominate them, get in touch with my office.