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Seeing the light come on

16 April 2019

Canonbury, a leading supplier of foot health products, joined SEMLEP’s Enterprise Adviser Network 18-months ago and has worked with Northamptonshire schools since.

“What are you doing to make a difference?”

Simon Wheeler, CEO and Managing Director of Canonbury Products Ltd. was at a conference when he decided to join the Enterprise Adviser Network.

“At the conference a CEO from a large engineering company was speaking about the difficulties their business is facing with the lack of relevant skills in young people. My question to him was, ‘What are you doing about it?’ His answer was, ‘It’s not my responsibility’… His response made me think, why are businesses relying on other people to work with students when we know what we want?”

“It has always disappointed me when I see youngsters coming to interviews or starting work who are completely unprepared. Some students don’t have any understanding of how to get a job. I believe it’s our responsibility as local businesses to ensure our future workforce are taught about the world of work.”

“Seeing the light come on”

Simon has worked alongside local schools to deliver a range of careers-based activities. These include careers talks, interviews, CV writing skills and general presentations about the reality of the world of work.

“When delivering these activities, I always look out for the student that the teacher will warn you about and make a beeline for them. I have found that these students just want some attention. When they see that someone cares about what they have to say, and are interested, they come to life.”

“From working with schools, I have found that I really enjoy working with students, even the difficult ones. I now know that there are some really good people in schools trying hard to do some really good things, despite being faced with numerous obstacles. I passionately believe in inspiring the workforce of tomorrow. Our work can shape those young people’s futures, and that’s something I want to be a part of.

“I’m there to make a difference and I’ll do that to the best of my ability”

Since working with schools, Simon has taken time to reflect on his own business.

“Working with these schools gets me out of the business long enough to actually reflect on the business. It gives me the opportunity to stop working ‘in’ the business, and challenge different aspects by taking a step back.”

What would your advice be for another SME thinking of giving an hour?

“Do it. Embrace it. Don’t expect it to be an easy ride, expect it to challenge your expectations, your beliefs and at times your patience. Ultimately, this is about the future of your business, your industry and your country. These students are the workforce of tomorrow. We need to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

Give an hour

Benefit your future workforce by giving an hour.

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