The region’s biggest business representation organisation is taking steps to close part of the skills gap.

In line with its enhanced vision to ‘demonstrate and develop links between successful businesses and thriving local communities’, this award-winning Chamber is offering free membership to secondary schools across three counties.

About 180 schools in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire could be eligible for free, entry-level membership of the Chamber under its new Education and Business Partnership.

The initiative, which is an enhancement to existing activity across the region, will formally launch at the Chamber’s Employability and Skills Summit next month (July).

It will give any school offering secondary education direct access to businesses through a dedicated schools forum, an annual skills conference, regional policy conferences, sector forums, other policy events and discounted access to commercial training courses.

Pieter Eksteen, the Chamber’s Education Business Partnership Manager, said: “It is important for young people to have access to quality experiences in order to prepare them for the opportunities, experiences and challenges that the future world of work offers.

“The Chamber is passionate about helping secondary schools engage with businesses to inspire young people and ensure that businesses have access to a strong and diverse pool of young talent.”

Surveys carried out by the Chamber repeatedly flag up the gap between what employers want from school leavers and the skills they offer, a disparity which has proved a barrier to growth for many years.

Employers also regularly cite a shortage of skilled labour for more senior vacancies for curtailing growth plans. The results of the Chamber’s first Quarterly Economic Survey of 2019 showed that 60% of employers had difficulty recruiting.

The Employability and Skills Summit, sponsored by RDS – tailored network, IT support, cloud, hardware and consultancy services provider, of Leicester – will focus on two main themes:

· bridging the gap – improving the link between education and employers, and

· how to deliver the workforce employers in the East Midlands demand.

Through a number of keynote presentations, panel discussions and workshops the Summit will explore the implications of the survey findings and try to identify further solutions to what has become a perennial problem.

Speakers will include Dr Elnaz T Kashefpakdel – Head of Education and Employer’s Research, Dr Deirdre Hughes – a senior consultant and Government adviser specialising in careers, employment and skills policies, research and practice at national and international level, Marion Plant – Principal and CEO at North Warwickshire & South Leicestershire College and CEO of the Midland Academies Trust.

Andy Flinn, CEO at RDS, and Charlotte Gray, Learning and Development Coordinator at RDS, will talk about how the company can help businesses engage with the education sector . Mark Warrilow, Skills Manager at HS2 will discuss how a large infrastructure project plans for attracting and developing the necessary skills.

Panel discussions will look at how employers and education can work more closely together and how to engage people furthest removed from the workplace.

Workshops will include the smart working revolution, education and skills funding, inspiring governance, managing employees in a shrinking world, engaging with education and training, skills for the future, higher-level apprenticeships, exemplar business practice, engaging your workforce at an early age through Primary Futures and Learn By Design and developing a modern recruitment strategy.

The Employability and Skills Summit takes place Loughborough University’s West Park Teaching Hub, Loughborough, from 8.30am to 1.30pm on 9 July. For more information or to book a place visit the Chamber’s website at

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