From education to employment

Business in the Community’s Seeing is Believing programme demonstrates the power of business action in transforming communities

Business in the Community (BITC), The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, has today published a report detailing the impact of The Prince’s Seeing is Believing (SIB) visits held in communities across the UK throughout 2022.

As part of the programme, BITC took over 60 business leaders to visit community organisations, youth hubs and schools in Bradford, Coventry, Norwich, and Rochdale. [1] 

Business leaders who led a SIB visit this year include John Allan CBE, Chair of Tesco plc and Barratt Developments; Peter Simpson, Chief Executive of Anglian Water Group; Allan Leighton, Chairman of The Co-operative Group and Alison Rose, Chief Executive of NatWest Group; with local support from Richard Hodgson, Operations Director, Footsylum; Steve Hughes, CEO, Coventry Building Society; Sir David Wootton, Chair of the Bradford Place Steering Group and Andrew Dernie, Claims Demand and Performance Lead, Aviva. Business leaders heard from SMEs, community groups and residents on how the rising cost of living is impacting communities and the barriers facing those trying to gain employment.

The key themes that came up over the four visits include the structural changes needed to address access to work including affordable childcare, business support for foodbanks that are experiencing unprecedented demand, business-led partnerships with education providers are essential and employers must make themselves more available to job seekers. Recent data published from the Census shows that more than 55% of households in Bradford, Coventry, Norwich, and Rochdale are deprived. [2] Deprivation is calculated by looking at the quality of housing and a household’s access to education and health and employment status.

In the places where BITC works:

  • Six in 10 households in Bradford and Rochdale are deprived in one or more dimensions, compared to five in 10 households in England.
  • In Blackpool, where BITC will run a SIB visit in 2023, 61.8% of households are deprived.
  • 55% of households in Coventry and Norwich are also deprived.
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To help address the issues that business leaders see on a SIB visit, the programme demands immediate and long-term business action to support those communities that need it.

Outcomes from the 2022 SIB visits include:

  • In Bradford, BITC is working with the Founder of the Bradford Literary Festival and other charity partners to conduct a review of literacy levels in schools in Keighley. This review will make a series of recommendations to support improvements in literacy levels amongst primary school-age children in the area.
  • In Coventry, BITC connected Foleshill Community Centre and Social Supermarket with Salesforce, Coventry Building Society and Linklaters. Following the visit, funding from these businesses allowed the Centre to improve its kitchen facilities, extend existing space and create an on-site café to generate income and offer services to people in need.
  • In Norwich, businesses worked with the Norwich City College MINT, an employment programme for people aged 16-25, to support young disabled people with job opportunities and work placements.
  • In Rochdale, KPMG has developed a mentoring programme for care leavers, providing volunteers to support vulnerable young people who often lack role models as they transition into adulthood. This programme aims to help care leavers stay in education and support their efforts toward careers and job opportunities.

With the support of Salesforce, the SIB programme will continue over the next three years with BITC calling for 250 new business leaders to sign up and attend a visit. [3] In 2023, SIB visits will take place in Blackpool, Coventry, London, Newport and Sheffield.

Amanda Mackenzie OBE, Chief Executive of Business in the Community, said: 

“The collective impact business leaders can have when they bring their experience hearts and mind together is second to none. Seeing is Believing does just that to help tackle some of the biggest issues facing our communities in the towns that need most help. Every leader should make it their mission to participate.”

Zahra Bahrololoumi, Chief Executive of Salesforce UK and Ireland, said:

“I’m delighted that Salesforce is supporting BITC’s Seeing is Believing programme for the next three years. I was lucky enough to attend a SIB visit to Coventry earlier this year, and I saw first-hand the power of bringing business leaders together to hear about the critical issues impacting people within our local communities and to understand what we can do to provide meaningful support. This is a powerful program that drives real action and impact at the heart of committees that are most in need and I’m proud to be part of it.”

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