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Charlie Mullins: Why I decided to judge the London Loves Talent Awards

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The Pimlico Plumbers boss on why nurturing talent is more important than ever

The other week I came across something that really impressed me from Prince Andrew, a Navy-trained helicopter pilot, and fellow member of the on-the-job training brigade.

The Duke of York was calling for greater respect for young people who train to be machinists, builders or technicians and that vocational skills deserve higher recognition.

Although the Duke is sometimes given a hard time by certain quarters of the media, I don’t think there is anyone out there who can disagree with his comments. In fact, it’s great that another high profile person has thrown their weight behind the value of vocational training.

For too long, vocational learning has been seen as a poor relation to the traditional academic route, which has been very detrimental to large parts of our economy.  

This was exacerbated by Tony Blair’s “Education, Education, Education” generation of “university at all costs”, which has left us facing considerable skills gaps in the near and medium-term future.

A couple of weeks ago I tagged along with my recruitment team to see what recruitment fairs are all about, and especially how they might be better put to use by Pimlico Plumbers to get the highly-motivated staff we are always looking for.

I was totally impressed by the enthusiasm of so many people who turned up and it reaffirmed my belief that this country does have a large group of people who are desperate to get into work rather than languish on benefits.

What did concern me was that, in general, the education many of these people had received didn’t provide them with practical skills or competencies that would have enabled employers to offer a wider scope of jobs.

This is why the support of people like Prince Andrew is essential to help increase the volume of noise from the vocational education lobby that not only wants practical training to be on a par with academic learning, but made a priority.

If the economy is to start building new foundations on what appears to be the first signs of fresh growth then it is going to need engineers, builders and, of course, plumbers, to build the roads, houses, power stations, wind farms, etc, that the country needs.

I am sure I am not alone among employers in thinking that the education system needs to churn out candidates more suited to our needs. This is why I think by recognising young talent, Prince Andrew’s Duke of York Award for Technical Education, is a step in the right direction. 

Based on his father’s well-established Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, the Prince Andrew version will issue certificates for a combination of vocational qualifications, work experience and skills such as problem-solving, team work and communications.

And for the same reason that I was taken with the Duke of York Awards I have thrown my support, and for what it’s worth, my judging skills, behind Tim Campbell’s groundbreaking London LovesTalent Awards. These awards, backed by LondonlovesBusiness.com, are designed to identify those organisations and individuals who, like Prince Andrew, are dedicated to nurturing talent, skills and leadership in their workforce.

Tim also wants to shine a spotlight on those business leaders who have, by recognising, seeking out or hanging on the very best talent, have made their businesses truly great.




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