Home Business NewsBusiness Lord Mayor Roger Gifford: Helping society also helps businesses develop

Lord Mayor Roger Gifford: Helping society also helps businesses develop

23rd Oct 13 7:30 pm

And SMEs can create feel the benefits just as much as larger companies

Alderman Roger Gifford is the Lord Mayor of the City of London

Over the past decade, the way in which businesses help society has transformed from cash donations to schemes which focus on hands-on training for employment.

Businesses have woken up to the fact that, no matter how small their staff count is, they can still contribute significantly to the communities around them.

There are a myriad of ways this can be done: engaging with ‘NEETs’ (those Not in Education, Employment or Training); instilling a solid work ethic in the young people on their doorstep; or opening their doors to those living on the capital’s streets to offer them new skills.

In these ways businesses are training those who may otherwise have slipped through the net. Importantly, those helped can then contribute to the capital’s economy as self-sustaining citizens.

Helping the community can bring huge rewards for the businesses themselves, helping to increase staff morale, as well as widening procurement options.

Three years ago, the five-star Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel, based in the heart of the capital, began donating towels and toiletries to Providence Row, an East London-based homeless charity.

Since then, the partnership has flourished into one which involves clients of Providence Row going into the Andaz kitchen to attend cooking workshops and to train as chefs.

The chefs’ own mentoring abilities have been honed by working with those who may have poor literacy and numeracy skills or mental health issues, enabling them to become empathetic team workers and building a strong culture of community engagement and volunteering at the hotel.

The hotel has seen a rise in employees volunteering for the programme – from nine staff in 2012 to 30 in 2013. The hotel now has approximately 30% of its employees involved in the programme.

For SMEs, a strong CSR scheme can bring reputational rewards and help to secure contracts for the company – as demonstrated by the family-owned K&M McLoughin Decorating Ltd.

K&M’s pre-apprenticeship programme focuses on the employability of its trainees to ensure they are work-ready, based on managing director Kevin McLoughlin’s insight into the lack of work-ready apprentices coming out of various courses and certifications.

The programme is designed to support the students and teach them key practical skills while also preparing them for the attitudinal adjustments that employment requires.

It has resulted in a significant increase in the profile of K&M McLoughlin Decorating Ltd. Now the firm works closely with local councils and government offices to support and promote training programmes.

This enhanced reputation and network has helped to secure many prestigious contracts – including Fulham Palace, the British Museum, the Houses of Parliament and The Savoy Hotel.

Building services firm Purdy has seen their own apprenticeship scheme – The Purdy Futures programme – result in a lower turnover of staff. The scheme is focused on supporting disadvantaged young people into sustainable careers within the building sector, and was created by the management team as a way to recruit employees of the future.

Purdy’s large team of directly-employed engineers is unique within an industry that often subcontracts rather than employs individuals. Its low staff turnover rate (at 2-3%) is a result of ongoing investment in these apprenticeships and staff development.

Each of these SMEs have recently demonstrated that smaller businesses can hold their own against big city organisations, by receiving three out of seven awards at the annual Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, staged at the Mansion House.

Established 26 years ago by the City of London Corporation, the Dragon Awards are the longest running awards that recognise excellence in corporate community engagement programmes.

The Andaz Hotel received the SME Social Inclusion Award; K&M McLoughlin was given the Heart of the City Award and Purdy won the Economic Regeneration category for their work providing training to the capital’s ‘lost apprentices’ – those who, perhaps without their support, would be lost to society due to challenging circumstances.

We now need more companies to become involved in helping even more ‘Lost Apprentices’, to maximise the talent pool available to London businesses. To find out more about how you can provide apprenticeships, work placements and entry level jobs, please contact [email protected].

As the SME winners this year have clearly demonstrated, the benefits of getting involved are real and measurable.

Alderman Roger Gifford is the Lord Mayor of the City of London

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