HRH The Prince of Wales saw first-hand the powerful impact employers, including Capgemini, are having in local areas across England, at a reception in central London in March. The event was organised to celebrate the Business Connectors scheme, a pioneering Business in the Community programme that has brought support worth £17.6 million into deprived communities.
Business Connectors are talented individuals, seconded from business and the civil service, that are placed in some of the most deprived areas across the UK to build partnerships that tackle local issues. The Prince met 60 Business Connectors from across the UK, including Alex Cole from Capgemini.
Supporting Brixton's community
A year ago, Alex stepped away from his role as Senior Transition Manager for Infrastructure Services to become Capgemini’s first Business Connector. His goal was to make a difference to the community from which he came.
He commented: “I have enjoyed an emotional, motivating, and truly transformational journey during my year working in Lambeth, and I have been fortunate enough to be involved with many worthwhile organisations and initiatives.
“After successfully representing Capgemini at the Race for Opportunity event for unemployed Black and Minority Ethnic 18-25 year olds, Capgemini UK Chairman Christine Hodgson’s initial challenge to me to try and create something sustainable, impactful and relevant inspired me to continue to work with DWP at Brixton Jobcentre. I wanted to create an employability programme designed specifically to support the transition into work of those who are living in the most deprived wards and hardest to reach cohorts such as BAME, 50+, Lone Parents and Work Programme Completers.
“The programme I co-created is called Digisheds. It has delivered 15 job outcomes for long-term unemployed claimants within five months. We are currently scaling the initiative in three further jobcentres in South London, with a three-year target to develop 30 Digisheds hubs across the UK, creating 300 job outcomes annually per site and working with 3,000 accredited employer volunteers.”
Successes of the Business Connectors scheme
Since 2011 there have been 140 business connectors in 83 areas, from 41 seconding organisations who have supported community organisations on almost 5000 separate occasions. Business Connectors have transformed the ability of 85% of community organisations to deliver a better quality services.
Stephen Howard, Chief Executive of Business in the Community, said: “Over the past 30 years, The Prince of Wales has been the driving force behind businesses of all sizes taking action to make society better. He has always advocated the need for practical action on the ground to make a real and sustained difference in communities. Business Connectors is bringing valuable skills and resource into areas of need. At the same time, we know there is more to be done to create widespread business - community collaboration in deprived areas. We encourage business and third sector organisations to look at what is being achieved through this programme and consider how they too can play their part.”
Business in the Community aims to recruit and support Business Connectors to work in over 200 disadvantaged areas over 5 years. Visit http://www.bitc.org.uk/programmes/business-connectors to find out more about the scheme.