Businesses 'must have input' in Blackpool scheme to boost education and opportunity

Gary Lovatt
Gary Lovatt

Small businesses must be heavily involved if a scheme to boost education and give all Blackpool youngsters a chance at a decent career is to be successful, a local business leader has said.

Gary Lovatt, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses Lancashire and Cumbria, said it was critical that employers were on the board of the Blackpool Opportunity Area which last week revealed plans to drive up standards and improve opportunities for youngsters in the resort.

The new plan sets out three priorities for Blackpool: raising attainment and progress in schools; supporting vulnerable children and families to boost attendance; and improving advice for young people moving between schools and into work.

He said: “The Blackpool Opportunity Area marks a promising chance to facilitate improved links between our young people and small firms. We know that small businesses could create one million more apprenticeships across the country with the right support – the appetite is definitely there.

“UK small businesses are already great engines of social mobility, with nine in 10 unemployed people finding work through self-employment or in a small firm. It’s critical that these Opportunity Areas are established with small businesses in mind.

“That means ensuring employers are on OA boards and creating a single point to access information about volunteering opportunities.”

Chairman of the Blackpool opportunity area partnership board is Graham Cowley, who works for Aldridge Education, a multi-academy trust and a director of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.