Prince Charles has called on private sector mentors to come to the aid of Britain’s poorest communities and help to stimulate growth, investment and job creation. Speaking at a Business in the Community (BITC) conference in North London, the Prince of Wales announced plans to extend a businessscheme in an attempt to create a nationwide mentoring network to help disadvantaged communities. Given the rising levels of youth unemployment, the increasing number of public sector job cuts and the private sector’s apparent inability to fill the void, the prince has called on the private sector to redouble its efforts and send more senior managers to work in the most deprived areas of England.
The Prince of Wales argued that short-term private sector commitment and mentoring can pay dividends in the longer term, and drew on the notable past successes of the BITC scheme to illustrate his point. Riot-hit Hackney and Tottenham in north London have already benefited from the BITC initiative, along with areas like Bristol and Middlesbrough, during the six-month pilot scheme. The Business Connector scheme works by seconding senior business leaders and deploying them in deprived neighbourhoods where they help tocommunity leaders and try to tackle the problems of social breakdown.
Prince Charles announced that the next stage in the BITC initiative is to try to increase the current network of 20 mentors or ‘connectors’ to more than 550 during the next five years across England. The new mentors will work full-time with both community and voluntary groups. Speaking about the plans, the prince commented:
“We have found that critical to the success of Connectors is that they are individuals of high calibre with vast amounts of energy. In many cases it might be the toughest job they have ever had, but I rather suspect that it could also be the most rewarding which I think is what you have heard today from our business connectors. “
“I can think of no better way to mark the 30th anniversary of Business in the Community than for it to become the hub of a network of businesses deploying all we have learned in those three decades about creating effective business-community partnerships.”
The heir to the throne also added:
“People invest in this country for its stability, amongst other things – but we must invest in that stability. Always remember that the business case for your involvement couldn’t be sounder. The health of your bottom line depends upon secure, stable, motivated communities.”
Lloyds Banking Group has already committed £200,000 to fund the training and infrastructure of the programme and second up to 20 senior staff for the mentoring project over the next three years. Others senior players in the private sector have also made approving noises and look set to invest time, resources and commitment in thescheme over the coming months.