Over 40 people from private, voluntary and public sector organisations met on 10th September to explore how they could work more closely together particularly around the issues of inclusion, skills and employment.  The event, organised by Mel Richardson Consultancy for Voluntary Sector Forum working in partnership with Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, was the beginning of a stronger dialogue and positive action between the voluntary and private sectors for the economic benefit of Cornwall.

Participants at The Building Better Opportunities event, held at The Driftwood Spars in St Agnes, heard inspiring and poignant presentations from Real Ideas Organisation, Pentreath, Enable and Robert Owen Communities. The stories, told from both sides of the fence, focused on how charitable organisations and businesses had successfully worked together to recruit and retain employees from disadvantaged backgrounds and how their employment had fulfilled both a real business need as well as improving self-confidence and self-esteem for the individuals.

It was clear that the partnerships had worked because there was a tangible business benefit; it wasn’t just about doing the right thing. Throughout the day, there were some thought provoking discussions around what inclusion really meant, triggered by a thought-provoking introduction from Lucy Edge, Vice Chair of the Employment and Skills Board, led by Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

There was also a presentation by Adrian Richards from BF Adventure about how pro bono support can work in both charities’ and businesses’ interests.

Catherine Stevens from the Big Lottery Fund, whose funding paid for the event, outlined their forthcoming EU programme and said that BLF were keen to have more private sector involvement in the programme. Martin Williams from Department for Work and Pensions explained how they work closely with employers to fill job vacancies and are keen to do more along those lines, whilst Kate Reed talked about how the Cornwall Apprenticeship Agency can help.

Kim Conchie from Cornwall Chamber of Commerce closed the event, commenting on how fantastic the presentations had been and suggesting there should be further initiatives and/or events to maintain links between VCSE organisations and the business sector.