Twenty years ago Peter Spence’s then employer invited its managers to get involved in local community projects.
Having no idea that it would lead to such a long and happy relationship, Peter signed up as a volunteer with Young Enterprise (YE), the UK’s largest business and enterprise education charity.
“I liked the idea of doing something where my experience and skills could be useful,” said Peter, explaining that every year, under the guidance of volunteers from 3,500 companies, the charity delivers more than four million learning hours to 250,000 young people learning about business and the world of work.
Rolled out in both primary and secondary schools, the local element, said Peter, is really important.
“The structure of YE allows local groups to tailor the delivery of programmes to really suit the schools involved.
“It’s a great programme and it’s especially effective with children who may not necessarily be academic, but who are resourceful and have great business skills – think The Apprentice meets Dragon’s Den!”
So how, specifically, has Peter been involved with the project over the years?
“When I started all those years ago, I was a manager at Royal Sun Alliance. I moved around the country in various sales, training, project and customer service roles, so my experience was really relevant to YE.
“In 2001 I moved to Chichester to join the district council as an economic development officer and set up the South Coast Design Forum and voluntarily set up the pilot Help for Business Scheme as part of the Chichester City Centre Partnership.
“Being able introduce YE to the business community has been of real benefit to both YE and the local businesses involved.
“I was a business adviser at a school, a member of an area board, development manager for West Sussex, chairman of Arun and Chichester area board, secretary and treasurer at different times, a judge and all things in between. The time commitment has varied between full-time job and an hour or so every week.”
But what has Peter got out of his involvement with YE? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
“A sense of belonging, putting something back, being kept young and being given faith in the next generation of young people.
“But we need more volunteers from the local business community aged between 25-40; fewer white tops,” laughs Peter, who at 71 is taking his own advice and will soon be stepping down from the charity.
“Over the years I’ve been hugely impressed by many of the young people who have passed through the scheme, which gives them the chance to continue in the competition to county, regional, national and even European level.
“It’s also been extremely rewarding to see how much the youngsters get out of the experience – every school should embrace Young Enterprise.”
To find out more, or to volunteer as a business adviser, visit www.young-enterprise.org.uk and follow the links to the south-east region.