DAWN EDWARDS, Chamber President, on the issues that are worth talking about

I am delighted to write my opening Last Word piece for Business Network, having been named the Chamber’s new President at the recent AGM. Firstly, I am truly honoured and feel privileged

to have been asked to be your President for 2020. For those who may not know me, I am the Managing Director and founder of Challenge Consulting, an award-winning provider of Leadership and Management Development through training and coaching, and the largest centre for ILM qualifications in the East Midlands. It is no accident that the name I chose for my

company over 20 years ago was Challenge. I left school at 16 and went straight to work on a YTS (an Apprenticeship in today’s language) and never dreamed I could one day be representing the views of 4,300+ member businesses as President. I am, therefore, living proof that anything is possible with hard work and determination. My association with the Chamber goes way

back. I was first involved as a subcontractor, designing and delivering some of its business training sessions, then becoming more involved via networking events as my business grew; before joining the Board seven years ago. Before talking about the year ahead, I would

like to take the opportunity to thank Kevin Harris for the amazing work which he has done over the past year during his term as President. He will be a hard act to follow since he has a natural ability to engage and enthuse others. I would also like to welcome Eileen Richards

to the role of Vice-President; I have known Eileen a long time and I am very much looking forward to working with her over the next 12 months. I think one thing that is beyond doubt is that

the world has changed, and continues to change, rapidly. The pace of this change brings with it a great deal of challenge, however it also brings with it just as many opportunities. One of my priorities for the year will be to

continue the work already started by Kevin and the very able team at the Chamber. This will be to drive the skills agenda to ensure the new generation of staff and managers are prepared for work with the right mix of skills, knowledge and behaviours to make them valuable to their chosen employer; fuelling growth and success

98 business network December 2019/January 2020

across the array of sectors and industries which many of you, our members, represent. I wish to ignite the passion for learning in the

existing workforce, bringing together the knowledge of businesses and learning providers to ensure we are ready to grasp the opportunities within the East Midlands as they arise, and to encourage start up and enterprise – an area the Chamber continues to devote much time and energy to. Secondly, I want to create a fully-inclusive Chamber, where we listen even more carefully to the needs of our member businesses, attracting inward investment to ensure our businesses thrive, but also ensuring more of the income generated here circulates and stays within the East Midlands economy. Thirdly, as many of you may know, the Chamber is continuing its drive in relation to Corporate Social Responsibility and has added “and communities” to its previous corporate vision of “Enhancing East Midlands businesses”. Investing in CSR is an investment in our own

communities, for the benefit of those who live and work here. It adds value to businesses in opening up opportunities for employees to network and engage with others, it helps attract

the best recruits, adds value when bidding for work, but most of all presents opportunities to create a better environment for all aspects of living and working within the East Midlands. Finally, as you will observe from my picture,

I’m female. While this isn’t relevant to my ability to do my job, or be your President, it does mean I am more comfortable talking about barriers to women in business. A recent survey, the Rose Report, estimated

that out of every three entrepreneurs who start in business only one is a women. If those ratios were evened up, it is estimated there would be an additional one million businesses, and that the UK economy would benefit from an extra £250bn in value as a result. That is roughly equivalent to four years of economic growth. Anything I can do therefore to help to

encourage and support more women into business I will, and promoting and supporting the Chamber’s Enterprising Women programme will be high on my agenda.

Once again, thank you for this amazing opportunity.

Dawn L-R: Kevin Harris, Dawn Edwards, Ian Morgan, Scott Knowles

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