Oxfordshire Voice at Howbery Park

Standard Operating Procedures?

Can the Oxfordshire Voice Forum provide a standard of accreditation or champion key aspirational best practice for all businesses in Oxfordshire?

The OV Forum at Howbery Park was a highly interactive affair with absolutely every member contributing to an excellent discussion. Our two excellent speakers Grant Hayward and Chris Harvey led a constructive and robust discussion particularly in terms of the key business areas and companies that we can use as role models for better business growth, development and management.

Identifying individual leaders and those businesses which embrace and embed best practice as integral to their business development was concluded to be a key objective. Sharing ideas and almost evangelising these exemplars through OV could enable all businesses to overcome barriers in their businesses.

A mapping system to highlight the business areas where other businesses could improve and grow was seen to be an excellent route to integrate individual business change into the framework of growth and change that OV and partners were developing.

A “Manifesto” of managing change

Oxfordshire Voice is not simply about Oxfordshire as an entity at the largest scale. It is also a central focus for all businesses to engage with for sustainable and consistent growth which will benefit us all at all scales.
If we can engender change at all levels and collaborate effectively we all benefit and the Oxfordshire brand at the highest level benefits at regional, national and international levels.

Our “Common Cause” as business as a force for good is already a growing movement across the world. Our challenges are not unique although Oxford has specific barriers that can only be tackled with truly integrated thinking.

Mapping out our priorities, particularly ones that all businesses, irrespective of their resources can attain is a core element. This could lead to a shared toolkit of knowledge and best practice. Case studies of Oxfordshire business that are already on this path can be highly publicised and the toolkit enables other business to benefit from this growth.

Although the discussion was very wide ranging the focus must be on what is achievable and fits into the strategic plans at all scales. Accreditation and compliance is a challenge in all our individual sectors but our manifesto cuts across sectors to enable a shared educational and promotional process to benefit us all.

Aligning Priorities – creating change

Mapping out best business practice ideas.
How does better business practice align with a better Oxfordshire at all levels?
Creating a toolkit of resources for shared knowledge and support from key experts.
Developing a panel of experts who exemplify how their businesses are either already executing best practice or are on the road to achieving it.

The latest OV Forum was a stimulating and positive event to enable us all to be better leaders and managers, develop key priorities to move our businesses forwards and generate awareness of how we all play a role in understanding, communicating and overcoming the challenges we face at every scale.

“Oxfordshire Voice is further developing into an excellent platform to generate real change to enable us to play a role in changing Oxfordshire for the better. A better Oxfordshire for everyone irrespective of their role, age or background……it is a privilege to be involved”

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B4 NEXUS

OV Introduces NEXUS

The B4 community has established itself over the past 14 years by bringing together organisations from the public, private and third sectors, providing the platforms for all of our members to gain profile, learn and grow together.

Oxfordshire Voice was launched to give organisations in Oxfordshire the opportunity to have their say and help local government shape policy. However, despite the fact that we have some great partners in Oxfordshire Voice, to be a true voice we needed wider representation from all sectors at all levels.

NEXUS was launched to provide charities, social enterprises, small businesses, new businesses, entrepreneurs and more with the opportunity to have their voice heard through Oxfordshire Voice but also make invaluable connections through B4 and gain profile at BIO2020 (see opposite)….all at no cost.

Partnerships are formed between sponsors (existing B4 and OV members and partners) and partners (charities, social enterprises etc…..). Sponsors pay a fixed fee for a series of benefits that are mirrored for the partner. Sponsors and partners will also be able to submit any good news stories coming out of their partnership during the year and we will promote these stories in B4 Magazine, our e-Newsletters, social media and on our B4 website.

NEXUS is designed to grow a spirit of collaboration, sharing and support for the partners and will culminate with the NEXUS Awards at our 7th annual BIO event in June 2020, a black tie dinner where partnerships which have worked particularly well over the course of the year will be recognised with a NEXUS Award.

OV Partner, Grant Hayward of Collaborent, came up with the name NEXUS and feels the programme is perfect for many organisations in Oxfordshire who will benefit hugely. ‘I work with so many charities, social enterprises, not for profit organisations and small businesses who would never be able to consider investing in networking and conferences. As we know, particularly in the third sector, every penny counts. I am sure I speak for all of the organisations that could benefit from NEXUS, to have the ability to connect with the incredible companies in B4 and Oxfordshire Voice, not to mention the profile on offer at BIO2020, this really is an invaluable and welcomed opportunity.”

For more information, visit www.nexus.b4-business.com

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NXT Launch at Blenheim Palace

OV Spotlight: Engaging The Next Generation

Oxfordshire Voice has been set up to find solutions for the key challenges facing Oxfordshire businesses. Whilst many solutions have and are being implemented by businesses on a daily basis (flexible working, car pooling etc….) to overcome these challenges, larger policy related changes may well take years to implement.

Not only is it vital to have the next generation’s input and view with regards to policies which will affect their futures, it’s crucial to let them know their input is valued and required.

NXT has been established to engage the next generation through a series of events for those aged 18 to 30 years old, which will help them grow in their business careers. NXT events have provided advice on networking, financial planning and social media and will continue to be held in the future for young professionals, creatives and entrpreneurs.

However, a new and exciting magazine for the generation is being published for the next generation in schools and colleges to be inspired to follow a career in Oxfordshire and beyond with excellent examples of how young businessmen and women are carving out excellent careers for themselves at an early age.

Features in the first edition include Ellie Yendle, an HR apprentice from from Blenheim Palace; Hussain Manawer, a London based singer, poet and writer; New York based fashion designer, David Ben David; You HR’s Emma Crossley; award winning Sarah Jaycock of HS Composites; three times national champion boxer, Jordan Flynn; Radio 1 Xtra presenter, Silecta and many more.

NXT’s founder, Ed Rosser, said, “I am delighted to be working with Oxfordshire Voice and I look forward to helping contribute to a better future for all. We are really excited about the new magazine and strongly believe it will be instrumental in inspiring the next generation to begin a career, wherever that may be.”

Schools and colleges can subscribe for copies of NXT Magazine and local businesses can sponsor copies of the magazine to be circulated amongst students. More information can be obtained at www.b4-nxt.com

If you would like to find out more about engaging with NXT, please contact Ed via the website. If you would like to support Oxfordshire Voice and you are aged between 18 and 30 years old, please contact Oxfordshire Voice about helping to contribute to finding solutions for the key issues facing all of us.

b4-nxt.com

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OV Blue Paper Handover

OV Update: OV Blue Paper Handover

Oxfordshire Voice and some of the key founding members of the organisation have been meeting recently to mark an important and symbolic event.

Richard Rosser and members of the OV team have been handing over copies of the inaugural OV Blue Paper to the head of Oxford City Council, Susan Brown,, County Council leader, Ian Hudspeth, the head of OxLep, Nigel Tipple and Bev Hindle from the Growth Board.

All four have supported the intentions and philosophy behind Oxfordshire Voice from the outset.

“Oxfordshire Voice fills in the missing part of the jigsaw,” according to Nigel Tipple. “The key to ensuring business and local authorities can work together efficiently and affectively is communication. That’s communication between these groups and communication with the outside world to make sure our colllective vision for the future is known and progress is clear for all to see.”

Oxfordshire and particularly the city of Oxford is in an almost unique position in the country in as much as it does have many ingredients needed to run a successful business already on hand. But, according to Susan Brown. there is so much more to be done and this is where Oxfordshire Voice comes in.

“The lack of space to build work and living accommodation is an issue in Oxfordshire and particularly in the city of Oxford,” explains Susan.

“For example, the city is surrounded by protected greenbelt areas which were designated as such back in the 1960s. We really have to look at reassigning much of this land. This is one of the solutions to the problem of space we have in Oxford. Working with Oxfordshire Voice allows the council to communicate effectively and efficiently with the business community and explain so much of what we are doing to improve working lives in the area.”

Providing adequate workspace, living space and affordable housing is a key goal of the county and city councils and one of the areas which Oxfordshire Voice has earmarked as key to the future business success of the region.

Ensuring we have an effective technology and transport infrastructure is also vital to the future. Making sure an available workforce not only in the United Kingdom but across the globe understands and appreciates the attraction of living and working in Oxfordshire is also key to its business future. This is also where the voice of Oxfordshire through Oxfordshire Voice comes in.

According to Bev Hindle, who leads the Growth Board for the county, there is often a disconnect between the short, medium and long term plans local authorities instigate and the way they are perceived by the business community.

“This is one of our biggest challenges,” added Bev. “Messaging that many initiatives take many years to come to fruition puts us in a difficult position at times. Getting the business community and local authorities together through Oxforshire Voice allows us an even more effective forum to tell our story and help our mission to explain and not be misunderstood.” According to Bev, OV’s ability to allow business and policy makers to collaborate is so important.

The OV Blue Paper is a litmus test on progress and documents how local authorities and businesses are progressing and working together for the good of our county.

The message is key…if you want to have your say, get involved with Oxfordshire Voice because the only way we are going to make things better for everyone is for more of us to come together to solve the problems.

Read the full Blue Paper Here

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OV Forum: Higher Education and the Workplace

Said Business School, 25th July 2019

The Workplace as a “lifelong learning environment” – for students, employees and business leaders

The Oxfordshire Voice Forum at the Said Business School clearly demonstrated how the OV Forum is continuing to develop into an initiative that is enabling delegates to participate in robust discussions, share ideas, promote existing projects and propose new projects to support or enhance existing programmes to be more effective.

In the aptly named Margaret Thatcher building at the SBS (apt because Margaret Thatcher was the Education Secretary before becoming PM) the Forum benefitted from excellent speakers and a very interactive audience which has certainly become another hallmark of OV Forums to date.

One of the many positive outcomes from this engaging and challenging forum (see many more outcomes below!) was that the OV Forum itself is becoming the most effective of platforms in enabling us all to share ideas and knowledge. The OV Forum also creates awareness of so much of the good work already happening across the county. Creating awareness and helping our understanding of the challenges and potential solutions possible is a crucial element – but the OV Forum goes further by communicating key outcomes to all our networks and empowering us all to play a role in facing those challenges – by working together across sectors to develop and deliver better solutions.

Our 3 panellists provided some insights

Peter Reynolds, Activate Learning
Peter outlined some of the challenges that exist for students and for developing the support systems they require. There are broadly two groups of students. Those who are well prepared and connected by their parents, and those who are very much unsupported and without many of the connections that can help them integrate or take advantage of opportunities. The less supported students are those which face the greatest challenges and the students in need of the most support.

John Kirwan, Oxford Brookes University
John spoke of the need to equip students with skills for the real world, not just the academic skills that enable them to succeed in their studies. Personal self-awareness, personal literacy, playing an active role in their community. We almost need an audit to identify the deficits in the skills we are currently providing to our students.

Stephen Clarke, Cherwell College
Stephen outlined the need to help students understand that at some point they are going to be seeing employment and that those skills are also required. A pure focus on the academic skills and training required to attain a University place is no longer enough. We need to focus on the wider skills it takes to gain employment.

What are the some of the key issues in the relationship between students and the workplace?

The OV Survey highlighted some areas that employers and the business community feel need to be addressed by those teaching and training students. This was a lively and interesting discussion with contributions from the delegates which certainly demonstrated that there are wide ranging issues but also that there are very different views from business. Some views and opinions are negative but others are positive about the expertise and potential of the next generation.

It is also interesting to note that many of the behaviours that employers deem negative are not necessarily to do with age or training – or indeed the responsibility of our academic institutions!

Overall the forum demonstrated effectively that integration and understanding of what may be required for a vibrant and dynamic future workforce is not solely the responsibility of the education system. Combining the thinking of both the business community and the education sector has already been effective in some key initiatives.

Key elements of the discussion

Lack of understanding of appropriate behaviour is seen as a core issue, and that carries through to potentially causing inappropriate behaviours in the workplace.

The “dress code” issue is more about “reading the culture” which is more of a transferable / life skill than a specifically workplace related issue. One delegate did mention that he was happy for any “high performing” colleague to wear any uniform whatsoever as long as they were delivering value! A mankini was mentioned but the chairman assumed this to be a hypothetical scenario…?

We all need to talk more openly about the difficult topics such as abuse in families / schools / workplaces which is exacerbating the problem. There needs to be better education about healthy behaviours and relationships from a young age. See LIFESEXPERTS under Further Reading below.

Is the issue more “adaptability” and “common sense”, more “will” than “skill”? Teach someone how to think on their feet and they can achieve anything.

Employers need to be more involved in the curriculum to make sure the training remains a good fit. Engagement between schools and employers is key. This is a core outcome and more ongoing and active engagement will ensure we are combining our thinking more effectively.

Where did “lifelong learning” go?

Why can’t employers afford to train employees as much as they used to? Training used to be sponsored by the government, but that has stopped.

The role of education

Re-think the “careers advice” services at schools. Focus on transferable skills, because not all careers are forever.

What about online solutions for careers advice / training, like an app. That way we can teach young people in a way that is more “normal” to them?

What would a package of “50 skills for any workplace” look like?

Invite inspirational speakers to schools.

All of this encouragement, engagement and training needs to start at a much younger age, at least by 10 years of age.
Activate Learning applies dress codes to their students based on what they are studying, so that they are aware of what is appropriate for that field.

Should schools offer more frequent work placements, rather than 1 per year? Give them options to try other routes, as it’s hard for any student to know what career is right for them.

Oxford Brookes University’s “employability training” teaches key workplace skills.

Vocational qualifications also involve workplace skills, but not every career path has an associated vocational course. If vocational courses offer these basic workplace skills, why don’t standard A-Levels also? They’re still aiming to land students a job at the end of the day.

Should “know your client” training be a part of courses? I.e. look at the career you’re after and see who their usual market is and get to know it. A potential employee who’s knowledgeable in the employer’s target market is going to be much more desirable.

Look at the terminology we use – On-boarding vs. Induction, Work Experience, Apprenticeship, Career etc. – Are they all still appropriate and understandable to the younger generation, and to employers?

Apprenticeships are inaccessible to smaller businesses due to the required time investment. Is there another option?

Don’t negate the role parenting plays. Is there a way we can educate new parents in order to give their child the best chance they can?

The role of business

Is induction / the training provided by the employer the key issue? Maybe employers aren’t offering adequate training periods for students / new starters. Lack of understanding is in part the employer’s responsibility. Education continues at the work place – You don’t arrive at a new job with every single skill you need. Businesses need to take more responsibility for the skills, or lack thereof, of their employees.

Get involved in Activate Learning’s upcoming T-Levels: https://www.activatelearning.ac.uk/study/what-to-study/t-levels-technical-education – By partnering with Activate Learning on quality, co-created industry placements, you will have direct input into a talent pipeline that meets your future recruitment requirements.

Be realistic with your expectations of young / new starters. Current students are growing up in a completely different world than employers. The older generation should try to adapt to them, rather than the other way around, so as not to be left behind. Children these days are very intelligent. You might think they’re non-communicative, but in reality they are probably holding 5 conversations at once in the palm of their hand.

Are businesses too inflexible? Let young people loose to come up with ideas and celebrate their value. We should be learning from them, not talking down to them. A lot of kids nowadays are feeling depressed about the future – How can we try to help them feel more optimistic?

Encourage bringing your kids to work with you.

Invite students to OV Forums to get them more involved in the business community.

Help shape the curriculum and learn more about how to prepare for work experience placements by getting in touch with Sally Andreou of OxLEP Skills at sally.andreou@oxfordshirelep.com or call 0345 241 1196.

Find new starters and get involved by contacting careers@brookes.ac.uk.

Outcomes

Learn from young starters, rather than trying to bend them to the “old ways”.
Better induction / training for new starters – Their performance is in part the employer’s responsibility.
Teach children from an early age adaptability, healthy / appropriate behaviours and relationships.
Plan work experience programs better to make it worthwhile for the student.
Get involved in shaping the curriculum for your business sector.
Careers services at school should teach more transferable skills, as the “career for life” no longer exists.

Further Reading

The Oxford Inclusive Recruitment Charter
Stats and Impact of Abuse in Society
T-Levels at Activate Learning
Oxford Brookes University
UK Partnerships and Apprenticeships team
Careers in the Curriculum at Brookes
Wellbeing issues

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OV Transport Forum discusses a “route map” for the future of Oxfordshire.

Pembroke College, Oxford – May 2019

The partners, panellists (Phil Southall of Oxford Bus Company and Bob Price, Honorary Alderman of Oxford City Council) and delegates at the Oxfordshire Voice Transport Forum discussed the need for a visionary, sustainable and deliverable transport plan to overcome the challenges Oxfordshire faces as a county – both in the short term in 2019 and into the longer term future. Ensuring the Oxfordshire transport strategy enables and empowers development for the economy and our community as a whole is a key underlying determinant for future success.

Feedback from the business community and Oxfordshire Voice partners

In 2019 only 5% of the businesses in Oxfordshire have a clear understanding of what is planned and which bodies are responsible for delivering infrastructural change in Oxfordshire. The strategic imperative to build a coherent vision for the short term as well as longer term challenges was a core outcome from the forum. Encouraging engagement and collaboration in a more comprehensive manner is essential to map out the future but also to address key short-term issues hampering development and causing issues now. The survey was enlightening in many respects and demonstrated that greater engagement between the planning bodies, their initiatives and the business community could create powerful collaborative projects for the evolution of transport and accessibility in Oxfordshire.

The shorter term challenges

Congestion in Oxford, surrounding towns and on key road networks is a major issue limiting productivity, accessibility and causing pollution at local levels. Interesting feedback included support for quite radical policy changes to limit congestion and reduce congestion.

– 67% of businesses supported the idea of non-peak delivery times to central locations.
– 60% supported expansion of Park and Rides.
– 58% supported staggering school start and finish times.
– 69% businesses did not support the idea of congestion charging.
– Only 12% of business regarded technological innovation as a short-term solution to transport issues.

A collaborative and engaged approach

It is not just Oxford which is struggling! Oxfordshire has vibrant towns blighted by transport issues and a dispersed population struggling to access work, services and facilities.

An integrated route map for the future of transport could help identify more urgent areas and help the community to feel more involved in the outcomes. The road map must be a collaborative project engaging and empowering community involvement through stimulating positive contributions and a better understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the options and solutions.

Mass Transit – a compelling vision of sustainable transport

Public Transport and Cycling need to be prioritised. To make these options more attractive we must ensure certainty of journey time for public transport and increase safety and prioritise road space for cyclists. Public transport operators and cycling/walking groups can work more closely with the County Council as the transport authority in prioritising funding (linked to OXiS priorities).

Local Transport Plan 4 and the JSSP (Oxfordshire Plan 2050)

Oxfordshire County Council’s Local Transport Plan 4 (LTP4) can be read online here with a refresh commencing later this year.

As part of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal agreement with the Government, the six Oxfordshire authorities – Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council – have committed to producing a joint statutory spatial plan (JSSP), known as the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

The Oxfordshire Plan will provide an integrated strategic planning framework and evidence base to support sustainable growth across the county to 2050, including the planned delivery of new homes and economic development, and the anticipated supporting infrastructure needed.

As part of the formation of the plan, the authorities are committed to ensuring there will be early, proportionate and meaningful engagement between plan makers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and statutory bodies.

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination by 31 March 2020 and adopted by 31 March 2021, subject to the examination process.

You can see details of current Oxfordshire Plan 2050 consultations here

Engagement

Engaging, communicating and encouraging direct feedback from the business and wider communities so that projects are both understood in the broader framework of infrastructural and housing development in the longer term.

Specific interventions

Options for a free Park and Ride system and possible integration with an electric bike scheme. Engaging and attracting support for this from the commuter community could be a priority.

Climate emergency and millennial public opinion

Investigating how additional charging points for vehicles might be created and how a Zero Emission Zone might be funded.

School traffic is a huge contributor to congestion. Can the County Council look at a ‘total transport’ project to see how provision for school transport might be consolidated and funded effectively?

Freight consolidation. The logistics of managing freight to key manufacturers needs to be studied in detail for any changes not to have a detrimental impact.

To play a role in the future success of the development of Oxfordshire become and Oxfordshire Voice partner today. Visit www.oxvoice.co.uk.

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