ANDREW STEPHENSON (PENDLE MP): Mentoring support to help new businesses in Pendle

Parliament got back under way after the Easter recess, with ongoing debates about the Budget and THE final stages of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO).

The LASPO Bill includes changes to bail law championed by Jane Clough’s parents, so needless to say I am keen to see this become law as soon as possible.

MPs also received the latest unemployment figures which showed a fall locally and nationally and it was good to hear from the Home Secretary that hate cleric Abu Qatada can be deported.

On the economic front, an exciting initiative has been launched to offer small businessmen and women in Pendle mentoring opportunities. Get Mentoring is a Government sponsored programme to recruit and train volunteer business leaders to mentor other businessmen and women.

Get Mentoring was launched by Mark Prisk, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise. The goal of the programme is to increase the number of volunteer business leaders in the UK and expand support available to local businesses to help them grow and succeed.

The goal of Get Mentoring is to recruit and train 15,000 new volunteer business mentors, in addition to the 11,000 business mentors already available through mentorsme.co.uk. Get Mentoring connects people with successful business experience with those who want help establishing and supporting their businesses.

More than 3,000 business leaders have already volunteered for Get Mentoring. Many of these volunteers come from partner organisations, including the Institute of Directors, the British Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and National Enterprise Network.

National Enterprise Network in particular has made a wonderful impact in East Lancashire. National Enterprise Network provides support for long-term unemployed people to set up their own businesses. The Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and Debbi Dawson of the East Lancashire Chamber both support National Enterprise Network, which has so far helped more than 80 residents of East Lancashire.

Local businessman Lee Collins, Managing Director of the Hillendale Group based in Nelson, has been a mentor through National Enterprise Network since July and has mentored two new business people. I met Lee recently along with Terry Gallacher, one of Lee Collins’s mentees, to see how the programme worked. Under Lee’s direction, Terry established Dipper Designs, a website design company run from his home in Laneshaw Bridge offering web design services to other local businesses.

I have been a long-time supporter of business mentoring schemes. It is essential we support more people to create their own businesses. The success or failure of most small businesses is decided in the first few weeks and therefore mentoring plays a key role in supporting entrepreneurs.

I hope other local businessmen and women will sign up to take part in this scheme. Get Mentoring is actively seeking more business mentors. Mentoring is a great way for business leaders to invest in and give back to their communities. Interested business leaders can go to www.getmentoring.org to select a local workshop or e-learning resource. After finishing training, business leaders will become recognised mentors and assigned to a mentoring organisation through mentorsme to begin mentoring.