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Bright sparks with initiatives

Angie Robinson Chief Executive, Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, Training and Enterprise

Shropshire is where it all started. In the 18th century, the industrial revolution was sparked off by entrepreneurs like Abraham Darby and John Wilkinson, men who both invented new techniques and realised the need to market their ideas.

John Wilkinson was evangelical about cast iron. He pioneered iron boats, iron beds, iron coffins and gravestones - anything to persuade a sceptical public that they should abandon wood and buy the products from his foundries.

Two hundred years later and Shropshire's CCTEC is showing similar drive and imagination - belying the county's sleepy image to become one of the country's fastest growing and most effective business organisations. "Much of that success is down to Telford's development as a regional growth centre," says CCTEC chief executive Angie Robinson. Alongside the business growth, the TEC has built up links with schools, an EBP and a compact, funded work experience co-ordination across the county and targeted Inset and placement for teachers.

"These partnerships are so important for children," says Robinson. Her involvement with education business initiatives goes back a long way. She began her caeer with the Manpower Services Commission and she felt that those early years - MSC initiatives, TVEI and even youth training - were characterised by a sense of adventure as teachers were involved in education business partnerships, often for the first time.

Teachers, she argues, should be less self-critical. "I want the very best for my children," she says, "and that involves them being taught by confident practitioners. I don't want good teachers to have their self-esteem corroded by self-doubt. Most teachers are doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances. We need to hear that said more often."

Robinson is soon to leave Shropshire to become CEO at Manchester's Chamber of Commerce, but she didn't see the move as baling out before the LSC proposals.

"There should be a smooth transition," she says. "The proposals are well thought through." She would like to see business encouraged to take a more proactive role in its links with education.

"Take one example," she says. "Lots of companies display school artwork, which is fine. But have they ever thought of commissioning a school to produce the work, working through a brief with the teacher and children. That would give real insight into the way companies work."

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