7 February 2016

I quoted Tony Robbins this week saying “if you are not growing , you are dying.” I was highlighting the importance of education during a talk that I did the Apprentices who’d suffered when the company Bright Futures went into liquidation. We’d held an event and it was nothing short of a remarkable experience for everyone involved. A real honour and privilege to see a city of Manchester come together.

When I came up with the idea, it was partly a knee jerk reaction to hearing about people being disadvantaged through no fault of their own. I have always had a strong egalitarian gene, I have always supported the underdog. I suppose I figure the strong amongst us will always do well and therefore the person who is least likely to win deserves the crowd.

So with a busy diary and a trip to London pencilled in, putting on an event for a few hundred people at a moments notice was always going to put pressure on everyone involved.

However, when I’d explained the idea to my team they were resolute and determined to run the event from start to finish.

It’s amazing what’s possible when people put their heads together especially when they are driven by a cause to help others.

Packed house @UKFast for the Apprentice Open Day

Packed house @UKFast for the Apprentice Open Day

The event was on the Wednesday. I telephoned first thing to check in with the team and remind them of the good they were doing and to say a big thank you, before getting on with my jobs list. Everyone was excited as there were already nearly 100 people in reception 30 minutes before the event started.

On the train back to Manchester, I got out my black book and started scribbling.

I listed some of the things I’d highlighted at the Apprentice Engagement Event the week before, some of the accolades and particularly the stories of apprentices that had inspired me.

I am a big fan of youth and the energy young people bring to an organisation. Its easy to assume that experience is the most important ingredient in a successful business, however without youth pushing the boundaries and introducing new ideas and chasing the heels of the older team mates, we’d remain static. This was a seriously important consideration when choosing to throw the apprentice event and somehow I needed to get this across.

Lawrence Jones talking with the audience at the apprentice open day event  @UKFast

Lawrence Jones talking with the audience at the apprentice open day event @UKFast


My executive assistant Ginny got off the train leaving me scribbling. I was in full flow with so many ideas buzzing around my head. Next thing I remember I was being nudged by the guard who had cleared the train. There was just me and the cleaners left and the nice man said, “Do you not have anywhere to go to?”
We’d been in Piccadilly for some minutes.

I raced to meet Joe who was there to pick me up and trying to ring me as I frantically packed up.

The whole thing was a bit of a blur. Within minutes I was being mic-ed up and quickly read through my notes on the journey to UKFast.

Scott Fletcher MBE of ANS  takes to the stage at UKFast to help at the Apprentice OpenDay

Scott Fletcher MBE of ANS takes to the stage at UKFast to help at the Apprentice OpenDay

Within minutes of arriving in Manchester I was on stage introducing Scott Fletcher who true to his word came and addressed the Apprentices and told them some great stories of how he’d been affected in a similar way when the first company he worked for went bust. I knew it would be great for the young guys and girls to hear from a fellow Mancunian and entrepreneur, someone who’d built a business from the ground up. That doesn’t happen by accident and it requires hard work and dedication. It was just what was needed.

The whole experience was a bit of a blur and when I got back up to talk, I couldn’t help feeling the emotion of all the young people in the room. In front of me now is the next generation of Manchester’s technical communities. Whatever happens, they will never forget the day.

A great many businesses had got involved and my team had run workshops throughout the day, focussing and training on subjects that ordinarily might slip below the radar. Workshops such as Social Media where our communications and recruitment team explained the importance of how they are perceived and how nowadays people do a great deal of research on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. How to build strong profiles as opposed to creating one that makes a prospective employer run to the hills! They also did a CV writing focus group amongst other things. Everyone was fed and watered and by the time I arrived I could feel the energy in the building.

It was an emotional day! I’d not seen my kids and wife since Sunday and I had dinner booked with George Osborne at 7 pm, but I wasn’t going home until I’d seen as many people as possible.

Some of the job interviews were less than 30 seconds long, and in the hour or so following the event I think we handed out around 20 contracts and set up I don’t know how many more interviews for the following days.

We’d psychometric tested over 100 young people throughout the day and also the team had kept notes on each person we’d seen from the various interactions in the focus groups and workshops.

I broke the record twice that evening for my shortest interviews of all time. One where I literally looked at the score and graphs and saw that the person in front of me was a natural programmer or technical person, I said “hello” as they sat down, leant over and putting out my hand to shake theirs saying “welcome to UKFast, you have the job!”

There were plenty of tears of relief and I struggled a few times myself feeling the gratitude and seeing the emotion as the “job” marked the end of a hugely stressful few weeks of uncertainty.

A rare coming together of Manchester's 2 top tech entrepreneurs Scott Fletcher and Lawrence Jones at the UKFast Campus

A rare coming together of Manchester’s 2 top tech entrepreneurs Scott Fletcher and Lawrence Jones at the UKFast Camp

I met so many superstars that day that it was hard to separate all of them and it’s going to take slightly longer to find the right careers and ongoing training for each and everyone of them.

Its amazing when you focus on something how it comes true. Since starting this blog, I received a text from Scott who is staying at our hotel The Farinet with his family. The text explained that he’s sorted free office space for Manchester Central where the level 3 apprentices can continue their journey training.

One by one we will get everyone of the people affected in a stronger position than we found them. If you are one of the amazing businesses who have thrown your hat into the ring and you want to interview and meet some of the apprentices for placements at your work, thank you. If you want to be one of these amazing businesses, drop me an email or reply to this blog.

Be brave and take one! They are amazing and they don’t stay boys and girls for long. There is so much talent there and remember what I said;

“Youth and the energy young people bring to an organisation is the most important ingredient in a successful growing business!”

Youth push the boundaries and introduce fresh ideas and chase the heels of older team mates, its what keep us growing!

At the very worst, arrange to meet some, you don’t have to take one, but you might just see what I see.

Go on I dare you!

Best LJ

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