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Developing business-community partnerships

Dale Evans

“Get out there and find ways to work with the communities we serve.”

In essence, that is the direction that Anglian Water’s chief executive Peter Simpson has given the @one Alliance, the consortium responsible for designing and building the company’s capital construction programme.

Anglian Water has pioneered collaborative working to great effect on its projects. Peter wants to see the same behaviour in the way we interact with the communities who are our customers, and from which we will recruit many of our future staff. Anglian Water and Alliance partners want to make a positive difference to local life for everyone’s benefit.

As a starting point, we are focusing on Wisbech and its population of 30,000. We hope the ideas we develop there can become a template to be rolled out around the Anglian region. A big issue for Wisbech is high unemployment among 18 to 25 year-olds – surprising when Cambridge is thriving just 25 miles away. So there was a clear benefit to both the community and to us to work on initiatives to improve employability, create jobs and support education and training.

Key for us was to listen to local charities and educational institutions, the council, chamber of commerce and other local bodies, and gear our activities to creating outcomes aligned with their ambitions.

One of the main initiatives so far is our partnership with the College of West Anglia. We sponsor its mechanical and electrical course, which always used to be focused on the automotive sector but is now much broader. The course gives students skills that are useful across a wider range of industries and, crucially, expand their horizons. Of course it also aligns with our goals. There are 50 students on the course and we guarantee all of them an interview with an Alliance partner. We are also supporting the construction programme at the college and there are currently 30 people going through that – again developing skills that we may be able to use. Longer-term we plan to engage with other colleges in East Anglia.

We’ve worked with the community to develop a strategy for Wisbech beyond 2020. This has included a proposal to reopen the rail line between the town and Cambridge, which would provide young people in Wisbech with access to the wealth of education and employment opportunities just a short distance away.

Although it’s relatively early days, strong community commitment is clearly of real value to us. That’s why it has now been written into our corporate sustainability strategy, which guides our business going forward.

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