Karen Mosley President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce

Karen Mosley has been appointed the 114th President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.  Here, she reflects on her journey so far – and what inspires her about being Chamber President, as well as what her focus will be for the next 12 months.

“The Chamber is at the centre of an increasingly active network of institutions and individuals committed to making Sheffield the best place to start, grow and run a successful business.  This is what links us all.  To make Sheffield better.

That is why I’m so proud to take up position as the 114th President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and indeed only the 3rd woman to do so.”

I remember sitting 2 years ago watching the new President being elected at Sheffield Chamber.  I wondered what I be focussing on when I took up my position in 2021.  How would the world and the Chamber look then….

Little did we all know!

It’s been one heck of a roller-coaster for us all and I had no idea at that time how much change we would see in the way we live and work, and indeed at the Chamber too.

One silver lining of the pandemic has been the way our Chamber has helped galvanise the powerful voices of our business community over the last 18 months.  I’ve seen first-hand how the Chamber has helped develop a strong partnership between the public and private sector.  Thanks goes to the Executive Team for their foresight in making those connections through the Business Response Group in the early days of the pandemic. They focussed time and energy to help reboot the Chamber’s relationships with the Council, City Region, our universities and those who make up the charitable and voluntary communities that are so important to Sheffield.

Indeed, the Chamber is at the centre of an increasingly active network of institutions and individuals committed to making Sheffield the best place to start, grow and run a successful business.  We have so many great businesses in our city and it’s great to see those who have joined our Council and our Board bringing such rich diversity to our thinking.

This is what links us all.  To make Sheffield better.

That is why I’m so proud to take up position as the 114th President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and indeed only the 3rd Woman to do so.

Something my 17 year old self would never have imagined.

I know my responsibility is to help contribute all that I can to making Sheffield that little bit better.

I’m a born and bred Sheffielder.  I left school with O’levels.  Qualifications were only possible because my wonderful parents pulled together the money, when we had little, to pay for me to enter those exams. Why? Because the school wouldn’t put me forward; with no discussion at school about the options that might have been open to me. The school closed doors when they should have been opening up opportunities for me.

That memory still drives me today.

My career journey started in earnest with HLM Architects in Sheffield, at the age of 17 on a Government Youth Training Scheme.

My placement with HLM, was actually the first time I realised that people went to university.  I did my day release training with Sheffield Chamber of Commerce – everything was connected, even back then!  I did go back to study later in life to qualify as a Chartered Company Secretary and was provided with some amazing opportunities to move through various roles to become an equal shareholder in 2004 and Managing Director in 2017, the role I hold today.

I always tell my story because 35 years later the obstacles and barriers I faced still exist.  Individuals with talent and aspirations are too often held back by the system.

Young peoples’ futures are too easily shaped by their background rather than their hard work and determination.  That must change, not least because more young people face a harder future because of the pandemic.

That is why I am so passionate about making a difference during my presidency.

I want to focus on helping the Chamber to unlock the untapped potential in our communities. I want to make it easier for younger people in Sheffield to follow their dreams by finding that job or starting that business that changes their life.

Achieving that potential starts and ends by giving young people the skills and confidence they need to be successful.

That is why I want my presidency to be defined by one word: skills.

Skills was on the agenda at the first board meeting of the Chamber in 1857.  Building a truly skilled workforce was a challenge back then. It is still a challenge today.  I know that challenge won’t be overcome in 12 months, but Sheffield Chamber is now able to start making a real change.

We have seized an opportunity to rethink how we approach skills development in South Yorkshire. Collaborating with our colleagues in Doncaster and Barnsley & Rotherham Chambers, earlier this year we were selected by the Department for Education as one of 8 trailblazing areas to develop a Local Skills Improvement Plan on behalf of our region.

As President I’ve been asked to chair the Skills Accelerator Advisory Board overseeing this work.  This Trailblazer places employers at the heart of the skills provision.  It is absolutely focussed on building an agile skills system.  One that is responsive to the needs of our local businesses and removing the barriers in the system that prevent talent development.

We have limited time to the end of March to produce recommendations and an action plan.  We will be challenging ourselves to think differently.  We will be bringing together voices and insights from our business community, from our skills providers and from our wider stakeholders to create a robust response around the skills needs which are relevant to our region.

We also have other exciting initiatives progressing with our partners Sheffield Business Together and a wider consortium around Social Mobility in Education and employer encounters.

I would also like to use my Presidency to raise awareness around Employee Ownership. Our region is the first to partner with the Ownership Hub.  Last year I helped HLM transition 100% of our shares to become a business owned by all our employees. The model, which could have been created for a post pandemic world, is centred around inclusion, agility, entrepreneurial mindsets, sustainability, all the elements needed for businesses to remain resilient in a dynamic environment.

If there is one thing we can predict will happen over the next 12 months, it is that things will be unpredictable.

Our working world will keep evolving.  The Chamber will keep changing. Our city will keep changing. The world will keep changing.

Our businesses will need to be equipped with the skills to respond to that change.

What excites me is that every one of us has the ability to shape that change and we can be so much stronger together.

During the next 12 months I will aim to be a visible face in this space and the business community and hope we can collectively do more to make Sheffield an even better place to run a business.

And I hope inspire many other 17-year-olds like me to reach places they had never imagined too.

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