A Sheffield entrepreneur is proving age is no barrier to business success by setting up a new company at the age of 74. Jo North set up ITC Skills to help companies improve the way they work with apprentices, and she is already advising local authorities, NHS trusts and other employers. Jo, who is based in Eckington near Sheffield, originally trained as a nurse and ran a successful training company in the 1990s, which focused on the health, care
and early years’ sectors. But her new consultancy is designed to service companies in all sectors, and help them
understand and make better use of the apprenticeships. Jo, who is being given business support by Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, said age is no barrier to setting up a business.
“People always think entrepreneurs and business start-ups are all about young people, but the older you are the more experienced you are; so actually I think it is a great time to start a business,”
said Jo, who is also the chair of the education and training apprenticeship trailblazer leadership group, a Government appointed group set up to develop employer-led standards in apprenticeships. The philosophy behind ITC Skills is to enable organisations and companies to develop apprenticeships in-house, as well as using external training providers when required.
Jo, who currently works with a team of consultants, said:
“Employers are becoming much more aware of the
enormous benefits of apprenticeships and they want support to become providers themselves. ITC Skills help
companies to develop strategies that involve developing their own employees to become mentors, assessor, coaches and teachers. That way the apprentices have someone in the work place to support them. And those mentors are themselves also undertaking an apprenticeship. So we have a learning culture within the organisation at all levels. It really helps to increase morale, retain staff and improve the reputation of the organisation as an employer. It shows they take training seriously and embed it in their structure.”
Sheffield City Region Growth Hub has helped Jo with business planning, marketing and accessing finance. Andy Sorsby, business growth specialist at the Growth Hub, said:
“Jo really is an expert in this field, with decades of experience. So it makes sense to help her set up a business. It just shows that age can actually be a benefit.”
Jo said that the support from the Growth Hub had been invaluable.
“I really feel that others in business should take advantage of the enormous help that is on offer. For me it has really made a difference and given me the contacts, support and confidence to start and develop another business. It just shows you are never too old to try new things!”