Hundreds of Yorkshire business people are being called out of retirement to help tackle coronavirus pandemic

It is not only doctors and nurses who are being called out of retirement to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic: the call has gone out for 500 experienced business people to mentor Yorkshire entrepreneurs and leaders across sectors to manage the impact of COVID-19.

The mentors could be recently retired or still working, but able to spare 45 minutes a week for online support, free of charge, for three months. These mentors will join an existing mentor community from across the region who are part of the Tech Mentors: Yorkshire programme delivered by investment non-profit, NorthInvest, and leading audit, tax and consulting firm, RSM UK. 

The idea came from an intergenerational mentoring event for tech entrepreneurs – planned for Leeds Digital Festival 2020 – which cannot now take place. The event was a collaboration between Next-Up, which helps executives coming up to retirement, and the Tech Mentors: Yorkshire team from NorthInvest and RSM UK, and supported by Leeds City Council. 

The event already had 32 mentors and 16 entrepreneurs signed up. Next-Up assures these will be allocated immediately and calls for more mentors, and more leaders seeking mentors, to get in touch. 

People success platform, my2be, who raised investment through the NorthInvest angel community, is also helping Next-Up with access to their mentor matching software.

Victoria Tomlinson, Chief Executive of Next-Up, who is leading the campaign said: “No-one has ever seen anything like COVID-19 and its speedy impact. However, my generation has lived through 9/11 and the financial crash – which at the time felt as awful. What this generation can do is to help people get perspective, talk through things in a logical way with someone independent and use their skills, experience and contacts to help people make good decisions. And shortly, to start looking at longer term plans once the virus abates.

“It is important to stress that mentoring relationships are confidential so the mentee can talk about anything in a way they may not be able to do elsewhere.”

Helen Oldham, Founding Board Director of NorthInvest, Mentor and Angel Investor added:

“It’s imperative now more than ever that we support business leaders in making potentially tough decisions in response to COVID-19. Mentoring not only offers an objective opinion on business challenges and opportunities, but also prevents business leaders from feeling isolated and alone as they navigate the next few months. We have no doubt our mentoring community through Next-Up and Tech Mentors: Yorkshire, will further collaborate to ensure entrepreneurs in the North of England emerge from this period stronger than ever.”

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said: “These are unprecedented times and we are doing everything we can to prepare and to mitigate the business and economic impact in the city. As part of this, we are moving quickly to support innovative ideas that will help the sustainability of our region.

“This initiative is adapting and extending one of our existing activities and will have a far-reaching impact. It is a fantastic way to maximise the skills of an experienced generation to help businesses, entrepreneurs, voluntary and public sector leaders at such a challenging time. Technology is enabling really imaginative ways to support each other and we are proud to support it.”

The 45-minute call is based on people signing up for the free version of Zoom. Further sessions can easily be booked if more time is needed.

Next-Up is working with RSM, NorthInvest and Tech Mentors:Yorkshire as part of supporting the tech infrastructure in Leeds.

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