IWCYC Challenge: Heartwood Skills CIC – Making a difference in the education sector

Recent statistics suggest that school exclusions have risen to the highest point in a decade, with funding cuts in schools impacting possible early intervention for pupils that may need extra support.

Recognising that this has become an issue, entrepreneur Dave Anderson has founded Heartwood Skills CIC, a startup that aims to empower and equip young students with the tools to become innovators through training, enterprise and wellbeing.

Based in County Durham, Heartwood Skills CIC works with young people who are at risk of exclusion, in particular, those who are disengaged with school and pupils involved with anti-social behaviour or misuse of substances, as well as those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Working together with schools and families, the business fosters strong relationships through mentoring, industry-recognised qualifications and offers skills into employment and enterprise.

A community interest company, Heartwood Skills CIC’s main aim is to reduce exclusion in schools and increase its work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, it isn’t always easy to attract attention from those who can actually benefit the most.

Dave explains: “We’ve found that funding for the services we provide is delicate and getting our feet through the door in schools has been extremely difficult, even though the problem is on the increase.”

Regardless of the initial hurdles, Dave recognises that the business has the potential to really benefit the education sector and has big plans for the future of Heartwood Skills CIC.

“Our short-term plan is to be the go-to solution and a recognised name in the education sector for quality and integrity in the services we provide in the North East region. Our long-term plan is to have a representative in each academy/secondary school with offices/training centers in each major city in the UK.”

Often the case with many start-ups, working days can vary but Dave usually finds that his week will consist of meeting with pupils for mentoring sessions, delivering training and creating resources to add value to the services that Heartwood Skills CIC offers. Keeping himself busy, Dave takes his entrepreneurial inspiration from a world-renowned businessman.

“I personally take inspiration from Sir Richard Branson, a fellow dyslexic, who values people and investing in his staff. He shows that having a learning difficulty does not affect a persons’ ability, intelligence or character.”

Outside of work, Dave is passionate about his family and is married with three children. He also loves helping people and is really creative, thriving on being able to fix problems and taking time to enjoy outdoor sports, music and playing his saxophone and guitars.

Dave’s advice for those thinking about setting up their own business?

“Do your research well, make sure you have customers and go for it – and if I can help, give me a shout.”