Kam keen to get to grips with new challenge
Cllr Kam Kaur has taken over as Warwickshire County Council's Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place. This role places her at the heart of the council's strategy for continuing to support businesses of all sizes and sectors as they move forward from the challenges of the last year. Warwickshire Means Business caught up with Kam, who represents the Bilton & Hillside division (Rugby) on the county council, to introduce her to our readers...
Kam, how do you feel to have taken on this brand new portfolio?
I am absolutely thrilled. It is a new challenge for me and I just want to do all I can to help businesses and education-providers get to grips with the new challenges facing them post-COVID. I'm really looking forward to it.
Give us your life-story so far...
I was a born-and-bred Coventry girl before moving to Rugby. I was married in 1990 and have three children, aged between 21 and 29. I became a Rugby borough councillor in 2002, am a former Mayor of Rugby and also joined the county council in 2013. I have been solely a county councillor since 2014 when I first became a cabinet member, serving as the Portfolio Holder for Customers, a portfolio to which was later added Transformation.
Describe yourself in three words...
Ambitious. Creative. Forceful.
Economy & Place is a different brief from before for you, but you are familiar with many of the issues it entails as you have a business background...
Yes, I was pretty much born into business, courtesy of my parents who were drapers and market traders with their own businesses in Coventry. I then also married into business - my husband and I have several businesses in Rugby, ranging from estate agents and property to hoteliers.
This means that I can absolutely identify with the challenges that business have faced in the last year because we faced them too. We have had to furlough staff and make redundancies and face up to a lot of really tough decisions, so I have an understanding of how businesses across the sectors have suffered and continue to struggle, especially amid the uncertainty of stop-start coming from the Government. That doesn't help at all, particularly for the hospitality sector.
Throughout the pandemic, WCC's Economy & Skills team, along with its partners, has adapted its business support to the evolving needs of businesses. Adaptability is so important in these difficult times...
Absolutely...and the business community of Warwickshire has been incredibly agile. Businesses and employers have been challenged like never before and they have pivoted incredibly well, and the same applies to our Economy & Skills team. They have devised and delivered brand new projects to get much-needed support out to businesses as quickly as possible. It is heart-warming to read regularly in Warwickshire Means Business so many lovely comments from small businesses about the support they have received.
There is no doubt that, from the county council and its partners across the region, that support will keep coming in the months and years ahead. So, as new portfolio holder, what will you be trying to add into the mix?
Our small businesses have been amazing and although it has been a very difficult time, there is so much to be positive about. What we need to do now, to build on that, is to work collaboratively - local authorities, universities, colleges and businesses - to absolutely understand what the future is going to look like. We know the business landscape is not going to be the same in terms of skills required, so we need to change the way we educate children. Education and technology are big passions of mine so this will be an area of focus for me.
The to-do list is massive. The pandemic has shown that teaching methodology has to change and the curriculum has to change to become more futuristic. Technology is evolving at a great pace but that is not reflected in education through school system. Schools and the curriculum need to look forwards, not backwards. Yes, we need to understand history but we don't need to repeat it.
You're in for a busy time...just the way you like it. So finally, Warwickshire is a wonderful place to live isn't it...other than home, what's your favourite place in the county? Where do you go to chill out?
Burton Dassett - such a wonderful place to walk and clear the head!