Thursday, August 18, 2016

News: Anchor institutions urged to support growth

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Universities and small businesses have much to offer each other – but can't always see beyond their biases - according to a new report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

UKCES is a publicly funded, industry led organisation providing strategic leadership on skills and employment issues in the UK. It has offices in Rotherham and brings together commissioners that include CEOs of large and small employers across a wide range of sectors, such as Rotherham businesswoman Julie Kenny CBE.

The report outlines the findings from a series of projects supported through the UK Futures Programme testing how local "anchor institutions" (organisations at the centre of local networks such as universities, Chambers of Commerce and enterprise networks), can use their expertise and influence to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills in small businesses.

Universities in particular may be put off developing offers for small firms because of a bias that it is a difficult market to serve with varying needs. On the other side, projects showed some small businesses have their own biases about universities and are wary of academic learning styles they thought universities were offering.

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The report highlights a series of characteristics that successful anchor institutions display in order to reach out to small businesses and to successfully develop their leadership skills.

Julie Kenny CBE is a UKCES commissioner and founded Rotherham manufacturing firm, Pyronix, which was recently acquired by China's Hikvision, the world's largest supplier of video surveillance products and solutions.

Kenny said: "As a small business owner myself, I firmly believe that small businesses form the backbone of the UK economy. However, evidence shows that a lack of leadership and entrepreneurship capability is holding back their confidence and competitiveness, preventing them from fulfilling their potential.

"It's great to see so many organisations finding new ways of engaging small businesses and breaking down the barriers. I was encouraged to see different types of organisation come forward to take up our challenge and what they have all shown us is that there is no "one size fits all." Councils, Chambers, Colleges, Universities, any institution with a strong local profile can support growth in their locality by developing small businesses. And if they do that in partnership with others, so much the better. I am really excited to share these findings with my Local Enterprise Partnership and more widely."

Kenny is also a member of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.

The programme could be some of the last work of the UKCES. Around 60 jobs were under threat after the Government said that it was making savings from the commission in the 2015 Spending Review. Since then, the skills departments have moved away from the Department of Business and into the Department for Education.

UKCES website

Images: UKCES


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