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News from the UK and around the world

The new edition of the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings 2008 indicates an increasing acceptance of the importance of these rankings by the international higher education community and those that employ graduates from the top universities in the world. The THE-QS World University Rankings 2008 have received unprecedented response levels from both the international academic community and employers. 6,354 academics (compared with 5,101 in 2007) and 2,339 employers (compared with 1,482 in 2007) responded to the surveys, eager to reflect the position and influence of the world’s leading universities. Now in its fifth year, the research is conducted and compiled by QS Quacquarelli Symonds and features online on the QS web site www.topuniversities.com. This latest edition of the THE-QS World University Rankings also reflects the increasing profile of technology-based universities, with many of the world’s top universities in this area such as Caltech, MIT, ETH Zurich and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology improving their position. As demand by international employers for more technology-literate graduates has grown, the importance of these universities has risen in the Rankings. The UK and USA continue to dominate - Harvard University remains as the top university, with Yale moving ahead of Cambridge for the second spot. Oxford drops to fourth, while Princeton drops out of the top ten, replaced by the only new entrant in the Top 10, Columbia University.

A new £6.2 million scheme has been launched to fund staff training across the East of England. Financed by the European Social Fund, "Beyond 2010" will offer SMEs in ten priority sectors the chance of a full consultancy to identify staff skills needs, along with grants of up to 50% of the costs of undertaking the relevant training. It will also offer specific help to workers facing redundancy. The Response to Redundancy strand will provide advice, guidance, and re-training opportunities to help get people back into work. The programme aims to build on the success of the previous "Towards 2010" initiative, which supported nearly 2,400 businesses and helped train more than 8,800 workers. The programme is open to East of England-based small to medium sized enterprises that are operating in any of the following priority sectors: Automotive and high-tech manufacturing, Creative industries, Financial services, Food and drink processing, Life sciences and healthcare, Low carbon and sustainable technologies, Social enterprise, Sustainable communities and the built environment, Tourism and the 2012 Olympics and Transport gateways. For more information on Beyond 2010, contact Tom Bendy at the Essex Development and Regeneration Association (ExDRA) on 01245 702407 or email tom.bendy@exdra.co.uk

According to the "BSR/Cone 2008 Corporate Responsibility in a New World Survey", more than two-thirds of the business leaders say that more responsible business practices could have lessened, or even prevented, the current economic downturn. Additionally, nearly nine out of 10 survey respondents believe U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama will have a positive impact on advancing the corporate responsibility agenda. Survey respondents outlined the most important steps the Obama Administration should take to advance corporate responsibility around the world, including promoting major investments in renewable energy and carbon capture and storage technologies. (67 percent) and taking measurable steps toward progress on effective, efficient, and fair global climate change mitigation strategies (53%). At the same time, an overwhelming majority (94 percent) anticipate increased government regulation of issues related to corporate responsibility, including climate change (86 percent) and corporate governance and financial transparency (83 percent). Nearly three-quarters of business leaders (72 percent) expect that there will be increasing demands on business to solve societal problems, and more than half believe business will meet those demands. The BSR/Cone 2008 Corporate Responsibility in a New World Survey was conducted November 5, 2008, among a sample of corporate responsibility professionals attending the Business for Social Responsibility Conference. The sample population is comprised of 424 representatives from business, NGOs, government, and academia, representing 28 countries.

The UK Government has unveiled details of a new National Skills Academy (NSA) for Enterprise which is aiming to equip young people with the skills to set up in business. The new academy will be launched early in 2009 and will be headed by Peter Jones from the BBC television programme Dragons' Den. The NSA for Enterprise will deliver the UK's first NVQ level two and three qualifications in enterprise and entrepreneurship, with courses designed by employers and training specialists. It is expected to deliver vocational courses to 11,000 young people aged 16 to 19 within its first three years, offering training on-site, online and at a variety of dedicated NSA colleges to equip them to work for businesses or set up their own. Established businesses will also be able to take advantage of short courses at the new academy to help them to develop their own and their employees' skills. The National Skills Academies were started by the Government in 2006 as a way of involving employers in creating training programmes that suit their needs. The NSA for Enterprise has been announced alongside three others - the NSA for Power, the NSA for Information Technology and the NSA for Social Care - taking the total number of NSAs to 16.

The UK Government has increased the age at which someone can apply for a marriage visa from 18 to 21. From 27th November 2008, both parties in a marriage will have to be 21 before a marriage visa can be issued. The Government said that raising the age is just one part of its work to crackdown on forced marriage and on those who attempt to abuse the marriage visa route. The Home Office has helped businesses to prepare for the implementation of Tiers 2 and 5 of the points system by publishing detailed guidance on the two tiers. Under these tiers - which cover skilled and temporary workers - employers will be held accountable for the workers they bring into the country, with a new sponsorship scheme holding businesses responsible for those they employ. Tier 2 of the points system will ensure that British jobseekers get the first shot at jobs and only those foreign workers needed will be able to come to the UK. Under this tier, companies must pass the Resident Labour Market test by proving they cannot fill the post with a resident worker before they can bring in someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Thirty years after Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a new study shows that the number of pregnancy-discrimination cases has increased, especially among women from traditionally underrepresented groups. The study, released by the National Partnership for Women and Families, found that discrimination cases jumped 65 percent from 1992 to 2007. According to the organization, race and ethnicity appear to be playing a significant role in the rise of pregnancy-discrimination complaints. During the discrete period from [fiscal year] 1996 to [fiscal year] 2005, "claims filed by women of color jumped 76 percent, while claims overall increased by 25 percent. During that time, complaints filed by Black women increased by 45 percent, by Hispanic women by 135 percent, by Asian/Pacific Islander women by 90 percent, and by American Indian/Alaska Native women by 109 percent. More than half the claims filed with the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] during that period (53 percent) were filed in service, retail trade and the financial-services, insurance and real-estate industries--where some seven in 10 women work."

About 300,000 college-educated legal immigrants in the state, and 1.3 million nationwide, are unemployed or working in low-level jobs because their credentials aren't recognized here, a study finds. This represents a massive "brain waste" of highly educated and skilled immigrant professionals who potentially could, with a little aid, help ease looming labor shortages in California and nationwide in healthcare, computer sciences and other skilled jobs. Nationwide, more than 1.3 million college-educated legal immigrants are unemployed or working in unskilled jobs such as dishwashers or taxi drivers, according to the report by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. Nearly a quarter of them live in California. Professionals from Latin America and Africa fare worse than those from Asia and Europe, the study found. Two of the biggest barriers are lack of English fluency and non-recognition of foreign academic and professional criteria. Immigrants say shortages of time and money prevent them from pursuing the needed U.S. credentials. Michael Fix, senior vice president of the Migration Policy Institute, said the need to help immigrant professionals gain the requisite credentials and experience is particularly acute now that the nation faces the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers, considered the most skilled workforce in history. In California, for instance, the fastest growing occupations are computer software engineer and registered nurse. The migration institute report noted that competition for such professionals is heating up, with other countries such as Canada and Australia moving aggressively to attract them with better transition programs. The report urged several new measures to help ease the way for immigrant professionals, including more language and workforce training, national coordination of credentialing criteria and three-year transitional visas to allow employers to "test the waters" with foreign workers. Source: LA Times

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has announced a partnership with AccountAbility to develop a unique corporate management system that will help companies based in emerging markets strengthen their businesses through corporate social responsibility. The new system will enable firms to build corporate-level strategies that support business development and link performance in social responsibility to quality, productivity, and efficiency. The main components are an integrated diagnostic process to quickly assess and plan according to key risks, business assets, and priority needs and a CSR Performance Excellence management framework that helps managers tie corporate social responsibility to business activities such as procurement, marketing, and product design. According to the IFC, this partnership will provide clients with a system that guides them step by step on how to align their CSR efforts with their core business priorities and competencies — while communicating their efforts to shareholders.

The latest league table of the world's leading universities shows Cambridge and Oxford losing ground to Harvard and Yale and a decrease in the number of UK universities in the top 200. The table, which is produced by QS World University Rankings for the Times Higher Education, shows Harvard in the number one spot for the fifth year running. Yale is second, having been joint second with Oxford and Cambridge last year. Cambridge is third, Oxford fourth, Imperial College, London is sixth and University College, London (UCL) is seventh. UCL was ninth in 2007 and like Kings College, London which has risen from 24th to 22nd is one of the few UK universities to improve its ranking. The London School of Economics slips from 59th to 66th. Other UK risers are University of Manchester, 30th to 29th; University of Bristol, 37th to 32nd; and the University of Glasgow, 83rd to 73rd. Overall there are 29 UK universities in the top 200- a decrease of one. Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group of leading universities, said that its members were performing well against international rivals, particularly the US institutions- which benefit from much higher levels of investment than UK universities. For example Harvard's endowment fund is greater than the total annual funding of all universities in England. The huge investment in higher education and science in China looks set to overtake the UK very soon in terms of research publications and its universities are steadily climbing up the international league tables. There are nine Asian universities in the top 50, including three based in Hong Kong.

Twice as many top U.S. companies publicly released sustainability data on their environmental, social and governance information in 2008 compared with three years earlier, and ethics outweighed economics for the first time as the primary reason for such disclosures, according to a KPMG International global analysis of corporate reports. Of the top 100 U.S. companies by revenue, 74% published corporate responsibility (CR) information in 2008 either as part of their annual financial report or as a separate document, up from 37% in KPMG International's 2005 research. Globally, 80% of the Global Fortune 250 companies now release CR data, up from 64% in the last KPMG International analysis in 2005. Meanwhile, 70% of all companies studied wrote in their 2008 reports to stakeholders that ethical considerations were a primary driver for making CR disclosures, while 50% cited economic concerns as the leading reason. By comparison, in 2005 the drivers were reversed, with economic considerations cited by 74% of the companies as the reason for reporting CR data, compared with 53% of the companies citing ethical reasons for the disclosures. The KPMG International Survey on Corporate Responsibility Reporting is the most comprehensive conducted on environmental, social and governance disclosures, reviewing reports from the Global Fortune 250 (G250) and from the 100 largest companies by revenue in 22 countries.

The downturn is causing mothers to re-assess their working options, according to another new survey. The survey, from jobsite Workingmums.co.uk, shows that 79% of mothers are now looking to return to work or increase their present working hours due to the credit crunch. An earlier survey conducted by the jobsite showed that 90% of mothers found it very difficult to find flexible work, although the vast majority wanted this so they could balance work and family life. According to the jobsite, the current economic situation presents "some good opportunities for mothers to assess their working options and look at what is available to help them meet their needs", calling working mothers "a fantastic pool of talent that many businesses should be calling upon."

QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the world's leading career and education intelligence provider, has created a preliminary university ranking technology, known as SAFE (System, Access, Flagship, Economics). It is the first attempt worldwide to compare entire national higher education systems, rather than individual institutions. SAFE utilizes latest research emerging from the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings 2008 to draw comparisons across 40 countries. The innovative methodology provides a direct comparison between the world's higher education-providing nations. It contains new criteria which avoid the pitfalls of ranking nations simply according to the number of universities those nations have in the top 200. Developed over the last twelve months by QS, SAFE allows a more direct comparison between two nations using the four key criteria. This preliminary analysis attempts to take the different economic and demographic realities of each country into account whilst evaluating the success of each national system in terms of its global competitiveness.

Poorly managed conflicts in the workplace are crippling British business, according to a new report 'Fight, Flight or Face It' from business psychology firm OPP and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The average UK employee spends over two hours a week dealing with conflict, which means in total more than 370 million working days were lost last year at a cost to British employers of more than £24 billion. Personality clashes and warring egos are the number one cause of conflict, cited by 49% of respondents. Stress and heavy workloads follow, being cited by 34% and 33% of employees respectively. Over half of employees (54%) and many more HR professionals (80%) want managers to address underlying tensions before they escalate into conflict. A quarter (27%) of employees have seen disagreements involving personal attacks or insults, while one in six (16%) have actually seen conflicts lead to people being fired. Meanwhile, the majority of HR professionals (63%) have seen employees become ill or absent following a disagreement within their organisation. According to HR professionals, most conflict is seen in departments at the operational level, such as customer service, where it has a direct impact on the performance and reputation of an organisation. However, conflict also exists at the senior levels, where others in the organisation take their cue: 12% of employees say that disagreements among their senior team are frequent or continual. Over the course of the average 44-year career, employees will spend nearly six months dealing with workplace conflict. It could actually be time well spent, but only if they are able to do so effectively. The report revealed that where training is more prevalent, positive outcomes from conflict are far more common. Over half (58%) of employees who have had training now look for win-win outcomes from a workplace conflict. However, the research revealed that more than half of the UK workforce (55%) has had no training in the effective management of conflict. Around a third of all employees (28%) simply allow conflict situations to continue, causing untold damage to morale and productivity.

Millions of people plan to change careers in the New Year due to the economic downturn. More than 3 million might be considering a new line of work, a survey has found. And 8% expected to swap jobs in the next 12 months, it added – working out to 3.2 million across the workforce of 40 million. One in five adults also plans to gain extra qualifications, the survey by the Association of Colleges found.

There has been a demand for part-time experienced staff as many firms look towards cost-effective recruitment in the economic downturn. Women like Us, a social enterprise set up to support women with children to find flexible work at their appropriate skill level, recorded a 121% increase in employer enquiries month on month earlier this year. It has also recruited for twice as many employers on a monthly basis during 2008 compared with the previous year. According to the organisation, employers are more cautious about recruitment in light of limited budgets in the economic downturn and taking on high-calibre part-time workers was a less risky strategy than employing experienced hires full-time.

Migrant workers help boost rather than harm communities, an influential think tank has said. Migrants fill skills gaps and do jobs other British workers do not want to do. Migrants tend to be more entrepreneurial and can se up new markets by establishing links to their home countries, the report says. But local economies are not reaping the full benefits because many migrants have returned home, says the Institute for Public Policy Research. More than a million migrants have come to Britain from the eight states which joined the EU in 2004 but about half have left. The full report recommends new policies to attract and retain migrants while ensuring that British workers receive adequate skills and training.

A third of students work the equivalent of more than two days a week to help pay for university, a survey has found. Nearly half took jobs to cover basic living costs and 45% said working had a bad effect on their studies. The survey by the National Union of Students showed that many students find the level of financial support inadequate.

A lobby group has called for the introduction of a £1 billion emergency fund to help small businesses beat the credit crunch. The Federation of Small Businesses has urged the Government to scrap their current Small Firms Loan Guarantee scheme and replace it with a new “Survival Fund” backed by money from the European Investment Bank. The group claims such a programme would act as an emergency stop-gap measure to help businesses ride out the current financial meltdown and ensure vital funds were made available to the small business community. To further ease the current pressure on small firms, the group has called for a simplified system of bidding for public sector contracts and the removal of the fee for the Supply2.gov.uk website where government contracts are advertised. They also demanded that Companies House’s powers should be increased to enable it to “name, shame and fine” large companies that didn’t pay their suppliers on time. Recent research has claimed that SMEs are owed around £30,000 by large businesses not paying promptly. Source: Federation of Small Businesses

Women still lag far behind men in top political and decision-making roles, though their access to education and health care is nearly equal. In its 2008 Global Gender Gap report, the World Economic Forum, a Swiss research organization, ranked Norway, Finland and Sweden as the countries that have the most equality of the sexes, and Saudi Arabia, Chad and Yemen as having the least. Using United Nations data, the report found that girls and women around the world had generally reached near-parity with their male peers in literacy, access to education and health and survival. But in terms of economics and politics, including relative access to executive government and corporate posts, the gap between the sexes remains large. The United States ranked 27th, above Russia (42nd), China (57th), Brazil (73rd) and India (113th). But the United States was ranked below Germany (11th), Britain (13th), France (15th), Lesotho (16th), Trinidad and Tobago (19th), South Africa (22nd), Argentina (24th) and Cuba (25th). Middle Eastern and North African countries received the lowest ratings over all. The rankings of Syria, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia declined in 2008. The report said the inequalities in those countries were so large as to put them at an economic disadvantage. "A nation's competitiveness depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its female talent. To maximize its competitiveness and development potential, each country should strive for gender equality."

The UK Parliament needs to change, according to Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for Women and Equality, in a debate in the House of Commons on a motion to establish a Speaker's Conference, which will consider and make recommendations on how to improve representation of women, disabled, and minority ethnic people in the House of Commons, so that it better reflects society. According to the Minister, UK society has changed and the House needs to change too. Women in the British Parliament are outnumbered by men four to one. Despite the ethnically diverse nature of the UK today, out of 646 members, only 15 are Black or Asian. The Minister pointed out that, to reflect the population, the country needs more than four times more Black and Asian MPs, describing the lack of 'Black and Brown faces on our green benches' as a 'democratic deficit'. Black, Asian and Minority ethnic people make up about 10% of the population - but less than 3% of MPs in the House of Commons. Ms. Harman called for a change "More than twice as many white female MPs, more than twice as many Black, Asian and minority ethnic male MPs, more than ten times as many BAME female MPs."

New immigration rules in the UK will reduce by 200,000 jobs for migrant workers, the Government has revealed today. The Government has published the shortage occupation list following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). Their recommended list has been adopted in full - with the addition of social workers, who will remain on the list while further evidence is considered by the MAC. The shortage occupation list sets out those jobs for which there are not enough resident workers, and will be used as part of the skilled worker tier (Tier 2) of the Australian-style points system, which will be launched on 27th November. Tier 2 of the points system will ensure that British jobseekers get the first shot at jobs and only those foreign workers the country needs will be able to come to the UK. Recent Government work to ensure British workers are skilled and competitive means that many of the previous gaps in the labour market have been filled. As a result, today's list is tighter than ever before and will see a reduction of more than 200,000 positions in occupations with shortages that need be filled by migrant workers. The number of positions available to migrants has been reduced from one million to just under 800,000. To get in under Tier 2 skilled foreign workers must meet the following conditions. They must have English language skills; prospective earnings of more than £24,000, or slightly less if they have a decent qualification - or an offer of a job on the shortage list; enough money to support themselves for the first month of their stay. In order to bring migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area to the UK, employers will be required to get a sponsor licence.

The number of employees working flexibly has risen sharply over the past four years, according to the latest CBI/Pertemps employment trends survey. The survey of 513 employers found that almost half (46%) now allow their employees to telework, up from 14% two years ago and 11% in 2004. The popularity of term-time working and job sharing has also increased dramatically. The survey also revealed that businesses were becoming more supportive of employees who took career breaks or sabbaticals. In 2009, another 4.5 million UK workers will be given the right to request flexible working when the current legislation extends from parents with children under the age of six up to 16.

UK unemployment is expected to rise by about 1.5 percentage points in 2009, half a percentage point more than the predicted EU average, according to the European Commission's latest economic forecast. The report states that employment growth is expected to turn negative as a result of falling output, dropping by 1.1 percentage points. Supply of labour is also projected to increase at a slower pace, reflecting reduced immigration. Across the EU, economic growth is expected to drop from 1.4 per cent in 2008 to 0.2 per cent. It is expected to rise again in 2010 to 1.2 per cent. The report wasn't all gloomy: inflation is expected to have peaked and will fall rapidly below 2.5 per cent in 2009 and 2.25 per cent in 2010 in the EU. PM Online

The 2008 PR Week/Barkley Cause Survey reveals that philanthropic activities reward businesses' bottom lines, even in the midst of economic constraints. In particular, the survey found that moms specifically channel their purchasing decisions toward companies that support a cause. Among the 83 million American moms, 82 percent say they drive household purchasing decisions, representing over $2.1 trillion in annual spending. The survey revealed that moms demand companies use their power for good, with 85.6% saying it's important for companies to support a cause. With regard to their purchasing decisions, 58 percent say they would pay more for a brand that supports a cause, 69.2% say they would try a brand because it supports a cause, and 76.8 percent say they would recommend a brand that supports a cause. Overall, 66 percent of moms say they have purchased a brand because it supports a cause. The survey, which also interviewed CMOs, found that companies are responding to consumer demand for cause marketing. Sixty-seven percent of companies today have a cause program. In fact, 97.3 percent of CMOs say that cause is a valid business strategy.

A free business support programme for London-based social enterprises that are led by ethnic minorities has been launched. Backed by more than £370,000 funding from Capacitybuilders, the Ready to Grow initiative will offer a number of organisations 12 days worth of intensive, one-to-one business support, along with in-depth consultancy, training and advice, and the chance to take part in a range of workshops. Run by community investment agency Olmec, in partnership with management consultants Red Ochre, the scheme is open to organisations that are black, Asian, minority ethnic, or refugee led and with more than half of the company’s directors or trustees are from a minority background. The organizations need to be based in London and intend to trade to meet social or environmental objectives. Participants on the scheme will be expected to demonstrate strategic thinking, passion, and commitment. Urging local not-for-profit ventures to register their interest in the scheme, Uday Thakkar, managing director of Red Ochre, said that the programme is open to aspiring social entrepreneurs looking to develop their ideas, as well as to established social enterprises looking for constructive advice and support to help them scale up.

New findings from the goodpurpose(TM) global study of consumer attitudes reveal that nearly seven in 10 (68%) consumers would remain loyal to a brand during a recession if it supports a good cause, and 71% say that when they think about the economic downturn, they have either given the same or more time and money to good causes. The study was released by goodpurpose(TM), a consultancy at Edelman dedicated to connecting brands and companies with consumers around a powerful, involving social purpose idea for mutual benefit. These findings, part of the second annual goodpurpose(TM) study, convey the eye-opening yet encouraging news that recent economic events have not had a negative impact on consumers' contributions to good causes. Despite the downturn, across the globe people’s sense of commitment to helping others - and to brands and companies that share that commitment - remains strong. The survey queried 6000 consumers in 10 countries and was conducted in August, September and October by StrategyOne. Around the world, consumers voice a strong desire for marketers to connect their brands to social action. Forty-two percent say that if two products are of the same quality and price, commitment to a social purpose trumps factors like design, innovation and brand loyalty when choosing one brand over the other. Half (52%) of consumers globally are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that does not, and 54% would help a brand promote a product if there was a good cause behind it. Around the world, a large majority of consumers, 87%, feel it is their duty to contribute to a better society and environment; 82% feel they can personally make a difference; and 83% are willing to change their own consumption habits to help make tomorrow's world a better place; these findings are statistically on par with last year’s study. Three-quarters (76%) say they like to buy brands that make a donation to worthy causes. StrategyOne conducted 6048 interviews in 10 countries between August and October 2008. The study was an online survey of consumers, nationally representative of each of the country populations.

Small businesses will benefit from up to £4 billion in loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) over the next four years, according to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling. Speaking at a seminar on supporting small business, the Chancellor described small firms as vital to the strength of the UK economy and that it was vital that these businesses have access to the loans and capital they need to help their businesses grow and develop. The EIB is the European Union's bank. As the UK has a 16.2 per cent shareholding in the EIB, UK small businesses should be able to benefit from around £4 billion of lending from the bank between 2008 and 2011. The EIB supports small and medium-sized enterprise investment through "SME Loans" (previously known as Global Loans), which are credit lines made available to national and regional intermediaries such as banks. They then lend on the finance as debt finance to small businesses that meet EIB criteria. Several UK institutions already take EIB loans to support their small business clients. They have now committed to discussing with the EIB the potential to draw further additional loans. Other institutions supporting small businesses that have not worked with the EIB in the past have also committed to discussing with the EIB how they can work together, and where they are commercially competitive, use EIB loans to deliver the most effective support to small businesses.

Small business entrepreneurs in the UK are chalking up more than half a billion man hours worth £1,046 billion to the UK economy every year, a study conducted for business insurer Hiscox reveals. Coined by Hiscox as the UK's 'EDP' measure – or Entrepreneurial Domestic Product – this represents every small business owner in the UK clocking up nearly 2,500 hours of work every year. Compared to an employee working a standard 37.5 hour week, small business owners work an extra 700 hours a year, or almost 2 hours every day. The significant value of the UK's EDP – where these long hours contribute a staggering 37% of UK businesses overall turnover each year - shows the enormous contribution small businesses make to the UK economy. The study shows that more than a third of small business owners put in over 50 hours a week, with 14% putting in more than 60 hours every week. Despite the long hours, running a business remains an attractive prospect, with 58% of UK small business entrepreneurs citing the desire to be their own boss as a motivating factor. The research reveals that it's not just a desire to boost their bank balance that is motivating British entrepreneurs to contribute to the country's EDP. Almost one-fifth of British small business entrepreneurs (18%) were prompted to start their own business due to redundancy while a sixth of UK entrepreneurs cited a desire to turn their back on the traditional, corporate world as a key factor in their decision to start their own business. 21% have turned their hand to running their own business, as they had a great idea that they wanted to bring to life. More than two thirds set up within a year of having that 'light-bulb moment.' A third set up out of confidence that they can make more money as their own boss.

A groundbreaking new £25 million equity fund for women-led businesses has been launched. The Aspire Investment Fund – said to be the first of its kind in the UK – will offer women who own businesses or who have entrepreneurial ideas the chance to secure financial support. Half of the budget has been stumped up by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), with private sector contributions set to provide the remaining £12.5 million. The scheme will be targeted at high growth businesses seeking an investment ranging between £100,000 and £2 million in order for the venture to develop. Business Minister Shriti Vadera, who launched the Aspire Investment Fund, cited the fact that there are 20% more people in enterprise in the US than in Britain, and the majority of that gap is made up of women. Getting more women entrepreneurs is an economic issue, she said, not just an equality issue. If the UK was to match US levels of women’s enterprise, there would be 900,000 new businesses in the UK. Overall responsibility for administrating the scheme has been allocated to Capital for Enterprise Limited, BERR’s equity capital scheme managers, but funding will be accessed through the Business Link service. Applicants will be offered support and assistance from a range of professional advisors to ensure their ideas are "investment ready".

An annual competition that shines the spotlight on the UK’s best young business brains has reopened to entries. The Daily Mail Enterprising Young Brits Awards 2009 offers £1,000 first prizes in five separate categories for entrepreneurs aged under 30 who have turned great business ideas into reality. Held as part of the Make Your Mark initiative, which is aiming to promote a culture of enterprise, the awards to be made include Business Entrepreneur – for the most enterprising individual who has set up their own business, no matter how large or small. Social and Community – for ventures that combine the principles of a successful business with an emphasis on providing social and environmental benefits. Teen – for the 13-19 year-old who has made entrepreneurial ideas happen. Creative – for the individuals, businesses and projects that have shown creative flair or are focused on the creative industry. Going Global – for businesses that are having success in both the UK and abroad. The closing date for entering the 2009 Awards has been set for 27 February 2009. For more information about the Awards and to find out how to enter, visit the Make Your Mark website

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has officially launched a social enterprise founded by Tim Campbell, winner of hit TV series The Apprentice. The Bright Ideas Trust will offer young entrepreneurs in London the advice and financial support they need to help them set up and run their own successful businesses. Backed by a number of major investors, including £600,000 from the Bank of America, the scheme will provide 16-30 year-olds with their own business mentor, a specialist network of business support, and equity investment of up to £25,000 to get their ideas off the ground. Mr Campbell, who became Sir Alan Sugar's first Apprentice, hopes the initiative will encourage people from all backgrounds to take an interest in business and enterprise. According to the Mayor, small and medium sized businesses make up 80% of London's economy and this is a chance for people to start them up.

The American Friends of the Phelophepa Train has honoured the Most Reverend Desmond N. Tutu and his wife, Leah Nomalizo Tutu for their commitment to advancing health care for the poor in South Africa and for their patronage of the American Friends of the Phelophepa Train. Robert W. Lane, Chairman and CEO of Deere & Company and Steve Killelea, Founder & President, Global Peace Index, and Chairman & Founder Integrated Research Ltd. were also honored for their outstanding contributions to South Africa. The Phelophepa Health Train, or Train of Hope, is a mobile medical unit that crisscrosses remote areas of South Africa by rail throughout the year. It has been in continuous operation since 1994 providing primary health, dental, optometry and counseling to patients living in remote rural areas. The American Friends of the Phelophepa Train is a registered 501c3 charity and is the US-based fundraising arm for the train whose mission is to provide American individuals, foundations and corporations with opportunities to contribute.

Bridges Ventures, a fund management company with a social mission, chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, has launched a new fund dedicated to investment in social enterprises. The fund, which is an initiative of the Bridges Charitable Trust, has so far raised £4.25m from investors who include Sir Ronald Cohen, Nigel Doughty, Harvey McGrath, the Apax Foundation, the Generation Foundation, Lehman Brothers Foundation Europe, Deutsche Bank and 3i. NESTA- the National Foundation for Enterprise, Science and the Arts- is a partner in the venture, which is to be called the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund. The new fund will work closely with UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, to ensure that the social entrepreneurs seeking funding are investment ready.

According to research undertaken by the Financial Times, two out of three jobs created since 1998 have been in parts of the economy dominated by the public sector. The dominance of the public sector has been so pronounced that in some areas, such as the west and east Midlands, the number of people employed in the private sector actually fell between 1998 and 2006. The FT's findings, based on unpublished official figures, show that the private sector has been less dynamic than thought, suggesting that it may be worse equipped to weather the recession than ministers had hoped. That may raise fears of rising unemployment, especially since the most dynamic private sector areas of financial and business services have started to shed employees. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) collects data on public sector employment in three surveys-the Labour Force Survey, the Annual Business Inquiry and the Public Sector Employment survey- with each dataset giving a different picture of each sector's growth. The ONS's preferred measure of public sector employment shows the lowest growth rate but its method excludes workers such as general practitioners, agency supply teachers in state schools and university lecturers, whose salaries are usually entirely funded by taxpayers. The official figures suggest that the increase in public sector workers since 1998 has been 600,000, but when employees are asked to classify themselves, the increase goes up to 900,000.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that workers in London and the south-east are likely to be the worst hit by the recession, with one in 12 jobs being cut in the next 18 months. The LGA report, which was compiled by Pacec, says that the capital is expected to be worst hit because of its dependence on the financial sector, where banks are expected to shed tens of thousands more jobs. Many construction firms, already hard hit by the housing downturn, are also based in and around London. Manufacturing districts in the North and the west Midlands, such as Hull, Bradford, Coventry and Birmingham, are also likely to be badly hit. However, some areas in the south-west and East Anglia, with big farming communities, will fare much better in relative terms, with only one in 30 posts projected to go by 2010. There was also a glimmer of hope for those living in the M4 corridor, Stoke-on-Trent and the areas around Newcastle, where roughly one in 20 posts would be lost. Pacec analysed data from the previous two recessions and the growth performance of areas in the past two years, which it said is critical in predicting job losses. It also looked at the breakdown of the commercial, public and industrial sector in each region to see which posts were most vulnerable. Although it argues that it is impossible to predict the impact of the recession on job sectors alone it does claim that anyone employed in business services, defence and public administration or the transport and service sectors may also be protected, with some job increases even being predicted.

The Association of Colleges say that research they have commissioned from YouGov shows that millions of adults are going back to college to retrain in an effort to survive the credit crunch. Those made redundant or who fear for the future of their jobs are at the forefront of the drive to upgrade skills. A fifth of adults intend to gain further qualifications in the coming year and a third of those want to do because of the economic downturn. Some colleges already report increased enrolments.

The French government has announced that it is banking on the €15bn domestic sector in the fight against unemployment. Laureant Wauquiez, the employment minister, speaking at the opening of a trade fairing Paris said that fiscal incentives would help 130,000 people to find work as cleaners, gardeners, nannies, home-helps and other similar services - a third of all jobs created this year. Domestic services firms such as Axeo (part of Lyonniase des Eaux France) and O2 provide domestic employees ranging from DIY experts to cooks available to families, who can deduct the costs from their taxes.

From January 2009, Black History Studies will be running a series of long and short term courses in North and South London. Amongst other topics, the courses will cover the Introduction to the study of Black History, Politics, Sociology, Psychology, Science, Art and Religion. The 30 week course – Introduction to Black Studies – will analyse all the major areas of the Black Experience – the History, the Politics, the Psychology, the Science & Technology, the Arts, and finally, the Religion. All of the information is selected to be of relevance and interest to the Black Community. The information itself is designed to inspire, challenge, and to provoke serious thought. The course is a highly accessible 30 week programme but it is also rigorous and content laden. It assumes no prior knowledge of the subject areas, but the adult student is taken through an avalanche of information. Reading lists and course materials are provided.

The biggest gender pay gap is in the consulting sector, according to a new piece of research. Men working as consultants earn, on average, 35 per cent more than women in the same roles, the survey from executive jobs website Experteer showed. The second most gender-biased sectors are finance and IT, where men are paid 20 per cent more than their female peers. The survey of 2,400 people earning more than £50,000 also showed that the retail sector has a lower level of pay inequality – a gap of 11 per cent. But the sectors showing the most pay equality are the public and charity sectors, where the gap is 6 per cent. Stricter equalities and human rights policy with the public and charity sectors are thought to help minimise the pay gap.
Source: PM Online

Entries are now open for the 2009 UK Enterprise Awards - aimed at individuals and organisations that provide support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Awards will be presented on Thursday 16th April 2009. In a year which has proved particularly challenging, the role of the advisers, coaches, mentors and others who encourage and support small businesses has never been more critical, according to SFEDI, the small business watchdog and standards setting body. It hosts the Awards on behalf of its Advisory Board of which most of the key small business associations and organisations in the UK are members. The awards showcase the individuals, organisations, products and services which have done most to help start ups, the self-employed and small business owners during 2008. Categories include awards for professional advisers, such as accountants, through to volunteer business mentors. There is also an award for the business owner or entrepreneur who has done most to support other small and home business owners.

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