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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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News from the UK and around the world

Working from Home Lowers Stress

New research shows that working from home can result in lower stress levels, although the opportunities to network may be reduced. The research, carried out by Durham Business School, studied the responses of 749 managerial or professional positions in UK-based knowledge-intensive industries and found a clear link between working from home and improved well-being, but also revealed worries that home working could harm career prospects. Although the report did not poll small business owners, it clearly shows a correlation between stress levels and home working. Removing the time and hassle of the daily commute between home and office is just one obvious example of how working from home can lower stress levels. There were no significant differences between the commitment of home and office-based workers to their companies. For example, in response to the question “I really feel as if this organisation’s problems are my own”, 69% of home workers and 67% of office workers respectively agreed with the statement. The research found that working from home does not harm an employee’s commitment and has real benefits for staff.

New Book asks ‘Can Business save the Planet?’

In their new book, "Positively Responsible," authors Erik Bichard and Cary Cooper CBE look at how individuals behave in a situation of global crisis and how businesses can start to take the necessary positive steps towards a more sustainable and financially stable future. Inspired by years of working with businesses to lessen their environmental and social impacts and improve their competitiveness, "Positively Responsible" shows how sustainable business practices can be achieved without having a negative influence on either corporate leaders or their employees, by using the forces of market advantage rather than opposing them. "Positively Responsible" challenges the assumption that incorporating sustainability into business strategy will be a necessarily painful and fiscally destructive process, exploring fundamental questions and issues. Illustrated by corporate case studies taken from Nestle, Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer, South West Airliners (SWA), The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry's, Shell, ICI, BNFL, Boeing, DuPont, Dow, Mitsui and StoraEnso, Norsk Hydro, Amec, FRC Group, Electrolux and others, the authors show how a more proactive approach pays dividends for the future. It recommends a new strategy for corporate social responsibility, built on a market-based justification for change, and within the crucial timescales predicted by climate researchers.

Hutton Urges Companies to “Compete For” Online Olympics Contracts

UK Business Minister John Hutton has hailed the success of a website that enables businesses to bid for up to £6 billion worth of contracts. The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform visited Stratford to see how the CompeteFor online service was giving businesses the chance to benefit from opportunities linked to the London 2012 Olympic Games. CompeteFor is part of the London 2012 Business Network. Developed by the London Development Agency (LDA), the service is run across the country by regional development agencies and the devolved administrations, alongside the Olympic Delivery Authority. The website matches registered companies of all sizes to thousands of potential tendering opportunities. More than 5,600 London businesses have already registered since it was launched in February 2008, but Mr Hutton has urged more businesses to take advantage of the opportunities available. For more information about the opportunities that the 2012 Olympics offer to businesses, visit the CompeteFor website (opens a new window)

New £36 Million Investment to Support Welsh Entrepreneurs

A scheme to help create a new generation of entrepreneurs in Wales has been unveiled by Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones. Joint-funded by the European Union, the £36 million Wales Business Start Up project will provide support to entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in Wales. The initiative could create more than 10,000 jobs and support the development of 8,000 new businesses across the country. Mr. Jones said the Wales Business Start Up project would enable more companies to use EU funds.

£2 Million to Transfer Talent From Universities Into Business

Two knowledge transfer programmes are helping North East businesses reap the rewards of the outstanding academic talent emerging from the region’s five universities. Regional Development Agency One North East has pumped £1.3 million and £700,000 respectively into the Technology Strategy Board’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) and Collaborative Innovation Partnership (CIP) initiatives that support collaboration between business and academia. The schemes involve experts working with regional companies to improve their competitiveness through better use of knowledge, technology and skills. KTP is focused on larger companies operating in the healthcare and health sciences, new and renewable energy and process innovation sectors, whilst CIP targets SMEs. Each partnership employs an associate, usually a post-graduate researcher or university graduate, who works with a company on a project which is core to its strategic development. They are supported by a regional university, which in turn gains a better understanding of the challenges businesses face.

United Technologies Named Corporation of the Year for Supplier Diversity

United Technologies Corp. has been named "2008 Corporation of the Year" by the Connecticut Minority Supplier Development Council for successfully increasing procurement opportunities with minority business owners. UTC has spent more than $1.3 billion with minority suppliers during the past five years, averaging 18 percent growth year over year. Earlier this year, DiversityBusiness.com honored UTC as one of the top 50 companies for multicultural opportunities. United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Connecticut, is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries. Source: Diversity Inc.

National Society of Black Engineers Honors UNCF/Merck Science Initiative with Golden Torch Award

The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative was recently honored by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) with the 2008 Golden Torch Award for Corporate/Education Partnership at the NSBE Annual National Convention in Orlando, Florida. The Corporate/Education Partnership award is given to a joint program between a corporation and an educational institution or program dedicated to improving African-American access to quality education, employment and technology. The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative is a ground-breaking program established in 1996 to support the training and development of African-American scientists in the United States. The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative provides financial support through scholarships and fellowships awarded at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels to outstanding African-American students pursuing studies in the biomedical sciences. Undergraduate scholars also receive paid internships for two summers at the Merck Research Laboratories, where Merck scientists volunteer to mentor scholars and fellows. Mentoring is a key program component and provides opportunities for enhancing research, career development and networking skills. To date, more than 400 scholarships and fellowships have been awarded to promising African-American students through a competitive application process that selects candidates based on their academic achievements and their potential in the field of biomedical research. Fellows have gone on to pursue careers in a wide range of disciplines, from biochemistry and microbiology to pharmacology, neuroscience, biophysics and bioengineering.

Cash Injection for Scottish Graduate Support Scheme

A pioneering programme that is helping to develop the next generation of Scottish entrepreneurs has been given a £1 million funding boost. Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network has secured the funding from the Scottish Government’s SEEKIT scheme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The Network will use the cash to continue their work helping students and graduates from the University to take their ideas and develop them into new businesses. Over the next three years the Network will offer a package including start-up support for new business ideas, product development funding, and access to a wide range of University services aimed at helping fledgling SMEs to grow and prosper.

Lunch and the City

A recent survey undertaken by recruiter Morgan McKinley on the lunch habits of London-based financial markets workers has revealed that although 78% feel that they are more productive if they take a proper break at lunchtime, only 15% actually do each day. 80% of respondents said that they never took a full lunch hour, with 24% saying that they got less than a 15 minute break each day. 68% of respondents said that they had too much to do to take a proper break. 23% said that they were on a roll (rather than going out for a roll) and didn't want to break the momentum. 20% said that they would rather work through lunch and go home early (although it's not clear how many of those actually do go home at a decent time). And 16% said that they didn't take a break as no-one else in their team did. Source: HereIsTheCity

Aspiring Arts Journalists Sought to cover RSC Artistic Programme

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is looking for its new intake of committed and aspiring arts journalists to regularly cover its productions and events over the next year (starting August 08 - August 09). The RSC is interested in hearing from upcoming journalists who have connections with youth, local, and ethnic minority media, be it print, broadcast, or online, and will provide bursaries to help you see its output in Stratford-upon- Avon. This is a great opportunity to interview leading directors, actors and other theatre practitioners at the RSC; see fantastic plays; and develop an informal mentoring relationship with an arts critic at a leading publication. Dominic Cavendish, theatre critic at the Daily Telegraph, will share his career tips at this event. If you would like to learn more about the scheme and hear about the experiences from participants on last year's scheme, then please do join us at this event in Stratford-Upon- Avon. Deadlines for written applications will be on July 11, 2008. Contact: Uchenna Izundu on 07734 986 359. To book a place, please send an email to mediachisolutions@googlemail.com Please assume that you have been registered unless you hear otherwise

UK Economy Likely to be ‘worse than expected’ in 2009

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) quarterly economic report says that British businesses need to prepare themselves for a worse than expected 2009 as a “very sharp deceleration in consumer spending” and a worsening external deficit put the squeeze on corporate Britain. The BCC say that although business prospects for next year have worsened over the past few months and while recession can still be avoided, the marked slowdown in growth will be enough to pit many businesses under pressure. David Kern, the BCC’s economic adviser, said: “British businesses are facing two difficult years. The Monetary Policy Committee and the Government must adopt pro-active policy measures aimed at countering the threats to growth”. However Trevor Williams, chief economist at Lloyds TSB, talking on BBC News pointed to the latest inflation indicators and doubted whether there were many rate cuts due in the rest of the year as the concerns grew about inflation reaching three per cent. A CBI survey of small and medium sized companies shows that they have been raising prices to try and tackle the strongest cost pressures seen for 20 years.

Liverpool heads List of Most Deprived Areas in England

Liverpool has been named as England’s most deprived area in a government report, which ranks all of England’s 354 local authorities in terms of deprivation, a measure based on factors that include crime, the availability of education, standard of housing, quality of health and the income of residents. Hart in Hampshire is designated as England’s least deprived area. The results are the same as when the last report was done in 2004. Areas of north-east Lincolnshire are the worst in terms of crime while Forest Heath in Suffolk is the least deprived. Hackney is the most deprived living environment while Harborough in Leicestershire is the least deprived. Brent is the poorest in terms of barriers to housing and services and poorest in terms of education and training a swell as having the lowest income levels. Richmond-upon-Thames is the best area for education and Forest Heath in Suffolk is the least deprived in terms of income and also in employment.

African Footballers must speak English

African, South American and other non-European footballers who cannot speak English will be barred from joining Premiership clubs from the autumn under the new points-based immigration system. The spoken English test is part of a package of tougher rules for skilled migrants from outside Europe applying to work in Britain and for temporary workers and students. Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, said that there would have been 20,000 fewer migrants coming to Britain last year if the new rules had been in place. Under the new system a vacancy will have to be advertised for at least two weeks (one week for jobs paid over £40,000). Migrants will have to show they are competent in basic English. Jobs to be classified as “shortage occupations” will be decided by a new Migration Advisory Committee, headed by David Metcalf, professor of industrial relations at LSE. It is expected that the new measures will deter five per cent of existing skilled migrants coming to Britain.

London and South-East Dominate UK Economy

The latest issue of the Office of National Statistics’ Regional Trends shows that workers in the capital and the Home Counties generate a third of the nation’s wealth, producing £375 billion a year in goods and services, out of an overall national total of £1,155 billion. London alone produces £218 billion. The report finds that the North-South divide continues to grow. Average weekly incomes in the North stood at only £455 in 2006, more than a third lower than London, which enjoys an average weekly income of £766. Paul Vickers, the ONS’s regional analyst, said that the productivity gap between North and South was particularly stark. “The South East and London dominate the gross value-added charts. London’s domination is such that it shows a productivity level nearly 50 per cent higher than the South East”.

Calling Playwrights of African/Caribbean Descent in the UK

Talawa invites entries for the Alfred Fagon Award for the best new stage play in English by playwrights of African/Caribbean descent who are resident in the UK. Its worth £5000 to the winner and the winning play will also be read at the Royal Court Theatre in November 2008. The closing date for entries is 31 August 2008. For more information visit www.talawa.com

World’s Most Ethical Companies Ranking Issued by Ethisphere Institute

The Ethisphere Institute, a think-tank dedicated to the research and promotion of profitable best practices in governance, business ethics, compliance and corporate social responsibility released its second annual World's Most Ethical Companies list. The recipients were honored at an evening reception at the June 3rd Ethisphere and Forbes joint conference, "Driving Profit through Ethical Leadership." The elite list also appears nationally in the Q2 issue of the quarterly magazine of the Institute, Ethisphere Magazine. Leaders from Google, PepsiCo, Kellogg, and American Express, which were included on the 2008 World’s Most Ethical Companies list, spoke on various panels which included Going Green and Supply Chain Sustainability; Human Capital and the Value in Values-Based Leadership; and Looking Ahead: The Future of Ethical Leadership, among others. The process included reviewing the companies’ codes of ethics, litigation and regulatory infraction histories; evaluating the investment in innovation and sustainable business practices; looking at activities designed to improve corporate citizenship; studying nominations from senior executives, industry peers, suppliers and customers; and working with consumer action groups for feedback. www.ethisphere.com/WME2008

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Launches New TV Campaign in US to Recruit Male Volunteer Mentors

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has added a new series of television commercials as part of its 2008 campaign for male volunteers. The commercials are part of the "Campaign for Men," a 13-month national program that began in January, funded by a $100,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. The organization launched its campaign to increase male recruitment, especially African-Americans and Hispanics, across Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 400+ agencies. More than 70 percent of the children waiting for a Big Brother are boys, but only three out of every 10 inquiries about volunteering come from men. More than 50 percent of the boys Big Brothers Big Sisters serves are African-American, while only 15 percent of its male volunteers are African-American. Big Brothers Big Sisters, BigBrothersBigSisters.org, is the largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. The organization is currently focusing on recruiting Big Brothers, especially African-Americans and Hispanics. www.bigbrothersbigsisters.org

PricewaterhouseCoopers Launches Impact Program for Talented African-American High School Juniors

PricewaterhouseCoopers has launched a unique educational community initiative to benefit academically talented African-American high school juniors. Called "Impact," the distinctive program is part of a broader commitment by PricewaterhouseCoopers to Corporate Responsibility and a focused community outreach effort to develop the next generation of leaders. Impact helps participants broaden their educational horizons and opportunities by nurturing talented students to achieve admission into some of the premier colleges and universities in the country. Impact helps participants navigate the college planning and application process through monthly workshops, dedicated professional mentors and access to tools and strategies that will broaden their education and career choices. PricewaterhouseCoopers began the program this year in the New York City and Washington, D.C. metro areas, but will expand it to other cities in future years. For more information about the Impact program, visit: www.pwc.com/impact.

CBI and TUC show Business Benefits of Diversity

Further evidence for the business benefits of diversity has been illustrated in a joint report from the CBI and TUC. The report, Talent not Tokenism, showed how leading companies, including Arriva and Pinsent Masons, achieved a diverse workforce and the benefits it has brought them in. Transport company Arriva has sent 5,800 staff on diversity courses, set up 24 learning centres to raise skills, and begun a diversity recruitment programme. Now, Arriva North West & Wales has seen an increase of 60 per cent in female bus drivers and Arriva Yorkshire has seen the number of people leaving within two years of employment fall by a third. The report states that companies who look beyond the "usual suspects" for staff contribute to higher morale and productivity, improved retention rates and lower recruitment costs. A diverse workforce will also provide better understanding of customer needs and help address skills shortages, it adds. Source: PM Online

Huge Boost for Skills Training

Up to £65 million has been earmarked for a new England-wide drive to boost skills across the science, engineering, manufacturing and technology sectors. The cash, allocated from the Government's Train to Gain budget, has been made available for Sector Skills Council SEMTA to deliver urgently required skills training. Companies will be able to access grants of between £500 and £1,800 per employee, with support focused on tackling skills gaps in SMEs to help them become more competitive. The link-up between government and SEMTA will also allow participating employers access to further training through the Train to Gain scheme, and enable them to offer more apprenticeships. According to Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, between 2004 and 2014 there will be an estimated need for an additional 324,000 skilled workers in science, engineering and manufacturing technologies. SEMTA research estimates a lack of skilled workers is costing the country approximately £700 million a year in lost productivity, with skills gaps of 29% in the pharmaceutical and bio-science sectors, and an 18% skills gap in engineering.

UNESCO/ANSTI Diaspora Award

UNESCO/ANSTI is inviting African scientists in the Diaspora to apply for the above award. The award is offered to scientists who wish to attend scientific thematic conferences and workshops in Africa. The award includes the cost of the air ticket, cost of accommodation and a daily subsistence amount for the duration of the conference. Women scientists in the Diaspora are encouraged to apply. The application should include the following documents: CV, Letter of invitation, Abstract of the Paper to be presented at the conference, budget breakdown and should be sent to the address below or to diaspora@ansti.org

Employees to be given the right to request training

The UK government has introduced plans to allow employees the legal right to request time to train from their employers. In a further announcement, apprenticeships will receive a boost under new legislation to unlock the potential of individuals and businesses. The government will now consult on how workers can be legally empowered to request time to undertake training that will benefit them and their employer. The practical arrangements which employers would follow would be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working. By introducing a new right to ask for time for training, employees will be able to talk to employers about their training needs, and employers will become more aware of the public funds available to support training. Employers will be legally obliged to seriously consider requests for training they receive but could refuse a request where there was a good business reason to do so. Employers will not be obliged to meet the salary or training costs to enable a request for time to train but it is expected that many will choose to do so, recognising the opportunity to invest in their business.

New start-up Packs for Small Businesses Released

The British Chambers of Commerce has just released its custom-built new business start-up pack as part of a long term commitment to encourage small companies to grow successfully. In association with commercial partners, the BCC's start-up pack includes features such as instant tender alerts, telecoms offers, free software, product discounts, free legal advice and half price BCC membership.

Small Companies lead the way with Flexible Working in UK

According to the recently published Walsh Review, small companies have a better record of accepting requests for flexible working than larger ones. Led by Sainsbury’s HR director Imelda Walsh, the Review recommends extending the right to request flexible working to parents of children up to age 16. The Government has accepted the recommendation. This means more small businesses are set to benefit from the advantages flexible working brings to the workplace, including increased productivity and recruitment savings. Around six million employees currently have the right to request flexible working; 3.6 million parents and 2.65 million carers. This will increase to over 10 million [6m plus 4.5m] if the extension goes ahead. The UK’s small businesses are already performing well in terms of flexible working practices; the British Chambers of Commerce found that 89% of small employers have already provided their employees with some form of flexible working. The arrangements include working from home, part-time work, compressed hours, flexitime or other arrangements agreed with employers. Alongside the benefits flexible working brings to employees, employers have found promoting work-life balance makes a positive contribution to their business, namely significant improvements in employee relations (71%), staff retention (60%) and productivity (58%). To help small businesses manage requests to work flexibly, the Government has developed a range of guides, interactive tools and advice available at www.businesslink.gov.uk/flexibleworking.

Skills Shortage Looms as IT Student Levels Drop

The number of computing students in universities and colleges in the UK has dropped almost 50% since 2001 to below 1996 levels, prompting fears that IT departments are on the verge of a new skills shortage. The shortfall, revealed in a study commissioned by IT professors and heads of computing at leading UK universities and colleges, coincides with rising demand from business for skilled IT professionals. The study predicts demand for IT skills will grow 15% over the next eight years as businesses prepare for long-overdue IT infrastructure and business application upgrades. Academics claim that without intervention, there will be serious shortfall in the number of professionals with the computing knowledge needed to support the growth of the UK’s knowledge economy in the next eight years. The study, commissioned by the UK’s Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC), calls for government funding to attract people with other degrees into post-graduate programmes and for the introduction of US-style tax breaks to encourage UK industry to invest more heavily in university qualifications. Source: Computer Weekly

Performance Reviews Often Skip Ethics, say American HR Professionals

In a new national survey, only 43 percent of American human resources professionals said their organizations include ethical conduct as part of employees' performance appraisals. In the study released jointly by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Ethics Resource Center (ERC), human resource professionals said they are their organizations' primary resource for ethics-related issues, and they help create ethics policies. But most don't feel that they are truly part of the ethics infrastructure. Instead, they are just asked to "clean up" the situations caused by ethics violations. The SHRM/ERC study, The Ethics Landscape in American Business, was conducted for the third time since 1997.It is the only measure of its kind--one that examines the attitudes of human resource professionals about ethics in their workplace. Results of the study were compared, or benchmarked, to ERC's National Workplace Ethics Survey, a broader study fielded in 2007.The current SHRM/ERC study questioned 513 human resource professionals on six key business ethics themes, while ERC's poll surveyed 3,452 employees. According to the SHRM/ERC study, only 23 percent of HR professionals say that their organizations have a comprehensive ethics and compliance program in place, and 7 percent report that their employer has no program at all. A complete copy of The Ethics Landscape in American Business is available at www.shrm.org/surveys. The ERC's National Workplace Ethics Survey can be found at www.ethics.org.

Welsh Apprentices to Get £70 Million Funding

A three-year project aimed at raising the skills of the workforce in some of Wales’ poorest areas has been revealed. A total of £70 million is to be spent on the Modern Apprenticeship World Class Skills scheme, which aims to help 22,500 workers raise their skill levels and provide more than 14,000 training places. The investment will be targeted across areas of West Wales and the Valleys, and includes £40 million from the European Social Fund’s Convergence programme. A similar apprenticeship drive financed by a previous European initiative has already helped 25,000 people in these regions to improve their skills. The scheme will provide three levels of training, through pre-apprenticeship, foundation, and modern apprenticeship levels, with the Assembly Government predicting that the drive would help achieve its goal of 80% of adults in Wales having basic literacy skills. A further £3.5 million is to be spent on developing a Modern Skills diploma that will offer more than 1,000 people the chance to enhance their vocational and managerial skills.

UK Labour Market Outlook

Despite the predicted economic slowdown following the global credit crunch, over four in five organisations surveyed are planning to recruit staff during the next three months (86). Seventy-seven per cent of organisations surveyed do not intend to make any redundancies during the next three months. For those who do, about half (48%) expect redundancies to total fewer than ten staff and the same proportion say it will be more than ten. When asked what the effect of this recruitment or redundancies will be, half (48%) of organisations surveyed say it is to maintain total staff levels. One in eight (12%) say recruitment and redundancies will decrease staff levels and over a third (37%) say they will increase staff levels. Similarly, 36% say they expect their total staff numbers to be higher year on year, while about half (47%) expect staff levels to be unchanged. Just under half of organisations (46%) expect to have recruitment difficulties during the next three months. Vacancies in engineering and skilled trades as well as those in general/middle management and senior management/directors are expected to be the hardest to fill in the coming quarter. Source: CIPD Labour Market Outlook Report

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