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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
Bradford University Encourages UK students to Study Abroad

The University of Bradford is tackling the problem of low outward student mobility head-on by offering home students travel awards to subsidise overseas study programmes. Encouraging UK students to study abroad is not a new issue and it continues to be a bugbear for many UK universities keen for home students to spend part of their degree overseas. The UK sent just 7,235 students on Erasmus programmes in 2006-07, while France, Germany and Spain all have more than 20,000 students on the move (although 8,500 Brits studied in the US at all levels in 2006-07). While take-up on Bradford’s Erasmus scheme has increased, student participation on international study abroad programmes remains low. This has prompted the university’s Internationalisation Committee to invest in travel awards to encourage uptake, especially on its transnational courses in Malaysia, India and Singapore. The university hopes that the benefits of studying on a transnational course will be particularly attractive to those students who do not wish to learn another language for academic purposes, but do wish to experience a different culture and education system. Bradford has also introduced fee waivers for UK and EU students studying abroad for a full academic year. This pilot scheme will be reviewed after two years, once its effect on increasing student mobility has been assessed. International students will also have the opportunity to study abroad on exchanges for an academic year at a reduced tuition fee. There is also evidence that study abroad increases student employability: according to an i-graduate report, 29% of employers feel that a graduate with overseas study experience is more employable. Source: International Focus

UK Survey finds 54% of Injured Employees Sue

Over half of UK employees injured at work have sued their employer, research has found. A survey for insurer RSA found that 11.8 million people have suffered from illness or injury caused by their job in the past year. Of these, 54 per cent have taken legal action, 33 per cent have taken the issue to trade unions and 14 per cent have made complaints to their line managers. The usual suspects of illness caused by work – stress and back problems – affected the majority of the 1,979 respondents. Colin Bradbury, underwriting director at RSA, said: “If there are team members missing or unable to take part in decisions, this can only have a negative effect on the business and involve the company in significant costs. The survey highlights the importance of risk management in safeguarding employees’ health and ensuring a productive workplace. Source: PM Online

Call for Nominations for Precious Awards

Nominations are invited for the Precious Awards, sponsored by Pearson plc. The Precious Awards serve to promote those inspiring women that generate ideas and turn them into action and change. As well as celebrating female entrepreneurs, the Precious Awards also pay tribute to women that play a leadership role within a large organisation with the Leadership within the Workplace Award. Nominations for the Awards nominations close on September 30. Further information can be found at http://www.preciousawards.com/ where nomination forms can be downloaded.

HR Consultancies at Risk in Current Economy

Over 1,700 jobs could be lost at HR consultancies over the next year as the firms struggle with economic conditions, according to a study. The third annual Plimsoll Analysis, which assesses the financial health of UK companies, found that 44 of the UK’s 307 HR consultancies were rated as “in danger” of folding within 12 months if they do not make radical changes. Meanwhile, 176 firms were rated as healthy and 87 received a middling ranking. Three-quarters of the consultancies could benefit from reducing their headcount and 15 per cent of them are running at a loss, the research found. The news follows a British Chamber of Commerce survey which suggests overall unemployment could rise by up to 300,000 over the next 12 months as the UK economy experiences a "prolonged and bumpy landing".

Skills Support for North East England

A £6.4 million funding package to help develop skills in the North East has been given the go ahead. Regional development agency One North East’s board has approved the programme, which will boost the capacity of skills and training providers in the region. The Higher Level Skills Provider Network Continuation project will see the agency working closely with the regional Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to ensure employers can access workers with the necessary skills they need to develop and grow their business. Support will be targeted towards nine priority industries that have been identified in the Regional Economic Strategy (RES) including Chemicals and pharmaceuticals, Automotive, Energy, Defence and marine, Food and drink, Tourism and hospitality and Knowledge intensive business services. For more about the programme contact Sanjee Ratnatunga at One North East on 0191 2296 351. Source: One North East

UK to Help African Producers Trade Out Of Poverty

The UK food industry is invited to apply for support from a £2 million scheme aiming to increase trade from African suppliers. Provided by the Department for International Development (DFID), the Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICH) will support the sector in developing new supply chains and business models that help increase the export market for African products. FRICH will enable small, rural African producers to develop their businesses, which will have the knock-on effect of reducing poverty and improving the income of rural African communities. Around seven projects are expected to be supported, with funding able to cover 50% of total project costs. Applying businesses will be expected to match fund the remaining costs from their own resources. All UK-based food industry companies that have links with African agriculture are eligible to apply for the scheme, including supermarkets, food retail brands, food processing firms, importers of African products, and ethical trade organisations. Projects must be led by a private sector organisation and include at least one UK food sector firm, whether they are leading the bid or not. The programme will be managed on DFID’s behalf by Emerging Market Economics Ltd, with interested companies initially asked to submit a concept note by 15 September 2008. For further information about the scheme and to make an application: www.frich.co.uk

New Rules to Track Foreign Students in the UK

Universities and colleges will be required to keep track of their foreign students and to tell the UK Home Office if any go missing, under new immigration rules published. Universities and colleges must apply for a £400 licence to recruit international students and could be blacklisted if they fail to comply with the regulations. The new plans were announced by the UK Government as part of a major change in the UK visa system. In 2006, a total of 309,000 people from outside Europe came to Britain on student visas. It is estimated that they add about £2.5 billion a year to the UK economy in tuition fees. According to the Home Office, the new rules are designed to cut out ‘bogus’ students and colleges.

New MBA Career Book, "More Than Money: Questions Every MBA Needs to Answer" Launched

Dr. Mark Albion has published a book “More Than Money: Questions Every MBA Needs to Answer.” This short career guidebook helps aspiring MBAs, MBA students and graduates navigate a fulfilling life of contribution and comfort. The book is based on Dr. Albion's speeches at dozens of business schools each year, many as co-founder of Net Impact. The book includes stories of successful entrepreneurs, including SVN members Elliot Hoffman, CEO of the New Voice of Business, and Joe Sibilia. Mark Albion spent 18 years as a student and professor at Harvard University and its Business School. Dr. Albion left Harvard to develop a community of service-minded MBAs, co-founding Net Impact in 1993. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller ‘Making a Life, Making a Living®’ and ‘True to Yourself: Leading a Values-Based Business’. He has spoken at more than 125 business schools on five continents, for which Business Week magazine dubbed him "the savior of B-school souls."

Harvard Business School Offers Executive Education Program On Corporate Social Responsibility

Harvard Business School has announced its upcoming session of Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategies to Create Business and Social Value, a program that examines the link between corporate social responsibility and competitive advantage. Now in its fourth year, this annual Executive Education offering will be held October 15–18, 2008, on the HBS campus in Boston. Targeted to senior executives from a broad range of industries, the curriculum focuses on aligning corporate culture and social responsibility strategies. Developed in response to the increasing expectations of consumers, investors, communities, and governments for socially responsible business practices, the program explores the dilemmas, challenges, and complexities inherent in current models of social responsibility. By drawing on real-world case studies, classroom discussions, and the latest research, HBS faculty help senior executives to develop and manage initiatives that integrate both corporate and social values, while producing quantifiable results. Participants also gain exposure to diverse perspectives through interacting with industry guest speakers and developing a network of global peers. Harvard Business School is the leading provider of advanced learning opportunities that strengthen the leadership capacity of individuals and their organizations.

Microsoft Launches New Online Resource for Nonprofit Groups

Microsoft Corp. has announced the global availability of NGO Connection, a new online resource for thousands of non-profit groups around the world. Driven by feedback from non-profit partners and years of experience working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the online resource is designed to assist NGOs to more efficiently use technology to achieve their goals as well as to encourage networking and coordination of NGO resources across the world. The primary goal of the new online resource is to provide a convenient and easy one-stop shop for technology resources, knowledge sharing, community building and real-life examples for nonprofit organizations. By using simple, non-technical terminology, NGO Connection endeavours to make it easier for NGOs to access the complete range of Microsoft resources and offerings, and help them effectively use other online resources for nonprofit groups. NGO Connection also will be localized into Arabic, French, German, Russian and Spanish in the coming months, bringing the resources of NGO Connection to an even wider audience of NGOs. NGO Connection also makes it easy for NGOs to share best practices and case studies, giving them the option of participating in an online forum where they can engage in dialogues about using technology effectively and share solutions to some of their common challenges. The goal is to help NGOs make the connection between their needs and how to solve them with technology.

Research Identifies a New Breed of US 'Greenfluencers'

A comprehensive study of nearly 12,000 U.S. adults conducted by Porter Novelli, a global communications agency, revealed that a small but powerful group of consumers - "Greenfluencers" - are driving trends and shaping purchasing decisions in the mass market. Unlike their counterparts in earlier environmental movements, Greenfluencers are not third-party experts or full-time advocates with a laser-like focus on advancing a specific agenda. Rather, this new highly influential group, which amounts to roughly 4% of the U.S. population, is young, racially diverse and outspoken on a variety of social and political issues. And while Greenfluencers are more eco-savvy than their peers, they are still relatively mainstream in their lifestyle choices (e.g., big-box retail shoppers and heavy TV watchers). This accessibility combined with a high level of social connectivity has enabled this group to become the voice of authority on the sustainable lifestyle. Specifically: Greenfluencers are asked by friends on a regular basis (almost every day) for expert advice. Compared with the general population, almost three times as many Greenfluencers read blogs, post comments and participate in online chats and discussions (20 percent versus 7 percent). Within the past 12 months, 41 percent of Greenfluencers contacted their senator or congressman.

Infrastructure Investment for South West

More than £12 million is being made available for a series of infrastructure improvements that will help unlock the South West’s business potential and improve facilities across the region. The cash injections are the first to be agreed from the South West Regional Development Agency’s (SWRDA) new £80 million Regional Infrastructure Fund (RIF). Up to £6.5 million has been allocated to improve junctions 29 and 30 on the M5, which will ease traffic congestion and improve links to the new community at Cranbrook, the proposed Skypark business and science hub in East Devon, and other new housing developments in Exeter. The RIF is the first fund of its kind across the UK and will provide seed investment to speed up the funding process for major infrastructure projects in the region. RIF then recovers its investments as projects take place through local authority-collected Section 106 contributions from private developers.

Lying On CVs Is On the Increase

Financial institutions pre-employment screening company Powerchex has just released the results of a study which took into account 3,876 job applications submitted to financial institutions in the UK between June 2007 and May 2008. When compared to a sample of 2,960 applications made the year before, the results showed an increase of 30% in the frequency of discrepancies on CVs. The study reveals that some 17% of job applicants within financial services are prepared to tell lies on their CV. Job applicants mainly lie about employment dates, academic qualifications, directorships, bankruptcy, employment titles and duties, ompensation, reasons for leaving and having a criminal record. The study also revealed that embellishments to CVs sent to commercial and investment banks rose 30% in the last year. The greatest increase in untruths was from IT contractors. For the second year running, women have a higher discrepancy rate than men and British applicants have a substantially higher rate of discrepancy than any other nationality type. Maths and finance students have a very low propensity to lie on their CVs, whereas arts and humanities students are the more likely to embellish their CV. www.powerchex.co.uk

Marriott International and the KPMG Foundation Give Back to Students

Marriott International will launch a $100,000 scholarship fund for diverse students with an interest in the hospitality industry. The Alice S. Marriott scholarship will be managed by the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and will award $25,000 to its recipients from 2008 to 2011. The scholarship program--named in honor of cofounder Alice S. Marriott, who founded the Marriott Corp. with her husband, J. Willard Marriott--mirrors the spirit of Marriott, whose passion for philanthropy is an essential part of the hotel corporation's values. The KPMG Foundation awarded $410,000 worth of scholarships in an effort to increase the number of Black, Latino and American Indian Ph.D. recipients and business-school professors. The awards for the 2008--2009 academic year are a part of the Minority Accounting Doctoral Scholarship program. The 41 doctoral students will receive $10,000 scholarships that are renewable for up to five years. To date, the KPMG Foundation has provided financial support for three-fourths of all accounting doctoral students from traditionally underrepresented groups in the U.S., totaling $8.6 million in scholarships. Source: Diversity Inc.

Call for Entries for World of Learning Awards 2008

The search is on for the most innovative new learning initiatives and exceptional venues as entries are now open for the prestigious World of Learning Awards 2008. The highly competitive Awards, now in their eighth year, are acknowledged as the premier event for honouring learning-specific solutions. The closing date for entries is 5pm on 19 September 2008. The entries are judged by a panel of highly respected independent learning and development experts with tremendous depth of experience and knowledge in the industry. The Awards, in Association with the British Institute of Learning & Development (BILD), include several new categories that reflect the evolution of the learning and development industry. To request entry information or book a table please call +44 (0)20 8394 5171, email   awards@vmgl.com or download a form from www.learnevents.com

Cases to Acas rise by 25%

The number of tribunal claims passed to Acas for conciliation has risen by a quarter since last year. The conciliation service’s annual report revealed that it had 227,782 more claims and potential claims to handle. But the report for 2007/08 also found that Acas succeeded in reducing the potential workloads of employment tribunals by 75 per cent. Eighty-one per cent of workplaces reported an improvement in employment relations following intervention by Acas advisers, compared to the 70 per cent target that was set. The report also found that the percentage of users for whom guidance helped solve a problem at work or reassured them they had taken the right course of action was 76 per cent, exceeding the target of 65 per cent. Acas is to receive up to £37million extra funding over the next three years. Source: PM Online

More than Half of UK Firms Plan to Cut Jobs

The majority of large UK businesses plan to cut jobs in the coming months as a response to the worsening economy, according to research by accountancy KPMG. The survey of 200 senior executives found that 53 per cent said they intended to lay off staff – up from 29 per cent in the March survey – while six out of 10 said they were looking to cut costs generally. The finding is a sign that the economic gloom is broadening, as large-scale redundancies have so far been restricted to financial firms or those linked to the housing market. Seventy-five per cent of respondents said their organisation had been negatively affected by the credit crunch. Only 40 per cent were optimistic about their firm's prospects - down from 60 per cent in the previous quarter. 80 per cent of the organisations who took part in the survey were based outside London, signifying that the credit crunch may finally be hitting home across the UK regions.

Skills and Training Shake-Up for Thames Gateway

Up to £2.45 billion is to be ploughed into improving education, skills and training across the Thames Gateway in a move that will create new jobs and help meet future skills needs. The cash will be used to implement the Thames Gateway Skills Plan, a package of measures that will be delivered by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to equip local people with the necessary training required to fill skills shortages across the region. The skills drive will be spearheaded by chair of Lifelong Learning UK Sir David Melville, who has been appointed as the first Thames Gateway Skills Envoy. Sir David will attempt to bring together business, local authorities and academia for the benefit of local communities. Source: DCLG

Gates of Opportunity for Libraries

A $1 million first prize is up for grabs in a global learning competition run by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through their Global Libraries initiative, the foundation is looking to reward the public library that has best helped to connect their local community to information by providing free access to computers and the internet. The Access to Learning Award is open to entries from all non-United States-based public libraries and similar organisations that allow all members of the public free access to computers and the internet. Applicants should have created innovative new ways to provide at least one of the following services: Free public access to computers and the internet, public training to help users in accessing online information that can help improve their lives, technology training for library staff, outreach projects to underserved communities. Priority will be given to projects that reach out to disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, and the foundation is particularly keen to receive entries from organisations based in developing countries. One of the previous winners of the annual contest was the Northern Territory Library network in Australia, which offered computer access and training to Indigenous Australians, enabling them to create a cultural database celebrating their language and heritage. The deadline for entering the contest is 31 October 2008, with the Access to Learning Award 2009 winner set to be named next August. For more information about the scheme and to enter online: www.gatesfoundation.org   Source: j4b

Line managers Lack Interview Skills

Research has revealed that line managers are not sufficiently involved in the interview process. This is despite HR professionals agreeing that this is important to ensure candidates have a good fit with the job requirements and culture of the company. Over one third of HR professionals said that when line managers were involved in interviewing, they were not as effective as they could be, mainly due to a lack of training and preparation. According to the research by SHL, only 30% of line managers have been provided with any interview training, making it unsurprising that 20% feel nervous beforehand. Some admit that they actually dread it. However, the majority of line managers said they would like to be more involved, to ensure the candidate has the right skills and experience, and fits with the team and company culture. So, employers would be wise to invest more in supporting them during the process. Reassuringly, this opinion is shared by HR managers and directors, with a resounding 90% of them expressing a positive attitude towards line manager involvement in the interview process, as this would free up HR time to dedicate to more strategic activities. On the topic of psychometric testing, the research has found that 35% of line managers don’t see the results. This suggests many don’t have all the information available to make an informed recruitment decision, and of those who do see assessment results, only half say they fully understand them. Some admit a complete lack of understanding.

Radical Revamp for Social Enterprise Support Scheme

An initiative that offers loan finance of up to £250,000 to charities and social enterprises in England has been re-launched. Formerly known as the Local Investment Fund, The Social Enterprise Loan Fund (TSELF) is a joint venture between the Department for Communities and Local Government and the NatWest Bank. The previous programme had generated more than £2 million of private sector investment and provided £7 million worth of loans to more than 150 community organisations during its 14-year lifespan. Now renamed and rebranded, with a new website and organisational structure, TSELF hopes to build on this track record and offer more assistance to organisations that operate with a social purpose and who struggle to raise finance from traditional sources. TSELF can provide three to ten-year loans of up to £250,000 which can be used for purchasing and improving property, buying other fixed assets, or as working capital. www.tself.org.uk

Small Business and Academic Worlds Closer than Ever

Over the past five years, the links between the academic and small business worlds have increased, according to a survey carried out by the University of Nottingham. The UK Business Barometer, an internet survey run by The University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) found that 49 per cent of companies surveyed had had a business contact with a university in the previous 12 months. Only 26 per cent of respondents said they had ‘never’ had a business contact with a university — down from 47 per cent when the same question was asked as part of the UK Business Barometer (UKBB) survey in 2003. The results show a widening spread of contacts between the business sector and universities, as more companies establish links with higher education and more academics become involved in areas such as expert consultancy, research collaborations, technology transfer and other fields. The findings follow a national consultation to build stronger and more flexible links between business and universities, launched in April by Minister of State for Higher Education, Bill Rammell.

One in 10 Parents House Grown-Up Children

Nearly 1 in 10 parents have grown-up children still living with them rent-free, sometimes with their grandchildren, reveals a report by research firm Mintel. 1 in 4 regularly offers financial support to their children with the same proportion providing childcare services for their working offspring. On the positive side, rising childcare costs and mothers returning to work means that the youngest generation are spending much more time with their grandparents.

Bad Spelling tops Employers’ List of CV Pet Hates

A recent poll from Select Appointments has revealed that misspelt words are top of the chart when it comes to employers’ pet hates. Select, part of Randstad, has highlighted the factors most likely to irritate a potential employer when considering an applicant’s CV. Spelling mistakes were by far the biggest pet hate with 54 per cent of employers polled citing this as their biggest irritation. 17 per cent admitted to being annoyed by a bad layout, and 16 per cent said they are turned off if an applicant’s resume is too long. At the other end of the scale, only 1 in 10 employers identified the use of ‘buzz words’ as a pet gripe. Nicola Severn, spokesperson for Select, said: "Although it is obvious from the research commissioned by the Spelling Society that many individuals are not as competent at spelling as they would like to be, when constructing a CV attention to detail is vital. Basic spell check facilities are available on the vast majority of modern computers and as such there is no excuse for sloppy spelling. A CV should be seen as a chance to shine. It is a direct reflection of the applicant and if the CV is considered inaccurate or badly organised, there is a danger the applicant will be too." Source: Recruitment Matters

Minorities under 20 Often a Majority of the US Population

Foreshadowing the nation’s changing makeup, one in four American counties have passed or are approaching the tipping point where black, Hispanic and Asian children constitute a majority of the under-20 population, according to analyses of census figures recently released. Racial and ethnic minorities now account for 43% of Americans under 20. Among people of all ages, minorities make up at least 40% of the population in more than one in six of the nation’s 3,141 counties. The latest population changes by race, ethnicity and age, as of July 1, 2007, were generally marginal compared with the year before. But they confirm the breadth of the nation’s diversity, and suggest that minorities — now about a third of the population — might constitute a majority of all Americans even sooner than projected by census demographers, in 2050. In 2000, black, Hispanic and Asian children under age 20 were at or near a majority in only about one-fifth of the counties and, over all, blacks, Hispanics and Asians accounted for 40% or more of the population in about one in seven counties. Even with the growing diversity, all but one of the 82 counties where blacks make up a majority are in the South (except St. Louis), all but two of the 46 where Hispanics are in the majority are in the South or the West (except the Bronx and Seward, Kan., home to giant meatpacking plants), and four of the five counties with the largest proportion of Asians are in Hawaii (San Francisco rounds out the top five with 33 percent). Source: New York Times

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