In memory of Steve Jobs

This is a sentiment I completely and wholeheartedly agree with ! This is not only a great epitaph for one of the worlds greatest thinkers, but also an incredible piece if social comment and observation.

— Post From My Amazing Wandering iPhone

Growing your own

Before the gardeners among you get all excited about the prospect of veg tips, I’d better explain that I’m talking about managers – or senior team members or just specialists within your organisation.

Every year around this time you’ll inevitably read about issues with recruiting graduates or school leavers. Usually, there are too many chasing too few opportunities or the skills they have garnered over expensive years of study are not really suitable for those required by businesses. Apart from grumbling, what can employers do about this state of affairs?

Well, there’s always the option of attracting talent from other organisations, but often that’s expensive. What’s more, in uncertain times many of those in work are preferring to stay where they are rather than take a potentially risky move to a new role in a new organisation.
This is where growing your own comes in. Recruiting those straight from school, college or university and shaping them into the roles needed in the future. And it is the future we’re talking about. Now I don’t expect 2011’s graduates to stay with one employer for the whole of their career (although we may see longer term periods of employment in a flat lining economy) but we should bear in mind that this year’s university graduates may well be in the workforce until 2060. What role will we be preparing people for? What will that future look like? Imagine someone joining an organisation in 1951 and retiring this year? Look at the changes they have experienced. Data processing in the 1950s involved hand written ledgers and countless clerks. Will this year’s graduates look back at our current highly technological work environment and see something they regard as equally antiquated? They might.

The issue is that those who succeed will do so not just because they can respond to change, but will succeed because they drive it – both innovating on their own and applying last year’s innovations in new ways within next year’s contexts.

So we are preparing people for a very different organisation and a very different world than the one we currently live and work in. And that brings me to the challenge facing HR teams and learning professionals to adequately prepare a new crop of future employees for a world which may be very different.

One relatively safe prediction I think I can make is that whatever development route is envisioned for this group will be primarily work-based. It will also harness connectivity – the endless opportunities to interact with information, opinion and people remotely – with which those of us who grew up with a typing pool next door are only just coming to terms. Our ‘Generation C’ employees (the C stands for connected) take this way of being completely for granted.

There will be formal training input but for the main part the learning will be work-based – learning through doing, finding out, responding to new situations by developing new ways of working, new behaviours and new skills. This is not the same as some talent management programmes in larger organisations, where staff are moved round every few years, taking on new projects and new roles. From the outside, the impact of these roundabout moves is not the deepening and shaping of strategy in response to new market conditions, but a strategic role which is subsumed beneath careerist mark making. Making an impact by undoing all that your predecessor has done, achieving one noteworthy thing then keeping your head down until the next move comes along and the process repeats itself.

I spoke to some senior managers about career and development planning and performance appraisal meetings recently. Every one of them noted how the people who report to them were hungry for progression – repeatedly outlining how their potential could best be achieved by taking on a new challenge, stretching their skills in new environments. Clearly, it is easier to make a mark by sweeping out the old, than it is by maintaining and incrementally enhancing the familiar and the business as usual.

So we may need a new paradigm for the development of our future talent – a talent that will succeed or fail in a very different environment than the one we now know. That paradigm starts with identifying the crucial skills which these individuals will need as they face the future decades. Interestingly, I don’t think the universities and colleges should be criticised for not developing the skills to work in current business. This would be a backward looking step. You and I wouldn’t be that impressed by someone who drives a car forward but focuses all their attention on their rear -view mirror. So, why would we want someone with a skill set which is already out of date by the time they have a chance to use it?

Instead we must look for those individuals with the universal skills which will enable them to take advantage of the uncertainties of the future.

First among these is being a skilled information seeker. I first coined this phrase around 10 years ago. The internet was still relatively new and we were just coming to terms with the impact that these new sources of information were having on work. An organisation called Echelon published a report based on a survey of HR directors and training people. In a nut shell it said that work roles were now so complicated and required such depth and breadth of knowledge that an individual couldn’t realistically be expected to know (in terms of having memorised) everything they would need to do their job. In short, knowing how to look things up was going to be essential for the future.

If only we’d known quite how far things would go! Recent studies suggest that human memory capacity is actually getting smaller as individuals effectively delegate the job of remembering stuff to a series of devices with effectively infinite capacity. I spoke to a group of teenagers recently, none of whom knew their home telephone number. It was speed dial two.

As the wealth of digital information and disinformation has grown, being a skilled information seeker has become not only a foundation stone, an essential capability for the 21st Century – it has also evolved as a skill set. No longer is it enough to know how to search and navigate various information sources. Now, it is necessary to have a degree of media literacy previously undreamt of. The differentiator for those who succeed through to 2060 will not simply be an ability to find information, but to critically analyse it, to sift the definitive from the deceptive, to know the difference between the proven and the porky pie. Many don’t. Those reviewing dissertations and theses from students now have to explain very, very slowly to their charges that Wikipedia is not necessarily a reliable reference source. The co-founder of Wikipedia, Jerry Sanger, was a philosophy professor at Ohio State University. He would deduct five marks from any student who cited Wikipedia as a source. When asked about this, Jimmy Wales, the other brain behind the 7th most visited website in the world, agreed with his former colleague’s practice. To quote Wales in an interview with the Independent last year: “Whatever 26-year-old tech geek males are interested in we do a very good job on. [But] things that are in other fields we could do with some more users participating.”

So skill one for those who will lead our organisations in two or three decade’s time is to be a skilled information seeker with the ability to differentiate reliable from unreliable information.
But looking things up is not the same as learning and my next crucial capability is to be a skilled, independent learner.

In an environment where work related learning may be fragmented – a combination of on the job experiences, use of learning programmes, in part online, and developmental projects (as well as very occasional course attendance) – the multi-dimensional learner who cannot only open themselves up to these new experiences but reflect on what these experiences may mean for the future, will be a valuable individual in any team. The connectivity I mentioned earlier will be a real focus of this reflection. Not in being a consumer of the blogs and wikis of others, but in contributing and articulating concepts, theories, ideas and experiences in ways which resonate with peers. Jimmy Wales’s 26 year old tech geek males provide an interesting model for future learners.

The real value of online connectivity as part of the learning process is not necessarily in the raft of information thus made available. It is in the process of constructing these artefacts of our work experience that real value will be – and already is being – generated. Working on a project recently in which groups of learners from different locations will be brought together for short periods; the value of the ongoing remote community was discussed. We all agreed that membership would be reserved not for those who turn up for the workshops, but limited to those who contribute to the ongoing debates through posts, blogs and online experience sharing. Contributing is not an option, it is a requirement.

My third and final skill is what I call an enquiring mind. This is not just a function of problem solving in a connected world. It is about someone who asks the awkward questions, challenges received wisdoms and established conventions. When working with a group involved in innovation recently I came across “knowledge scouts”. Their role is not to think up new ideas, but scout around for new insights about the ways innovations are being used and the people and organisations with the capabilities to contribute to the creation of commercially viable new products. They are mining the creativity which surrounds us and asking simple questions. What if we did that too? Does the fact that these consumers use X mean that if we create Y they would also use that? They are trend-spotters and observers of the zeitgeist. Not to rip off the ideas of someone else, but to re-shape novelty in their own image. They synthesise what is going on and create new opportunities from unexpected combinations of ideas and innovations. The mash-up first seen in night clubs and music videos has become a tool for exploiting ideas by standing on the shoulders of the achingly fashionable giants which surround us.

Now look at your own organisation’s competence framework. In there will be a set of core behaviours and skills, common to all roles in your organisation. They are intended to be the very warp and weft of your organisational culture. Do you recognise my key skills for growing your own talent in those common capabilities? Teaching your 2011 intake the stuff which gets done in your organisation is going to be hard enough. Teaching them if they don’t have these essential skills in the future, will be nigh on impossible.

Robin Hoyle is the head of learning at Infinity Learning, the education design company that develops new technologies to deliver tailoured learning solutions

Graduate schemes – another path to employment

Things seem pretty bleak at the moment if you are young and unemployed. One in five university graduates are yet to secure work joining the nearly one million 16 to 24-year-olds currently without a job.

However one path towards employment that could prove to be attractive now more than ever is graduate schemes, where young people learn on the job before, hopefully, they fill the role full-time.

That is precisely where 21-year-old Sarah Turnbull has found herself right now. After completing a degree in Law from the University of Bristol in June, she managed to find a place on a graduate scheme operated by engineering firm e2v in September despite a challenging jobs market.

“It is most probably the amount of jobs available,” she said, sharing her thoughts on why so many former students are out of work, “there are more people graduating now but there is the same number of jobs as five or ten years ago so there is more competition for each role now and employers can be more selective.”

The company she now works for specialises in technological developments and was involved in such high profile programmes as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Airbus 380. She is one of fifteen who have secured a placement on the company’s graduate scheme which was re-launched in September after a break of five years. The programme is also designed to enhance leadership skills and self development.

Turnbull has found that entering a graduate scheme rather than going straight into a job has had is advantages. “I think most graduates would like on to get on one because it’s aimed at them,” she said. “It is like the next step and then you can develop your skills and find an area you are interested in, rather than you go into say a normal job where you have the same role and you either like it or you don’t.”

For this reason she said graduate schemes like hers would be ideal for business management students who are unsure about exactly which aspect of commerce they want to go into. In this way new entrants can take time to explore the company they work for and find their niche, as Turnbull explains: “You get to see the different areas within the business and the company can also see where you are best suited.”

The variety of the scheme is something that Sarah finds exciting and she and the rest of the new intake will spend two years experiencing the different sectors of the business. At the moment she is working with e2v’s marketing team, something she says she is finding very much to her liking. “You have to know about the products in order to market them to their full potential. In my induction week we were shown quite a few of the products so it helps to grow the company if you understand what they are making and the complexity of what they are making as well.”

As for the projects themselves, Turnbull has already been involved in marketing the company’s Flying Gaia space mission project and had the chance to meet with representatives from NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). “[e2v] made all the imaging and cameras that go into it and they are hopefully launching in 2013,” she explained. “Its aim is to produce a 3D map of the galaxy, or part of it, so when they are working with partners lie NASA an ESA you know it’s quite big.” Turnbull’s work involves not only the astronomical but the also microscopic as she has observed e2v’s manufacturing of parts for machines for cancer treatment.

Turnbull’s father was an electrical engineer before he retired and he was pleased when he heard she would be working in engineering. “He was a little disappointed I wouldn’t be making things but he was still proud when he heard I was working for an engineering company because it was something that he was interested in and it is something that is always needed.”

She moved from her home in Devon to be nearer to her office which is based in Chelmsford, Essex. She now lives with her boyfriend, 20 miles away, in Epping.
Although she still has the best part of two years until she completes her graduate training, she is looking forward he future with e2v. “It’s challenging but once it is finished the company will identify where they think I will be best suited. I’m hoping to be working in the commercial side of things.” For now, she can look forward to her next rotation in the company in five months time.

Lewis Dyson

Mixed response to Apprenticeship increases

The number of people starting Apprenticeships has more than doubled over the past year, new figures have revealed.

Provisional data shows there were 442,700 apprenticeship starts between August 2010 and July 2011, compared to 279,700 in 2009 to 2010.

The findings have been hailed by Business Secretary Vince Cable but greeted with scepticism by some who say the growth in Apprenticeships is not in the right age groups or in the necessary sectors.

Further and Higher Education policy officer for the University and College Union (UCU), John Offord, claimed the statistics were misleading.

“This is not something to be breaking out the champagne for,” warned Offord.

He said many of schemes offered to young people were not Apprenticeships in the traditional sense with some lasting only 12 weeks.

“I would question whether this is anything more than a little bit of government re-categorising to shift people out of the not in education, employment or training (NEET) category and into these so-called apprenticeships,” he added.

The news comes as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that education spending will fall by over 13% between 2010-11 and 2014-15 including a £200m cut to the budget of career services. Offord said that many of the people taking up these new Apprenticeships could have instead benefited from terminated policies like Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Critics have warned the growth is not in the necessary age groups as the biggest rise was in the over-25s. The data from Statistical First Release (SFR) show there were 175,500 Apprenticeship starts by those aged 25 and over, a 257% rise on the 49,100 starts the previous year.

Meanwhile, the under-19 age group saw a smaller 10% increase from 116,800 in 2009-10 to 128,300 in 2010-11. There was a 22% rise in those aged 19 to 24 starting Apprenticeships, up to 138,900 from 113,800 over the same time period.

Welcoming the Apprenticeship growth, the Business Secretary said: “This Government’s unprecedented investment in Apprenticeships is working for businesses and creating long term career opportunities for record numbers of trainees.”

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) also welcomed the findings, with a spokesperson saying: “This is not only great news for young people, but also for employers and the economy.”

However, some sectors are concerned by the relatively modest uptake of Apprenticeships in key growth areas when compared with those in retail and business.

Business, Administration and Law Apprenticeships rose by 70% and Retail and Commercial Enterprise increased by 63%, whereas Construction, Planning and the Built Environment rose by 5% and Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies by 24%.

Stephanie Fernandes, of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), said: “If the government is serious about rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing then focus needs to be provided to ensure apprenticeship funding is targeted on this sector. A 24% increase in engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships against a backdrop of a 50% increase across all sectors, should be cause for concern.”

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said funding for Apprenticeships has been increased in 2011-12 to over £1.4bn including a £25m fund to support up to 10,000 Advanced Level and Higher Apprenticeships.

Cable pledged to “drive up standards, cut bureaucracy for smaller firms and deliver more advanced level and high tech training.”

Lewis Dyson

Ian Barratt, the newly-appointed chief executive of the Institute of Career Guidance (ICG), discusses how the differing pattern of careers guidance provision in the UK is creating a postcode lottery.


Ian Barratt, the newly-appointed chief executive of the Institute of Career Guidance (ICG), discusses how the differing pattern of careers guidance provision in the UK is creating a postcode lottery that is not helping individuals or the wider economy, in the first of a monthly column.

Careers guidance provision in the UK is already a patchwork quilt and the danger is that the situation is getting worse. Recent cuts in English local authority budgets have had a massive impact on the Connexions service which has, up to now, been providing careers information advice and guidance to school pupils, college students, NEETs (young people not in education employment or training) and those with special needs. The outcome is a postcode lottery with some areas offering no careers services at all, others a depleted service focusing only on vulnerable young people and a few attempting to provide continuity of service.

The trigger for this has been the Education Bill, currently going through Parliament, which places a legal duty on schools to provide career information advice and guidance (IAG) that is impartial and independent. This means that teachers cannot, in theory, provide IAG as they are deemed to be “partial”, but will given the option to buy in careers services. Those colleges that have witnessed schools tearing up their prospectuses, banning them from participating in careers fairs and rubbishing the quality of their teaching – all aimed at cajoling pupils to stay on into the sixth form – will clap their hands with glee. But there is a catch. Schools will receive no extra budget as the £200 million spent on the Connexions service has effectively disappeared – possibly earmarked for other things. Anecdotal evidence from members of the Institute of Career Guidance indicates that few schools will be able to afford to buy in careers IAG. Those that can may go for the cheapest option, regardless of quality, unless they have healthy finances.

To satisfy requirements of the legislation for independence and impartiality, the government is setting up a website with an online telephone advice service as part of its much-heralded National Careers Service for England. So any school that wants to ensure they are following the rules has merely to refer pupils to the website. Job done. That saves £200 million without too much fuss. It also chimes with the government’s decentralisation approach to schools by leaving it up to them to decide what is best for their pupils.

Worries that young people aged 16-19 will be left with no access to face-to-face guidance services have been raised by politicians. There are moves in the House of Lords to try and extend the legal duty to provide career IAG up to the age of 18, but none of this is set in stone. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have a different structure and are not affected in the same way, demonstrating that a careers service funded centrally is feasible.

In Scotland, careers guidance remains a Government service in the form of Skills Development Scotland, aimed at individuals of all ages. It is also moving towards an online model and a recent review of post-16 education and vocational training by Willy Roe (former Chairman of Skills Development Scotland) emphasised the fact that the public sector no longer has a monopoly on the supply of career IAG and that a new generation of online services has now reached the market. Careers services in Wales are undergoing their own upheaval. While the aim is an all-age service, there are currently six companies in Wales working in partnership. They are moving towards becoming a single organisation with a corresponding loss of people and expertise. Finally, in Northern Ireland, the Government service is facing its own budgetary issues.

The Institute of Careers Guidance continues to believe in a unified profession, with a single set of competences and ethics to underpin service delivery in all these contexts. But it seems to us inevitable that upheaval, budgetary pressures and varying arrangements can only distort service at the local level. Our definition is that “Career guidance refers to services and activities intended to assist individuals of any age and at any point throughout their lives, to make educational, training and occupational choices and to manage their careers”.

Whether going into further or higher education, entering the job market for the first time or seeking a career change, it is demoralising and wasteful for individuals to be applying for or undertaking the wrong course or role. In our view, this means that individuals deserve – and the wider economy needs – sound career advice so that the right skills can be harnessed in the right roles. The Recruitment and Employment Federation summed it up this way: “Our jobs market is open, dynamic and flexible; this provides our economy with an international advantage. We must nurture this by building a highly skilled workforce and by harnessing the contribution of recruitment professionals in providing guidance for job-seekers”.

We also remain concerned that, while a new generation entering the job market is IT and web literate, technology is not the only answer. From experience we know that young people like to receive information in lots of different ways. Some people like to use the internet, email and computer programmes, while others like to talk to careers advisers on the phone and sometimes use text. However, when we talk to young people their preferred method of communication seems to be face to face discussion – talking through ideas and finding out through discussion with a careers adviser what is the best next step.
The Institute of Career Guidance will be monitoring the pattern of delivery across the UK and continuing to provide evidence to all Governments around the need for a quality careers service for all.

Ian Barratt is chief executive of the Institute of Career Guidance (ICG)

Creative Apprenticeships (CAs) are adding significant value to employers, employees and the state, according to a recent report. FE NEWS

Creative Apprenticeships (CAs) are adding significant value to employers, employees and the state, according to a recent report.

A study conducted by non-profit sector consultants Baker Tilly, and the Education & Employers Taskforce, investigated the return of investment from the CAs programme, which was introduced in 2008 and consists of vocational as well as theory-based qualifications at Level 2 or 3, and presented evidence that showed apprentices will have a significant impact on the UK economy.

The latest cohort of 210 apprentices is forecast to deliver a net gain of £2.4m to the UK economy over the coming decade, with expected net gains of some £16.4m for the next five cohorts of learners.

Surveys, conducted as part of the report, also showed that 79% of employers believe that CAs made a significant contribution to their business.

Pauline Tambling, joint chief executive of Creative & Cultural Skills, the skills council responsible for the delivery of CAs, said: “Employers are now seeing the real economic benefits of apprenticeships. Young people who have completed apprenticeships are ahead of the game when it comes to developing a wider skill set, formal workplace training and an understanding of business.”

Tambling added: “With youth unemployment and tuition fees both at a high, the future development of new apprenticeship frameworks, including at Levels 4 and above, is likely to play a significant role in the success of the creative and cultural industries in the UK.”

Apostolos Kostoulas

Interest in apprenticeships soars as universities say fees will put too many students off.

By Chris Slack and Kate Loveys

Falling fees: Students at some universities could see their tuition fee drop as part of a government incentive to lower the costFalling fees: Students at some universities could see their tuition fee drop as part of a government incentive to lower the cost

Universities joined the growing consensus against the rise in tuition fees today as figures revealed thousands are seeking alternative routes through apprenticeships.

Higher education establishments across the country are vowing to drop their fees to below £7,500 after the Government announced incentives for those that charge lower amounts.

The move comes after ministers announced that English institutions who charged £7,500 or lower would be able to bid for a share in 20,000 funded places.

The decision has seen 12 universities, all of whom were planning to charge up to £9,000, express an interest in lowering their fees.

The majority considering the move are believed to be former polytechnics, including the University of Derby and University of Hertfordshire.

Despite the move, figures released yesterday suggested that the rise in fees will result in a drop of 7.5 per cent in the university enrollment rate for males and nearly 5 per cent for female students.

Ministers, who had expected just a handful of elite institutions to charge £9,000, are desperate to drive fees down to reduce the burden of the student loan on the public purse.

The move will also help reduce the mountain of crippling debt for some graduates.

Attack: Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said the revelation is yet another example of the Coalition's shambolic policiesAttack: Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said the revelation is yet another example of the Coalition’s shambolic policies

However, it drew widespread criticism yesterday and accusations that the Coalition’s policy is in complete disarray.

It comes just one week before the admissions process for autumn 2012 is due to start. This means thousands will be expected to choose universities without knowing the cost.

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said the revelation is yet another example of the Coalition’s shambolic policies.

‘With students preparing to submit university applications in just a matter of weeks, the shambles of the Government’s fees arrangements has left places being auctioned off to the lowest bidder and universities looking to cut corners,’ he said.

‘As a direct result of ministers’ bungled funding policies, prospective students have been left in the dark as to what universities will charge and now face an agonising wait for clarity over their future options.

‘We need urgent action from ministers to put right shambolic policies that risk doing permanent damage to students’ prospects.’

The disarray among the university fees comes as figures revealed that interest in apprenticeship vacancies has soared rapidly since the turn of the year.

Enlarge   On the up: Searches for 'apprentice vacancies' are up by 400%, while the term 'apprenticeship' has seen an increase of 625 On the up: Searches for ‘apprentice vacancies’ are up by 400%, while the term ‘apprenticeship’ has seen an increase of 625

Rises: The National Apprenticeship Service website (blue) has seen a 50 per cent rise in visits year on year, while, has seen hits soar by 150 per centRises: The National Apprenticeship Service website (blue) has seen a 50 per cent rise in visits year on year, while, has seen hits soar by 150 per cent

Statistics released by internet analysts Hitwise showed that since January 2011, searches for ‘apprenticeship vacancies’ have soared by 425 per cent, while the term ‘apprenticeship’ is up 62 per cent.

And the National Apprenticeship Service website has seen a 50 per cent rise in visits year on year.

Another website,, has seen hits soar by 150 per cent since this time last year.

The figures also revealed that the most popular type of apprenticeships searched for were that of plumber, engineer or electrician.

And the most popular companies searched for included British Gas, NHS and British Telecom.
Read more:

David Cameron moves to water down new EU job laws

 David Cameron may overrule Vince Cable by diluting controversial new EU employment laws to be introduced next month, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

David Cameron moves to water down new EU job laws

Senior aides to the Prime Minister are growing increasingly alarmed about the potential economic impact of the Agency Workers Directive  Photo: AFP/GETTY
Robert Winnett

By , and Christopher Hope

The Prime Minister’s office secretly commissioned its own legal advice on the Agency Workers Directive, which concluded that the impact of the new laws could be moderated.

The directive, to be introduced under EU law, will give temporary agency workers the same rights as full-time workers to pay, holiday and maternity leave after 12 weeks of employment. The laws are expected to cost British businesses almost £2 billion a year.

But Downing Street has been told by lawyers that the Business Secretary’s department has “gold-plated” the legislation with additional rules that need not have been included, despite a pledge by the Coalition not to introduce unnecessary regulation that undermines business.

Mr Cameron’s advisers are weighing up whether to strip out some of these provisions.

One option suggested is the “Armageddon” tactic of simply refusing to introduce the new laws, a move that could result in multi-million pound EU fines for the Government.

Business groups have warned that the measures will force some companies to lay off workers.

With the changes looming, Steve Hilton, Mr Cameron’s director of policy, is understood to have hired Martin Howe QC to provide confidential legal advice on the Government’s options regarding the directive.

Mr Howe is an expert in EU law who serves on the recently established Human Rights Commission to consider a British Bill of Rights.

It is extremely unusual for Downing Street to commission its own external legal advice rather than rely on Whitehall recommendations and it indicates the distrust towards Mr Cable.

The Agency Workers Directive was introduced by Labour but it was re-analysed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills after the election, after which Liberal Democrat ministers announced it would be implemented as planned.

It is understood that Mr Howe suggested that the Government effectively had three choices if it did not wish to adopt the directive in its entirety: to water down and delay the planned laws; to seek to introduce new legislation in Parliament that could overrule the EU diktat; or to simply ignore the EU directive.

A well-placed source said: “The advice showed that there are elements of gold-plating of the EU directive that could easily be stripped out. For example, people who set up their own firms and then contract their services to other companies need not be covered. These changes could be done relatively easily through regulations.

“The more radical options which were set out would require new legislation and therefore Liberal Democrat support. It would also risk a confrontation with the trade unions.”

Another Downing Street source said that the advice had not provided the “golden bullet” that Mr Cameron had hoped for. “These are very difficult issues, both politically and legally,” the source added.

The issue of boosting economic growth is now central to policy development in Downing Street. Economic growth fell to just 0.2 per cent during the second quarter of the year and there are fears that the country may fall back into recession during the autumn.

There is growing frustration with Treasury and business department officials among some Downing Street aides.

The Conservatives are expected to use their annual conference, which starts next month, to set out a wide array of new policies to boost economic growth.

However, there are also growing concerns that the Liberal Democrats will use their conference, later this month, to propose new taxes on wealth and other measures that may deter entrepreneurs.

Next week, new proposals from an independent government-appointed commission to rein in the banks will be outlined. Mr Cameron is also seeking to delay and water down these proposals but is facing opposition from Mr Cable.

Mr Hilton, one of the Prime Minister’s most senior aides, is an increasingly controversial figure in Whitehall. He is thought to be keen to “take on” the EU on a major issue to put an end to unnecessary and costly regulation. Over the summer, it was disclosed that he had even floated the idea of scrapping maternity rights.

However, it may now be too late for a major confrontation over the Agency Workers Directive.

One source said: “The French are very clever about these things – an act of defiance is a big political decision.”

An analysis of the new employment laws by the Department for Business concluded that it would cost firms more than £1.8 billion a year. The laws will give more than one million workers the right to holidays, pay, maternity leave and other perks they do not currently receive. The typical small business will have to pay an extra £2,493 a year, increasing to £73,188 for large firms.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “We are now looking at every part of employment law as part of the red tape challenge. We want to do everything we can to help employers and drive growth.”

Social enterprise needs definition to go mainstream

The Social Enterprise Mark is a credible guarantee of motivation, says the Social Enterprise Mark Company’s managing director

Social Enterprise Mark award

Iridescent Ideas CIC receiving the Mark by Worker Co-op, Development Trust and social enterprise colleagues from the Plymouth Social Enterprise Network

The Social Enterprise Mark is the certification authority for social enterprises. The certification process does not attempt to prescribe business, organisation, or any legal structures that they may adopt, such as charities, community interest companies, limited by share or by guarantee.

The Mark was originally developed with the sector, for the sector. It took the widely recognised and accepted definition of social enterprise and conducted extensive consultation and research, which led to the development of the certification criteria. These are rigorously applied and overseen by an independent certification panel to assure credibility and consistency.

If you agree that social enterprises, with any legal structure from CLG, CIC to charities, can develop along a spectrum from start-up, emerging, to established and mature, there will always be a debate around which point on the spectrum any criteria or assessment can be applied. This will inevitably lead to extensive debate around definitions and application of any criteria.

As Malcolm Sutton, a Mark-certified Tender Management Community Services CIC, explains “I would argue that all social enterprises have an element of ‘charity’ in them – how different is the ‘social purpose’ from the ‘charitable objective’? And equally that the majority of charities have to have an element of ‘business’ to what they do.”

The criteria are not set in stone and continue to respond to the needs of social enterprises. We are independent of any public funding and just 18 months old, but with rigorous assessment process, the number of Mark holders is progressing steadily.

Social enterprises are looking for accreditation to prove they operate as genuine social enterprises, and we give them the tools to differentiate themselves. In the light of the increasing demand for shareholder transparency, the Mark provides the only credible indicator that shareholder profit is not the motivation for operation.

Internationally, negotiations are being held with many countries, including Finland and South Africa, where the Mark is of great interest as an aspirational goal for the social enterprise movement.

Social purpose contributions or corporate social responsibility are good in their own way, but do not address the core principle that social enterprises exist to benefit people and planet. If there is any question on why social enterprises should differentiate themselves from private enterprise, read ‘Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist’. With corporations able to generate private profit margins of up to 36% from work that has been publicly funded, there has never been a better time for social enterprises to demonstrate their better way of doing business.

What Mark holders have to say

Daniel RousFurniture Plus

“Yet again, we find ourselves in a discussion over labelling. As long as (in no particular order) OSCR, Companies House, Inland Revenue and the general public are happy with what is being done then let’s just get on with reaping social benefit for as many as possible.”

Chris Bailey, Westway Development Trust

“What matters in social enterprise is that we do not have people setting up things and calling them social enterprises when they are not, or when those organisations work in a way which is at odds with what the general public expects of a social enterprise.”

Lucy Findlay is Managing Director of the Social Enterprise Mark Company, which aims to increase mainstream understanding of social enterprises as a better way of doing business in the UK and beyond.

Gateshead College Launches Low Carbon Vehicle Academy

Gateshead College Launches Low Carbon Vehicle Academy Gateshead track

The number of electric and hybrid cars on UK roads is rapidly growing and sometime in near future it’ll overtake fossil fuel cars. Obviously, There is a need for experts to help people easing the transition.

That’s what Gateshead College of North East England has been thinking. So they came up with a dedicated academy for low carbon vehicle industry. They have also opened North of England’s first public access Performance Track as part of the project.

Gateshead College’s Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation (SASMI) is the UK’s first education centre dedicated to the clean technologies sector. Housed in a state-of-the-art new £9.8 million building in Washington, Tyne & Wear, SASMI will deliver a wide range of low carbon vehicles skills training, with a focus on the automotive industry.

Green cars, electric vehicles in particular, bring with them a whole new lifestyle and new driving habits. For instance, you can’t just tow an electric car if the battery died, as it’ll damage the internal systems. There are many new things to learn about them, and that’s why the idea of a dedicated academy is not outlandish. Current courses include training for first responders, helping the emergency services and roadside rescue operators to safely deal with high voltagehybrid and electric vehicles. This will be followed by innovative courses dedicated to the production of EVs.

Mick Brophy, Managing Director of Business, Innovation & Development at Gateshead College, said: “North East England is at the heart of the UK’s emerging low carbon vehicle sector, making it the ideal home for the country’s first sustainable skills academy.

“If Britain is to continue to lead the world in the development and adoption of cleaner vehicles, we must also lead in training the people who will design, build and service them.  The Academy will support the growth of a new automotive industry, delivering the skill sets needed for these vital green-collar jobs.”

Along with Nissan and the region’s leading supply chain, the two new facilities form the hub of the Government’s £200m Low Carbon Enterprise Zone, which is expected to create 7,000 new  jobs in the region over the next decade.