It seems the penny is dropping, at least in a few places.  I was talking to the owner of an independent mens’ fashion chain in the UK this week and he gave me reason to hope!

Despite current trading conditions, here is one business that is expandidng.  “Money is cheap and there are plenty of independent operators eager to get out at any price so we are buying” he told me.  They have bought three new  stores and are negotiating for more.  They are in the process of refitting all their stores to strengthen their corporate look and they reckon, by the time the recession lifts they will be ready to hit the ground running.

Meanwhile the government’s Job Centre Plus announced a new programme aimed at getting the unemployed back to work in more bouyant sectors.  They announced this week that if you are unemployed for six months you can elect to start training in one of the skills designated locally as a source of employment without losing your unemployment benefit.  After a few weeks, they’ll put you forward for a role that will utilise your new skill and the employer will be able to secure grants to cover the cost of your completion of the course.  Sounds like an idea, but don’t get excited.  They shot themselves in the foot with another scheme that pays unemployed folks who can persuade an employer to take them on trial for a role that lack of experience would otherwise have excluded them from – a sort of free trial for the employer.  However the rub is that there has to be a genuine vacant job, which kinda’ neutralises the initiative.  After all, if you need to fill a role, and you get four-hundred applicants (which is not unusual at the moment), a proportion of whom are bound to be able to hit the ground running, you are hardly going to take a long-shot on someone who had never done the job before, however cheap they may be.

The fact that this scheme excludes people who want to go to prospective employers with a proposition like “give me X weeks to demonstrate that I can make a difference to your business in a way you never thought of and you won’t even have to pay me” underlines the gulf that exists between the public sector ivory towers and the real world of business, where we are in desperate need of entrepreneurship.  But, hey, mighty oaks … and all that!

Michael Weaver
August 21, 2009

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