Recently the Partnerships Team in the Cabinet Office visited SFEDI, the IOEE and some small businesses that have benefited from mentoring support.
The Partnerships Team is a small policy team based in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall which was set up in 2011 to improve relationship management of large companies on behalf of the Prime Minister in order to deliver key Government priorities on skills, jobs and growth with large employers.
In the run up to the election, it was looking at how it could do more to support small and medium sized companies to promote regional growth working with our network of large corporates – an agenda that was at the heart of all major party manifestos.
It was put in touch with SFEDI by Lloyds Banking Group – which provides a mentoring programme for small businesses across the country and works closely with SFEDI in delivering this – and was delighted to be offered the chance to meet with local business owners and understand their concerns and areas where they felt big business could support as well as Government.
The visit gave the team an insight into the day to day experience of local businesses with a small group, comprising of Jo and Barry Griffiths who run an upholstery business [BJ Upholstery], Paul Harper from Zedcomms marketing and Christine Bewley from Aycliffe Fabrications.
It gave a first hand understanding of some of the types of challenges and issues these businesses are facing. Some common threads emerged out of the conversation, including:
Marketing and digital skills was a shared area that all businesses felt SME’s across different sectors would benefit from training and support with;
identifying, attracting and keeping the best talent was essential and schemes like Apprenticeships were important but more support is needed to truly help SME’s make the most of these types of Government backed initiatives;
a renewed focus on existing small firms and their sustainability was needed, in addition to help for start ups;
the importance of strong business mentoring relationships was key and was a role more big businesses could take on.
Interestingly these issues were highlighted as common priorities on similar visits in different areas around the country and therefore the partnerships team is now starting to look at how it can inform the policy process and build on some of the interesting ideas coming out of these discussions – like how can more big companies to provide mentors for SME’s and replicate the success of Lloyds Banking Group’s programme.
Ben Cackett from the Partnerships Team said:
“We are looking forward to staying in touch with SFEDI and the companies we met to continue the conversation as we develop these policy ideas over the coming weeks. We would like to say a massive thank you to the team at SFEDI for pulling the visit together and for the businesses that gave up their valuable time to meet us”.