Digital future first discussion between Tony Knaggs & Nick Morton
Business solutions to help a business grow
95% of companies in this country have got less than 10 employees. So there’s a huge requirement for support and most people start a business and don’t know where to go, what to do next. And I mean, DFF is a huge opportunity to say, “Guys, look, we’re all here in a very strange position because of COVID. We all know that. We’ve had six months now and it’s getting stranger and I can’t see it change for another year and it’s never really going to go back, I think, to where it was. Everyone’s sort of realigning where business is.” And as a result of that, you’ve got three things. You’ve got a need to actually utilize technology for your business. You’ve got a need to look at the skills and abilities of the other people I’ve got in my business. Have I got the right people? Have I got the people who can do things?
And then there’s a bit of social responsibility in terms of recognizing that I’m in business, I’m trying to grow, I’m trying to survive, but there are people out there who maybe aren’t and how do I help? And it is being focused towards young people under 24 at the minute, but how do I help people? And how do I help our region? And how do I help the economy? And how do I help in a larger picture things bounce back? Because if I’m not doing my part and 100 other people aren’t doing their part, then nothing gets done and we all sit here in a year’s time and go, “Well, yeah, that’s great, but we haven’t gone anywhere, we’ve all lost our jobs.”
How to reduce redundancies?
If we are business owners, we’re in a position where we can bring people into the business and in many ways, we should be looking to do that because there are a lot of redundancies being made and there’s a lot of retraining.
There’s a lot of redundancies coming down the line. And I’m a great believer in, there’s a great phrase, which is, “If you’ve got the ability to effect positive change, you take on the responsibility to make that change happen.” And it sounds very sort of high flying. It’s not. If you sit in that place where you can do things and you can do them, surely it’s in everybody’s interest and certainly you’d take responsibility that you’ve got the ability to change it.
How do I get technology experts into my business?
I think that the whole Digital Future First project didn’t start off that way. It started off as a straightforward brokerage into business solutions generally from apprenticeships, traineeships, funded NVQs, talking to growth hubs, and all the things that we’ve talked about in terms of the project.
But I think the timing has created another huge element, which is, I need technology. I haven’t got the skill set or I haven’t got the people inside my business to do the technology, to support me with it. And I also want to see in terms of minimizing my costs. So, at the end of the day, and I’ve worked with many brokerage contracts, you sit and talk to an owner-manager who says, “Yeah, I want A, B, C. I need to do this. I need to do that.” Have you got the skill set? And people tell me “No, but I can’t afford it. I can’t do it. Haven’t got the time for it.” Okay. So you’re committed to the fact that there’s a need, all right, and you would normally pay X. I can help you to access funded or subsidized support, which will actually reduce your cost by 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, whatever the figure might be.
What are Traineeships?
For instance, and you’re aware of this, traineeships, you’re getting somebody who is the best for your work placement in your business for a few hours, a few hours a week, up to at least 60, 70 hours in total, up to 300-400 hours over a six-month period, they can be 12 months now. They remain on benefits but you give them an opportunity to work in your business, to see what they can do, see if they have any skill sets, and potentially interview them and give them a job. And you as an employer get £1000 out of that. Obviously good employees give some of that back towards the person to make sure they’re covered for travel costs and lunches. But you’ve got this person in your business who’s interested, they’re hungry, they want to work in your business. And basically see what we can do.
What is the Kickstart Programme?
And you’ve got other programs around, the Kickstart program, which has changed on a day-to-day basis and has started taking people on, again, under 24 for a six-month, but they’re paid by government for 25 hours a week, salary’s paid for at basic wage, and you’re getting national insurance and getting pension and all those things. So there’s lots of, lots of bits that you can say to an employer, “There’s some basic entry points for reducing costs to taking somebody on board.” Of course, you’ve got commitments as an employer, you’ve got to commit you’ve got a safe working environment, you’ve got the resource and support to be able to provide some help to that person to make sure they’re not just left making cups of tea, they’re actually doing a real job, which, as a business, I don’t want someone to just come in. I want to give them a real, real job. And I need my business to have them to do things.
How Digital Future First can help you
Social media and IT and infrastructure, and whether we’re talking about Voice over Internet Protocols, whether you’re talking about infrastructure, whether you’re talking about e-commerce, there are many, many people under 24 who are far more skilled at it than I am, and have got the ability to actually help businesses go forward. It’s a weird one, but the whole business, as you’re well aware, DFF is sitting here as a project part-funded by European Social Fund to take it and say, “Right. We can broker in business solutions to an SME owner-manager, which helps them take their business forward on three areas.” It’s grants, it’s funding, it’s support for applications, which is actual money. It’s a bit of a responsibility in terms of helping our economy generally in terms of the region, and it’s also helping your business in terms of growing, having the skill sets internally, and taking not just your internet and your e-commerce, but generally your business forward for the skills that are available for the people that are out there.