News in brief: skills gap, data, interest rates, broadband

News in brief
News in brief

New legislation to end ‘outdated snobbery’ towards apprenticeships

The government is set to introduce new legislation that will force schools to give equal airtime to colleges, university technical colleges and other training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all the routes to higher skills and the workplace, including higher and degree apprenticeships.

The new law would see apprenticeship providers and staff from colleges visit schools as part of careers advice from early secondary school to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them through apprenticeships or other technical and professional education (TPE) routes.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “For many young people going to university will be the right choice, and we are committed to continuing to expand access to higher education, but for other young people the technical education provided by apprenticeships will suit them better.

“That’s why I’m determined to tackle the minority of schools that perpetuate an outdated snobbery towards apprenticeships by requiring those schools to give young people the chance to hear about the fantastic opportunities apprenticeships and technical education offer.”

SMEs-owners called on to share data with staff

Britain’s workforce is operating in the dark with one in five (18%) employees never seeing any company data, according to new research from TV dashboard application, Geckoboard.

The research found that the majority of UK employees were unsatisfied with the level of information they received in the workplace, with over four-fifths (81%) saying that they wanted their bosses to share more information with them.

This data blackout appears to be having an adverse effect on the workplace, with four in five employees (80%) saying that they lost confidence in their boss when they failed to share information with them. And with only 9% thinking of their bosses as 'data-driven', this appears to be an issue endemic across UK business.

Irish SMEs face highest interest rates in Eurozone

The European Central Bank (ECB) has found the average interest rate charged on SME loans in Ireland is the most expensive in the Eurozone, it has been reported.

The average interest rate for SME loans of €250,000 or less currently stands at 6.56%, while the second highest rate in the Eurozone was in Slovakia (5.07%).

The rates in other Eurozone countries were reported as:

  • France: 2.28%
  • Germany: 3.25%
  • Italy: 3.25%
  • Spain: 3.37%
  • Netherlands: 3.61%
  • Finland: 4.03%

Ofcom code clears up broadband confusion for SMEs

Ofcom has released a new code whereby broadband providers will agree to give businesses clearer and more accurate information on broadband speeds before they sign up to a contract.

Signatories to the voluntary code also commit to manage any problems that businesses have with broadband speeds effectively, and allow customers to exit the contract at any point if speeds fall below a minimum guaranteed level.

Seven of the UK’s specialist broadband providers for businesses – BT Business, Daisy Communications, KCOM, TalkTalk Business, Virgin Media, XLN and Zen – have signed up to the code. They together provide a service to around two thirds of SMEs who have standard broadband.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: "Too many [businesses] buy unsuitable broadband packages because of confusing or insufficient sales information, or are hampered by slow speeds after they've signed on the dotted line.

"Where broadband companies fail to provide the speeds they promise, we've made it easier for businesses to walk away from their contracts without penalty. Providers have also agreed to give clear and reliable speeds information upfront so business customers can make more informed decisions."

SMEs failing to deal with asbestos

SMEs that fail to deal with asbestos on their premises are increasingly forcing staff to sign gagging orders before they can receive their compensation, according to law firm Simpson Millar.

Anyone who owns and occupies commercial premises has a legal duty to manage asbestos, and to warn those who might come into contact with it. Electricians and plumbers are particularly at risk and despite years of campaigning, contractors and employees are still being put at risk.

Specialist mesothelioma solicitor at national firm Simpson Millar Helen Grady, says: “Asbestos is present in a huge number of commercial buildings yet SMEs in particular are reluctant to arrange for the proper surveys to be carried out. They know that if asbestos-containing materials are found, they might have to pay for it to be made safe, and that can be expensive.

“The Government needs to tighten up controls or we will continue to see the devastating effects of what asbestos does to the human body for another 60 years.”