News in brief: stress, tech, skills gap, cyber-attacks, exporting

News in brief
News in brief

SME owners combat stress by over-indulging in alcohol

Despite 46% of freelancers generally feeling less stressed having left regular paid employment, new research from Crunch Accounting has found over a third (35%) currently turn to alcohol to relieve stress. The survey from Crunch also found that 10% more men (39.5%) than women (29.5%) turn to drink to help them relax.

The small business community named a series of factors that were contributing to rising stress levels, including the unpredictable ebb and flow of work (23%), late payments from clients (13%) and tax and red tape (9%).

Crunch micro-business ambassador Jason Kitcat said: “It’s clear that the government needs to do more to reduce the burden of red tape and ensure that freelancers and small business owners’ rights are being better protected. On average it takes freelancers 25 days to chase a payment, and cash flow is a consistent source of stress, this is simply not good enough.”

Croydon is lauded as hub for tech start-ups

Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock backed the Silicon Valley of South London during a visit to Croydon Tech City, an independent community-led tech movement. It has become home to more than 1,000 digital, technical and creative start-ups since it started four years ago.

During the visit the minister praised initiatives developed by Croydon Tech City for having a real impact on the lives of young people in the area. These include Future Tech City, which offers mentoring, apprenticeships and work experience for young people, and Apps for Good, which encourages young people to create apps that change the world for the better.

Hancock said: “The Croydon Tech scene is really going full throttle. Tech City is reaching out into the community and helping young people learn the right skills to start and grow a business and to connect to a network.

“It’s clearly the start of something – and I want the government to do all we can to get behind initiatives likes this. I’m here to listen to our new tech stars and find out what we can do to help.”

Skills gap continues to widen

The UK continues to face a worsening skills crisis despite the overall rise in job creationand this is particularly acute in specialist areas such as IT and engineering, according to the latest Labour Market Figures, produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The on-going shortage in skilled workers is increasingly causing concern for businesses. Decision makers are facing up to the effects of this market on their businesses: hard-to-fill vacancies can cause delays in developing new products and services, meanwhile the latest CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey, published last week, reveals that more than half of respondents believe that developing and maintaining digital skills within their organisation has a new urgency in this climate.

Despite there being more than two million students enrolled on degree courses in 2014/15, with a 3% increase in full-time first year enrolments in engineering and technology subjects, businesses often find that graduates are not adequately prepared for the workplace.

Mixed outlook on how to combat automated cyber attacks

In the last year, more than 90% of companies surveyed experienced a cyber attack, according to a report by cyber security provider Radware.

Half of all businesses attacked said they had experienced burst bot attacks, a short but intensive form of automated attack, up from 27% in 2014. Radware’s Emergency Response Team (ERT), which compiles the report using insight from dealing with attacks, believes that ‘burst bots’ will be the fastest growing type of attack in 2016. It’s warning businesses to ensure they invest in ‘good bots’ to fight the relentless ‘zombie’ style Advanced Persistent Denial of Service (APDoS) bots that attackers can leave to run for days, even weeks, at a time.

Businesses’ preparedness is mixed: 60% state they are “extremely” or” very” well prepared for the traditional attacks such asunauthorised access and worm and virus damage, yet the same proportion say they are “not very prepared” to fight the Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) that the Internet of Zombies brings. Some 46% of businesses admitted they couldn’t cope with a sustained attack that lasted longer than a day and 60% have to manually tune their security to manage each attack.

FSB supports whole-of-government approach to exporting

As announced earlier in the week, the government is reforming the UK Trade and Investment body to deliver a whole-of-government approach to boosting British exports. The announcement was welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses, which believes that making exports a priority will lead to better support for SMEs and first-time exporters.

FSB national chairman John Allan said: “As Ministers implement the new strategy, we urge them to embed the need to support small businesses and first time exporters in each department’s new export plan. The refresh of UKTI’s digital offering will be key to improving access to the best information and advice. FSB will support and promote moves to engage with the UK small business community. All plans should be well-marketed and robustly monitored if the Government’s targets of increasing the value of exports to £1 trillion and achieving 100,000 new exporters are to be met.”

More than 24 per cent of FSB members already export, with nearly one in 10 (9%) of these exporting more in the last three months.