Category Archives: Business

York Not In Running For City of Culture… Quelle Surprise?!

Ed Vaizey today unveiled those that are running for the 2017 UK City of Culture, York is not to feature.

It is no great surprise that a city of York’s standings is not to feature in this with the competition of Aberdeen, Chester, Dundee, Hastings and Bexhill on Sea, Hull, Leicester, Plymouth, Southend on Sea and a joint application from Portsmouth and Southampton. All very different cities, none as great as York, obviously.

However with the current actions from the City leaders and the City bureocrats it is never going to be able to have any culture. Many tourists love the fantastic range of street performers that add that extra little something to the City Centre and always gives a buzz around them. The other day with an army of public clipboard holders and 2 policemen they were on a mission to stop a very serious offence from happening. A busker had the audacity to offer CDs, not for sale, but in exchange for donations. Shocking to many I know that such crimes against humanity should be committed. If he wanted to sell CDs then he would have to pay a £40 fee for the privilege, nearly double what the market traders have to pay. Link To Article on Streetslive.

This doesn’t surprise me, when we have councillors trying to shape what kind of new business can be set up in the City Centre. When they say we need more shops being opened up rather than bars and restaurants maybe they should put their money where their mouths are? The real world is not some kind of social experiment; the powers that be should not be in a position to even suggest what is the ‘right kind of business’. There is a single factor that shows whether it is the right kind of business and that is the profits the business makes. If there is a demand, then offer a supply and this then brings to the city growth and ultimately jobs. The oft trotted out phrase that Ed Milliband likes to say on a loop  of  ‘Jobs & Growth’; will be solved. The City will thrive on it’s own without the interference from an army of clipboard holders, the only help the council should be giving is in cuts to start up costs for businesses.

At the very least the City of York should have been entered into the pot to be considered for the City of Culture. But for this to be a genuine thriving City of Culture, the council needs to back off and let the city just be. Be it from buskers to a cafe bar; York can sustain it all, without interference from elected and unelected officials.

EDIT It seems that the Council have taken it too far and revoked the buskers permit of Jonny Walker, all over a £40 tag for donations. York Press Link

Supermarkets really do fail when it comes to marketing special offers?

The other day while shopping in the local supermarket I noticed there was a special offer of Fruit & Fibre. Fantastic. You may also notice that they have left the special offer items in their original shelf position leaving the regular sized box positioned directly below. What kind of moron would think this would be a good idea?

We all know that the special offer deals usually mean a smaller version can be several times more expensive. In this case

Fruit & Fibre 750g    £1.49    19.9p per 100g

Fruit & Fibre 500g    £2.68    53.6p per 100g

There is a significant saving to be had by buying the larger box of fruit and fibre. This doesn’t really bother me, there are special offers everywhere and you pick up good deals. Picking up a bargain certainly brings a smile to my face, yes I am easily pleased. The point is what kind of a person would engineer a situation like this.

There are many reasons why special offers are placed at the ends of aisles or in a unique location in supermarkets to use a nudge to suggest a product to buy to those who would not normally buy it and to separate it from other products. It is all about driving up sales to new customers and clear out over orders of stock in many cases. By leaving the boxes in situ then the only people who will see the special offer is someone who is down the cereal aisle and looking in that direction. They don’t want the usual customers to stray away from their usual if they get a regular box, as this is where the profit will be made as well.

One thing you would never do is where Morrisons have failed on this one, put the two products next to eat other. Highlighting how much of a good deal that you are getting with their special offer, but not so great for sales of the regular box, from the regular people. At the same time leaving them in their standard location. The regular customers will now think twice about buying Kellogg’s Fruit and Fibre when they are shopping after the special offer period has ended now that it has been highlighted how cheap the product can be.

All in all this is great for the average consumer as long as they take up the offer, but I doubt the store will sell many of the regular sized boxes or drive new customers into taking up the special offer. You would think that a massive supermarket chain would have standard procedure for special offers, this is not purely a marketing issue. This is a plain common sense issue.

Basic Education Levels Are Not Good Enough For Employment

Speaking to many employers the common theme is that the average school leaver has a distinct problem with basic literacy, numeracy and general self management. This has been a problem through the education system and has remained constant for the past 10 years and remains at about 1/3 of school and college leavers not having enough basic skills. This then passes the burden on to the employer with 42% of employers surveyed having to provide remedial training for many.

The recent Education & Skills survey taken by the CBI and Pearson covers 542 organisations and 1.6 million employees highlights the deeper issues in the education system.

The other highlighted aspect with this latest survey is that even though there has been a significant rise in higher grades with A Levels there has been no improvement in the levels of education on a global comparison.

Year A/A* B C D E N U Total A-E
1993 13.8% 16.7% 17.7% 18.1% 14.8% 9.3% 9.6% 81.1%
2001 18.6% 19.3% 21.4% 18.1% 12.4% 6.3% 3.9% 89.8%
2011 27.1% 25.6% 23.6% 15.1% N/A 8.5% 2.2% 97.8%


I have only selected 3 years of results to show the trend, if you look year on year the same pattern is clear and is a gradual process. I have combined A/A* due to the introduction 2 years ago and also E is no longer used from 2001 onwards. It does show that on a whole more people are passing and getting higher marks. Have a look at the link at the bottom to see all A Level results.

This may feel great for a student, not so useful in the real world. How are you meant to gauge between students if you can’t use exam results and they have no prior experience?

Is it just we have now become a nation that requires students to carry on until they finish university? One flaw with that is not everyone requires a degree for their job, an apprentice for example. As an electrical apprentice you need to be good with numbers and have good levels of literacy, you don’t however need to have a degree. This leave s a lot of employers taking on an electrical apprentice having to check to see if they have the basic skills required to be able to learn in the workplace safely.

I don’t have the answers to this. Teachers tell me that they are working harder than they have been doing, they tell me students work more than ever, so what is the issue of students coming out of school and not being safe to put into a workplace. The answer in recent years has been for employers to provide this service to any successful applicants, but it is not a long term solution as it is leaving our country to reduce the high standings we used to have in the world. One thing that does need looking into is something that will help provide the finishing skills for A level students who just aren’t up to it. A small employer can’t afford to do this and leaves them struggling.

http://www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2012/06/further-progress-on-school-and-college-leaver-attainment-requires-radical-new-vision-cbi-pearson/

A Level Exam Results In Full

Why Cyber Crime Will Get Worse In The UK

While I was at the Conservative Conference this year the most interesting Fringe event was on ‘Informing The Public On Cyber Crime‘. It had members from Raytheon, Met Police and Sophos.

It is interesting to note how backward we have become with regard to computer skills in schools. Which is odd as ‘IT’ classes are almost a given in every school and now with many people sitting a GCSE in ICT. This would lead you to believe that surely we must be educating more and teaching advanced skills. Instead the ICT GCSE course is primarily in how to use office and how to turn a PC on. It is clear why the stats show a decline over the past 12 months with people sitting the ICT exam. The reason is not because it is too complex or demanding, it is because most pupils could sit the exam age 10 and pass.

When I was at school our science lessons included using a BBC computer to learn programming, this was at Primary School. Ever since those days it seemed we are teaching pupils less about programming and the workings of a computer than we are the basics of how to use it.  The rest of the world seems to be trying to push computer science on their children as this is the future. We seem to be losing generations from this, which is odd as we are the third largest in the world for the computer games industry. The only way people seem to have the skills are to be self taught. The self confessed geek.

If we need to move this countries technology sectors we can’t rely on a multitude of self taught IT geeks on being able to fill the void. The rest of the world has realised that computers are required in everything and realise how vital it is to push forward the younger generations skills.

Cyber crime utilises the skills of the hacker [sic] to usually try to extract something from a PC, with most of the UK dumbing down not only do people not have the skills to advance the industries but the general population will not have the basic skills to be able to protect their own PC and especially small business networks from cyber crime.

Another issue brought up by the Met Police at the conference was the big hurdle into try to get people to open up about attacks on their networks. Big businesses do not report an attack instantly and usually wait until they have aimed to sort things themselves. This leaves other similar businesses open for attack, as attackers are not going to target just one company. Unfortunately due to the fact that the information is not shared then others can not prepare their systems to defend.

We are leaving the UK wide open not only for advances in the technologies industry but also on a personal level as a way to adapt our own working systems to protect our PCs. It is time schools brought back teaching advanced computer skills from primary school level, as you can be sure other countries are doing it.

North South Divide..More Than Just Education

The Sutton Trust study into University Chances By Individual School shows a clear divide between the South East and the rest of the UK on how pupils progress through the education system. I think this is all part of a much larger problem between the North-South divide in England which has widened over time.

The Government is investing in 2 enterprise zones in Yorkshire in Leeds & Sheffield areas. The enterprise zones bring great benefits to the specific sites including

  • Simplified Planning
  • Best Telecommunications Available
  • Up To £275,000 Rate Discount Over 5 Years
  • Rate Increases Go To Local Authority

Personally I see this as a good thing to bring new business in to the area, it isn’t the best option as the North South divide will continue. Any larger company that locates to these areas will more than likely have ownership in the SE still. So the general workers will continue to be employed and the divide continues.

How has this come about though? In my mind I think it is the Northern attitude that needs to adjust. I know a lot of small business owners, in fact I am one myself and was brought up by parents who were self employed so I have the small business attitude instilled in me from a young age. There seems to be no end of people setting up small businesses in Yorkshire, however there doesn’t seem to be many that want to take the jump into expanding their small business into a larger enterprise. My father always said that he didn’t want to employ anyone, and so didn’t, he always said it was too much of a hassle on top of the large cost increase. This was after employing someone he stated this. I know this is a very small sample here of only one, but I experience it throughout the industry I work in that many people will quite happily turn away work as long as their small company has enough to ‘do alright’.

In my mind there needs to be a focus of energies throughout the UK to get those small businesses to develop into a medium enterprise. It is a big step for someone to move to larger premises and have the scope to expand their company. I have no doubt that the vast number of small businesses I meet and know throughout the region could take their business further by expanding their scope and adding that bit of risk. I have just mentioned a key point though, risk. It is a risk for a company to invest money in expansion if it doesn’t work. I think there needs to be more support from local authorities and government into how they can help the vast array of small businesses develop into sustainable medium enterprises or further.

I hope the enterprise zones will be used by companies on the way up, and not just a company locating into the area. I want to see more though.

More Support For Apprenticeships…not a rant!

While reading The Press this morning I noticed the headline York Apprenticeship Challenge launched. As someone who campaigned in the local elections to encourage more businesses to take up apprenticeship schemes it is great to see more people joining the cause for apprenticeships.

When I was a teenager I was also an electricians apprentice at York Carriage Works and it has lead me to a great career as an electrician. I know mine is a ‘traditional’ apprentice in a trade, there is no reason why most careers can’t be taught through an apprenticeship scheme. The best way anyone can learn something is to actually do it, a practical application is far better than purely sitting in a classroom day after day and not really seeing the real world applications for what the teacher or lecturer is saying.

The more people who get on this, the better for employment, education and above all society as a whole. I did warn you that this is not a rant or an article that is anyway negative, this does seem to be a common theme recently with me. I think this can only be blamed on my current fitness regime in preparation for my 5km run, which may not sound much but for someone of my build* is a bit of a challenge. Fell free to donate to Yorkshire Cancer Research at my Just giving Page here.

So join the bandwagon and help out with building careers if you are in York with the 100 apprenticeships in 100 days Campaign or even if you are not in York please call 08000 150 600 or visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk

*By build I mean a bit overweight and not seen the inside of the gym for 18 months.