While the British economy may be on the mend, it would be fair to say there is still a long way to go.
For this reason, great efforts are being made to revitalise the economy, with a key area of focus being to get as many young individuals into work as possible.
In light of this, international development secretary Justine Greening has announced a new volunteering scheme – ICS Entrepreneur – that aims to help youngsters aged 18 to 25 years old to work in start-up businesses in emerging economies, such as Bangladesh, Nigeria and Tanzania.
One of the benefits is that candidates will not need to have a degree to apply, as it will be “ideas and the drive to succeed” that will make applicants stand out. The lucky 400 that will be put through the scheme over the next year and a half will also qualify for academic credit, which can be put towards qualifications from the Open University, should they wish to go on to study further.
The idea behind the initiative is that the individuals will be able to develop vital skills needed to take on today’s fast-paced and fiercely competitive world of work, but with the added extra that those skills will have been honed and toned in key areas of the world to which business leaders are paying increasing amounts of attention.
Not only will they learn commercial competences, but also about managing money, coming up with business plans, executing marketing strategies and enhancing sales performances – all skills that can arguably be transferred across a variety of sectors and business models.
Why emerging economies?
Why is the programme focusing on these areas of the world and not sending volunteers to well-established business powerhouses, like the US and China? Well, the key reasons are twofold.
First of all, these emerging economies will benefit hugely from the hard work done by these individuals. Especially in poorer parts of the world where financial support may be scarce, the value of an enthusiastic volunteer cannot be underestimated.
As ICS director Brian Rockliffe explained, by bringing youngsters from the UK together with business-savvy individuals in emerging economies, the project will help to “contribute effectively to international development”.
Nick Badman, chairman of the Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship at City University’s Cass Business School, adds how the impact volunteers may have in an emerging market has the potential to be far greater than it would at home – something that can help to build confidence and resilience, both vital skills in today’s dog-eat-dog business world.
Secondly, it is these regions that are set to shake up the commercial landscape – that is, if they aren’t already doing so. These areas of rapid growth, urbanisation and investment could have a lot to teach sluggish western economies, regardless of their relative positioning in terms of gross national product.
It is also hoped the programme will help to change attitudes. If the UK is to compete on a global scale, the new generation of business leaders need not only to be open minded to this fact, but also to embrace it. Recently, it has been suggested young workers in the UK are perhaps not as in tune to this idea as they need to be.
Accordingly, the scheme will foster in participants a sense of worldly perspective and understanding of the importance of globalisation, international relations and cross-border business.
In short, it is another way for the UK to tell the world that we are ready to trade abroad – something that is, it would appear, very much a theme du jour.
At the start of this year, business secretary Vince Cable embarked on his very first mission to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a bid to encourage trading with the region and incite interest in UAE investment in the UK. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is aiming to boost bilateral trade with this area of the world to £12 billion by 2015.
Meanwhile, trade minister Lord Livingston has his sights set on central and eastern Europe, unleashing two new British business centres in Slovakia and Hungary, with UKTI’s target for this area of the world set at £30 billion by 2020. In February, the minister also visited Dublin to promote the relationship between the neighbouring countries.
Will the new generation of business minds embrace globalisation? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure – the more we welcome overseas workers to the UK and export talent, products and services abroad, the more the need for translation and interpretation services is going to thrive.