Supporting the SME skills gap

John Antunes
Director of SME and Channel, SAP UK and Ireland
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 It is not unknown that SMEs often struggle with cash flow, lack of funding and skills shortages. I have lost count of the number of stories I have recently read on these topics, not to mention the high unemployment headline that regularly pops up. However, with the economy suffering and heavily reliant upon the success of SMEs to help pull us through, we have seen a number of initiatives in place enabling these small and mid-sized businesses to think bigger and strive to grow.

Small businesses sometimes struggle to attract the right talent as often individuals will seek to work for larger firms where they see greater opportunities for career development. Likewise, whilst there is a large pool of talent with unemployment at a high, small businesses tend to lack confidence in candidates’ ability to deliver the right skills coupled with a strong work ethic – both essential in the office. As a result, SMEs are often reluctant to take the risk and employ individuals that may require training, but that do possess skills that are useful to the business. There is a need for small businesses to find the balance between this challenge to recruit and expanding the workforce in line with business growth. 

SMEs often find themselves in a vicious circle; ambitious to grow but unable to expand teams, adopt new technology and enter new markets due to cash flow barriers.  So, what comes as a breath of fresh air to the market is the Santander SME graduate placement scheme – a scheme not only designed to decrease the pressing issue of youth unemployment but also to alleviate the pressures SMEs are facing when looking to succeed and grow in the UK – providing these small and mid-sized companies with the cash and confidence they require.

Whilst there are many schemes in place to provide SMEs with access to finance, this is quite a unique proposition; providing not only financial support, but also aiding recruitment of new skills within the business. Management of talent and knowing when to make a new hire are crucial to SME success and enabling overall business growth. The perception of careers within a small organisation is something I suspect will change given the entrepreneurial spirit rife in Britain, and the increase in people starting their own business as a result.

This is an interesting scheme and I’m intrigued to see how it will evolve and the long term benefits it may bring both to SMEs and grads. The focus on graduate recruitment - particularly at this time of year, will continue across many industries, but the level of support organisations like Santander now offer will differ greatly across the board.

Suffice to say there is plenty of opportunity in SMEs for grads – and undergrads – out there who are looking for a career with prospects.


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