Helping small business: is it time to look to the older generation?

JP Morgan Chase recently launched Advancing Cities, a $500 million initiative to create economic opportunities in cities around the world.

This funding is focused on providing small businesses with the critical resources needed to grow, with the plan that it will result in the revitalisation of local communities.

JP Morgan Chase has identified (following similar projects in Detroit, Chicago and Washington) the impact on a community when small business growth is empowered and workforces are equipped with 21st-century skills.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs generate jobs, create diverse communities and are vital to prosperous cities

If we applied this thinking to the UK we’d see similar benefits. We’re seeing the likes of HSBC and Barclays investing in specific areas but there really needs to be a UK-wide initiative.

However, there’s a rather large negative.

The positives

  • Growth of small businesses
    • With capital readily available, we could see a resurgence in the high street
    • As small businesses grow they have a positive impact on their local communities
    • Increase in growth has a positive impact on the local unemployment rate
  • Near zero unemployment
    • With extra funding for re-training, we see an increase in the number of skilled workers available
    • As small businesses grow the need for these skills increases

The negative

So why is that a problem?

Let’s take one area of the UK as a sample… say the North West region. There are 142,000 unemployed people there, but there are 503,000 micro-businesses (393,000 sole traders).

Now, we’ve already identified who benefits when a small business is successful, but now we have a situation where there are more businesses that ‘could’ hire all the unemployed people in the area, but we still couldn’t satisfy the demand. This has a negative impact because the small business can’t hire the staff it needs to grow.

Too many jobs is a better problem to have than not enough jobs.

But if the money becomes available, how do we address the skills shortage? (and it was evident before Brexit that we had one).

Look to the older generation

Maybe it’s time to look to the older generation with regards to retraining and re-introduction to the workplace. There’s nothing to stop the older generation from re-entering the workplace now, but should it be actively encouraged? Could we empower them to learn new skills through free training programmes and incentivising them (possibly through the same tax breaks students have) to go back to work.

The Guardian covered covered this back in 2014 and identified that older people’s existing skills were still in demand, especially to small businesses.

Then there are the mental and physical health benefits of staying in the workplace.  Through flexible working and tax incentives, more will want to work longer, and as we age as a population, more will have to.

It’s not the 1970s anymore

You only have to watch the residents on the Channel 4 smash Old People’s Home for 4 Year Old’s to see how well spritely 97-year-old Victor and 84-year-old Beryl are getting on with 4-year-old Scarlett. The benefits of including the older generation in more facets of our life are undeniable.

We’re living longer, healthier lives, far more so than in the 1970s. We’re continuing to be active both mentally and physically, so why shouldn’t we work longer if we choose?

This could ultimately be to the benefit of the smaller business owner.

We live in an age of inclusion, whether that be race, gender, sexuality or disability but we must include the older generation, especially when it comes to facilitating small business growth.

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