Aiming to get business ideas off the blocks

Business Link for Northumberland assisted in the creation of 882 new businesses in the county in 2005/06.

Business Link for Northumberland assisted in the creation of 882 new businesses in the county in 2005/06.

Working with in excess of 2,000 pre-business starts, this is expected to contribute towards a target for 2006/07 of achieving around 1,000 new business starts.

Business Link advice centres in Berwick and Blyth raised their profile by relocating to high street premises. The Wansbeck centre is set to relocate to Ashington high street at the end of the month.

Each of the centres offer a comprehensive programme of business support workshops. Out-of-hours support is available through the development of online accredited start-up workshops, covering the likes of bookkeeping, marketing, finance, business and the law and business planning.

The programme is a first for Business Links nationally to boast Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) accreditation. Business Link advice centres can be found in Alnwick, Berwick, Morpeth, Blyth, Wansbeck and Hexham.

Statistics show that those who make use of business information, advice and support have a major advantage over those who don't, and therefore a greater chance of survival. The Business Link advice centre network was established with support from the Northumberland Strategic Partnership using funds provided by Regional Development Agency One NorthEast.

John Litherland, executive director of the Northumberland Strategic Partnership, said: "Enterprise is a high priority for NSP and we as a Partnership are delighted to give support through our funding."

Business Link offers a gateway to a host of support, such as access to Personal Business Advisers who can save a company time and money when looking to exploit long term opportunities.

Business Link advisers also have specialist knowledge of tourism, ICT, rural, renewable energy, including a workforce development team who can provide funding towards training and support for companies interested in being recognised as an Investors in People organisation.

Advisers refer to the North East Service Provider Register when providing support through consultancy services.

Workforce development support for Northumberland assisted 862 companies, 420 employees undertook NVQ 2/3 or equivalent qualifications and 600 individuals completed 30 hours of learning, offering flexible subsidised training for employees who wish to study for a qualification in work-related subjects, including short courses.

Leadership and management skills development support and apprenticeship training, a mixture of workbased learning/education through foundation or advanced level qualifications, are also available.

As well as the referral system, huge advances this year have been made in the delivery of advice clinics, whereby each centre regularly arranges for individual experts in their field qualified to give guidance and advice - such as solicitors, fire service, environmental, Inland Revenue, planning department and local crime prevention personnel - to attend for anyone wishing to meet them, or who has a question to ask.

Tackling the barriers to women's achievements has been gathering momentum in recent years, enhancing this, EVE, a women's enterprise initiative, supporting over 1,500 women in business in Northumberland, seeks to open up opportunities and promote gender equality.

County-wide coverage in the form of a conference addresses harder-hitting business issues such as continuity planning; wills for you and your business; the glass ceiling; personal and business development. Profiling women of substance within Northumberland, who were successful entrants for the EVE Recognition Awards competition will see the production of a calendar for 2007 - a legacy to their achievements. A regular event in the business diary is our now traditional EVE Christmas luncheon and trade fair, which this year will feature guest speaker Ruth Badger from the recent TV series The Apprentice.

Future developments within the initiative will look at both becoming a mentor and offering potential mentees the benefit of one-to-one support. Local events will continue to be arranged at each of the advice centres, promoting confidence building, networking while giving something back to members in the form of profiling local women in business.

One of its key roles is business development. A dedicated team exists to secure additional provision and ensure support is available through initiatives designed to enhance growth and prosperity in the County such as The Hatchery Project, working practically with several hundred youngsters from high schools, to develop their understanding of what is required to start a business.

Team members continue to represent BLfN on a variety of partnership local and sub-regional steering groups and boards, including Northumberland's Removing Barriers to Work Unit, Wansbeck Initiative (NRF funded LSP), Northumberland Information Network, Berwick Incubation and Workspace Project.

Among further developments akin to those illustrated above, this year also sees the team strengthening regional working with partners and other regional Business Link counterparts to build the new regional Business Link-branded service under Business Link North East.

Business Link services in the North-East are supported by the European Regional Development Fund, through the Government Office for the North East, and One NorthEast.

Log on to: www.businesslink.gov.uk  for 24-hour access to information or speak to your local Business Link by calling: 0845 600 9 006.

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