Creative people

Case Study – BG Futures: A model for small & micro-businesses

Work Based Learning opportunities needn’t be confined to larger organisations or businesses. The self-employed and those in micro-businesses (10 employees or less) may also have learning needs but find it difficult to address them because of cost, time constraints, accessibility or simply that their needs aren’t catered for. Well, the flexibility of the Workplace Learning Advocates (WLAs) programme means that a solution is at hand. Here’s one example of how small businesses help each other through the WLA programme:

BG Futures is a new Business and Enterprise Centre, based on the Bishop Grosseteste University College campus in the heart of historic uphill Lincoln. Opening for business in December 2012, the Centre has made a flying start and is already fully subscribed, providing 15 business incubation units for fledgling businesses.

Centre Manager, Lead Workplace Learning Advocate and WLA Trainer Mark Bowen, tells the story;

“Since the idea of BG Futures was first conceived, we have had ambitious ideas about providing an environment for new businesses that would optimise their development potential and evolve into a self-sustaining business growth and learning community. Workplace Learning Advocates developments have provided additional fuel for these ambitions and, although it’s still relatively early days, I am very excited about the future.

We aim to have a dynamic workplace community based upon enterprise, learning and development and collaboration. The demise of the overwhelming majority of face to face business support in favour of web-based solutions means that by providing an enabling environment, supported through the WLA programme, the importance of learning from others at a time and in a way that is the most appropriate continues to be addressed – free of charge!

As an example of the variety of learning opportunities available we have held an excellent learning session on social and digital media delivered by one of our tenants, had a ‘meet, greet and eat’ so the businesses could learn about each other, hosted a successful local businessman to share his hints and tips for business success, are planning a session on recognising and dealing with stress in self and others, setting up a Facebook community for our tenants promoting integrated business growth, learning and collaboration. It’s not all about work though. The University College donated free tickets to our on-campus cinema for a social evening – tenants chose the film – and we are celebrating our first anniversary with a Christmas party for all involved in delivering the Futures experience.

The impact of the WLA approach to mutual, peer-to-peer, support was captured in a ‘Tenant Satisfaction Survey’ undertaken in July 2012 with comments such as:

“Very happy with all support shown by staff involved with BG Futures. MSP have also built up relationships with ‘Creative Hope Design’ and ‘Blink Creative which is great from a professional and social point of view.”

“All fine and a great sense of business community that I have not always seen in similar environments.”

“I particularly like [the] relationship with Andy Brookes of Ruscello who is a great listener and always gives helpful advice. Fred Boulton, Roy Harper and Sarah [all tenants], are always interested in progress and make the Futures experience all the more worthwhile.”