From education to employment

Minority Business Association Believe Ethnic Entrepreneurs Need More Support

The last decade has seen a significant shift away by young ethnic minority entrepreneurs from traditional and ethnic niche markets into more mainstream and international growth sectors.

There has been a major shift in the scale, complexity and diversity of firms owned and run by people from minority ethnic backgrounds. An increasing number of ethnic minority entrepreneurs are running successful multi million pound companies in many different sectors, for example banking and financial services, business services, media, fashion, and in computer manufacturing, to name just a few. However, despite such entrepreneurial spirit and high levels of entrepreneurial activity, the reality is that there are still a great many disadvantaged individuals who require greater support.

Growth Predicted

According to the London Development Agency (LDA), throughout the UK more than 250,000 ethnic minority enterprises are contributing around ₤13 billion a year to the British economy. And with a population that is growing, it is more than likely that this figure will continue to rise. This seems to paint an encouraging picture for the future, yet the Minority Business Association (MBA) in North Staffordshire believes young ethnic minority entrepreneurs need more support to fulfill their potential.

The MBA, an organisation created in May 2004 to provide assistance for ethnic minority firms, points to a recent survey carried out by itself into the behaviour of local businesses. This survey highlights the apparent shortage of key skills among young ethnic minority groups. Of the firms surveyed, it found that 35% of the owners were aged between 25 and 34. But from this age group only 40% had five or fewer GCSE’s or NVQ1’s, and 19% had no qualifications at all. And the figures don”t make for better reading when you take the sample as a whole; it found that whilst 34% of business owners had up to five GCSE’s, 37.5% were bereft of any formal qualification whatsoever.


Jelani Ghulam, the business development executive the MBA said the results showed that there are many good, young entrepreneurs in ethnic minority communities. However he expressed concern about the motives behind the decision to set up these own companies, a concern emanating from statistics claiming that as many as 10% of owners set up their company because of the lack of any other employment options.

Mr. Ghulam said: “There are graduate caliber people who have gone in to self-employment. They”ve either done it to look after the family business or because there is a lack of employment opportunities in the area”. Mr. Ghulam went on to add that “There is a lack of skills and people aren”t accessing mainstream support services. There’s a need to support these communities. If you want a vibrant business community, you can”t ignore the ethnic minorities.”

In an attempt to assuage these problems and provide a practical solution Mr. Ghulam indicated that the MBA would be looking to forge stronger relations with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), a vital step in order to address the skills shortages among ethnic minority groups. A spokesman for the LSC also commented, adding: “We continue to work with the MBA to ensure that learning is available to every individual in Stoke-on-Trent.”

The results of the survey refer to small businesses in the North Staffordshire region and were based upon data and statistics submitted by 200 companies.

Michael de la Fuente

Read more about ethnic business in FE right here!

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