THE smallest businesses can have the biggest impact on economic development. If just a fifth of self-employed people took on one member of staff, there would be an extra 40,000 jobs in the Scottish economy.
Micro-businesses – those with fewer than ten employees – play a particularly critical role, accounting for more than 90 per cent of Scottish businesses.
A year ago, The Edinburgh Business Forum helped The City of Edinburgh Council launch its five-year “Strategy for Jobs”, which responds to this dynamic by expanding and improving business support activities.
Key was the launch of business hub at the council’s Waverley Court headquarters. This integrates Business Gateway with other frontline services including planning, recruitment support and building standards. On any day, Waverley Court is now host to social enterprises, young entrepreneurs and high-growth businesses, all planning, seeking finance or getting employment advice.
Responding to a particular request for more flexible workspace, the council also opened four incubator spaces. These include Entrepreneurial Spark in Edinburgh Park, which will support 30 local start-ups each year, and the Creative Exchange in Leith, providing affordable workspace for up to 80 staff.
Maximising job creation, particularly for young people, is the objective and we want more small and micro businesses to join the successful Edinburgh Guarantee programme. This involves pledging jobs, paid work experience, training, or mentoring and other support for young people.
Through the Edinburgh Jobs Fund, small businesses creating jobs for young people will be refunded 50 per cent of the minimum wage for at least 26 weeks. The council is also working with partners including Skills Development Scotland to ensure young people have work-focused skills, and those with disabilities or other difficulties are not disadvantaged.
Since last April, initiatives like these have helped the council create or safeguard more than 800 jobs, and move almost 3,500 people into work or learning. Much more needs to be done though and we are calling on businesses to pledge support by creating work or training opportunities for the young.
• Hugh Rutherford is chair of Edinburgh Business Forum and is a partner at Montagu Evans