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Newsletters > November 2011 > Highlight on SO3 Best Practice - Shape Your Future
The 'Shape Your Future: opportunities for self-employment' project was delivered in South East England. It was funded by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and led by Business Support Kent which runs business support programmes. The project focus reflected Business Support Kentís experience that, while self-employment can be a good route back to work for unemployed older workers, it is often not one that they themselves will choose and was not a route being promoted at that time by the public employment service, Jobcentre Plus. The project has demonstrated that self-employment can be a good route back into work for a substantial proportion of unemployed people, even in an area of high unemployment and low aspirations, with potentially substantial down-stream benefits for the local economy.

The Shape Your Future project has demonstrated the cost effectiveness of group sessions based on structured frameworks and with provision for one to one support. Being run by a business support organisation facilitated onward referral to business start-up support. The project suggests that the public employment services should give the self-employment option greater priority (as the UK Government has now decided they should do).

The objective was to test the value of enabling unemployed people over the age of 40 to consider the option of self-employment as a way back into work.

111 candidates were selected for the project, all over the age of 40. 4 were still in employment but facing redundancy, 10 newly redundant and 97 (87%) unemployed for some time. About half the candidates were referred by Jobcentre Plus and others from Employ Medway, the Continuing Employment Support Service (for people facing redundancy) and Kent Executive Search and through leafleting and newspaper advertisements. Selection was based on age and a willingness to explore the possibility of self-employment.

The programme was delivered in 2 stages on 2 consecutive days per stage. Both stages were delivered in a group environment (groups of 10-15 candidates) involving a combination of team work, one to one support and working alone. Stage 1 enabled candidates to reflect and take stock of their situations, review previous career paths and decisions, share experiences and concerns with other candidates and focus on the future. It used the ACRO framework to address Attitude, Creativity, Relationship and Organisation. Stage 2 focused specifically on the pros and cons of self-employment using TakTix Business games developed by Enterprise Taktix Limited, a subsidiary of Business Support Kent. These enable people, regardless of education, skills or knowledge, to discover what it means to run a business and whether they have the entrepreneurial qualities and skills required to do so. All clients were followed up as long as they required support. Clients who decided that they wanted to start a business were referred as a matter of course to the Business Link start-up programme and online mentoring service.

Before undertaking the programme, on a scale of 1 to 10, the average level of confidence amongst the participants was 3: this had risen to an average of 7 by the time they had completed the programme. Feedback also suggested that all candidates had improved their skills and entrepreneurial awareness. At the time the project ended, 24 candidates (22%) had returned to work, of whom 10 had started their own business (40% of the returners). An outstanding example of potential down-stream benefits was a candidate who had been a senior executive within the construction industry but had lost confidence due to being made redundant. He has now set up a business placing unemployed labourers in local construction projects.

A Phase 2 of the Shape Your Future project is currently underway with delegates starting their support/training in August 2011 in Dover, Kent. For more information visit the bsk website: