New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has been offering government-funded business assistance programmes to small businesses for many years - but the nature of the assistance and the criteria for eligibility have changed. Unfortunately, it seems this move is going to put a much-needed hand up out of reach for many Bizbuzzers.
Instead of the majority of small businesses qualifying to attend courses run under the old Enterprise Training Programme, the new programme specifically targets businesses whose futures in exporting look rosy. In addition, those businesses qualifying for the scheme will need to come up with half the money to attend approved business development training courses. They will receive a voucher to cover the remainder of the course costs.
Now, I'm all in favour of hard-won taxpayer dollars being dished out judiciously where there is likely to be a return on the investment. And I'm in favour of not just providing a hand-out to all-and-sundry business owners - and in fact, people do tend to value something more if they need to make a contribution towards it. However, I think this move is going to do significant damage to the grassroots level of small businesses - and that at a time when they can least afford it.
Sure, export businesses bring much-needed money into our economy - but it's the day-to-day mom-and-pop, startup, home, local strip and other small businesses which keep the cash flowing in this country, which provide local employment and which form the backbone of the economy. Many of these businesses are started by people who have skills and passion, but little or no business experience. They need access to information and education, it needs to be easy to get, and there need to be few barriers to embracing it.
If we invest in early stage or growing businesses, at the point where that investment is going to make a difference to how successful they are, we are helping ensure a healthy future for the economy. By making basic business training difficult for the majority of small businesses in New Zealand to access, we are undermining our economy in the long term.
Have you benefited from NZTE funded training in the past? Share your exeriences and tell us whether it's made a difference to your business. If you are going to miss out on valuable assistance in the future, how is it going to affect your business? What do you think of the new scheme and the effect it will have on small businesses?