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Press Release

Research finds 79% of people in the UK believe country has a skills gap

Big Issue Group launches new five-year strategy to ‘change more lives through enterprise’ and welcomes entrepreneurs and campaigners Jack Parsons and Sherrie Silver onboard as new Ambassadors.

  • Poll commissioned by Big Issue Group with YouGov reveals concerns around skills shortage at time when UK is struggling to fill 1.3m job vacancies
  • Big Issue Group launches new five-year strategy to ‘change more lives through enterprise’ and welcomes entrepreneurs and campaigners Jack Parsons and Sherrie Silver onboard as new Ambassadors

Today (Monday, 27th June), a UK-wide survey by Big Issue Group (BIG), and YouGov, has revealed that 79% of adults in the UK believe the UK has a skills gap at the moment, with 62% of people stating there is either a ‘substantial gap’ (21%) or a ‘significant one’ (41%).

This news comes as employers are struggling to fill 1.3m[1] vacancies, despite the fact there is around 1.26m[2] people currently unemployed. At a time when there are 14.5m[3] people living in relative poverty, this further highlights the vital role that upskilling and training opportunities could play in ensuring people are kept from falling into destitution or losing their homes.

The organisation conducted the poll to inform the launch of their new five-year mission and strategy which will focus on Changing Lives Through Enterprise. The new direction will see BIG harness its 30 years’ experience in helping marginalised individuals back on their feet as well as providing access to finance to other social enterprises, who, in turn, will support even more people living in poverty into employment.

As part of this new focus, BIG has also revealed that Jack Parsons, CEO of The Youth Group and the UK’s Chief Youth Officer, alongside Sherrie Silver, creative entrepreneur, globally renowned choreographer, community activist and UN IFAD Advocate for Rural Youth, will be supporting the organisation as Ambassadors.

For the first time BIG has published a Group Impact Report, setting out its new five-year Impact Goal which aims that by2027, 11 million people every year will engage with BIG products and be positively impacted by BIG services.

To deliver against this new impact goal, BIG’s work will now be structured under three guiding pillars: Innovation, Prevention and Investment.

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The first new initiative, Big Issue Recruit, will launch in the Autumn. Aimed at those who face barriers to employment, it will be a person-centred recruitment service that will support marginalised people to find sustainable employment through skills, training and development. And once in roles continue to support them. The scheme will be supported by Jack Parsons and Sherrie Silver.

The survey confirmed there is significant public support for this, as when asked what the best way to support marginalised people back into jobs was, 38% of adults said it was through providing training programmes to develop specific skills and 25% of people surveyed said organisations such as BIG should be prioritising creating skills and training programmes to get more people into work.

According to the research, 31% of young people aged between 18-24 years old said they believe there are fewer opportunities for young people to access jobs compared to 30 years ago.

Jack Parsons, CEO of The Youth Group, said: “We have to do more to help young people through such tough times and support them to feel like they can ‘win’ at work, in their communities and in society. When I was asked to become an Ambassador of Big Issue Group and the mission they are embarking on to help more into work, I knew I had to get involved and support. It’s going to be an amazing period of impact and everyone can play their part to support the new vision over the next five years.”

Sherrie Silver, Choreographer, creative entrepreneur, community-building activist and UN Advocate for Rural Youth: “I have chosen to support Big Issue because it provides people with it’s the skills and training they need to work their way out of poverty. As someone who works with underprivileged and homeless people around Africa through my charity, Children of Destiny, I know that the best way to help someone living in poverty is by giving them a means to help themselves, in order to avoid dependency, because as we know, helpers come and go. It is an honour to be able to support such an amazing brand that changes lives for good.”

Lord John Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, said: “This is an important and exciting next step for Big Issue Group. When I set up the magazine, my aim was to slit the throat of poverty, but this can only be done if we are focusing on, Innovation, Investment and Prevention, rather than always having to deal in emergencies. This new strategy and focus will not only help us support even more people, but it will also enable us to change lives.”

Jon Gregg, Vendor for Big Issue Group, said: “Everything they say about working with Big Issue Group is true. Selling the magazine helps give you your self-esteem, your confidence and your life back. The tabard is a uniform, when you put it on it really makes you feel like you can take on the whole world.”

Steve Clarke, Big Issue Invest investee, and co-owner and founder of Café Van Gogh in Brixton, said: “As a social enterprise it was incredibly hard to secure investment, but Big Issue Invest gave me the funding which enabled me to make my dream a reality. We put ethical decisions and community at the heart of what we do, not profit. We run a programme of on-the-job training and offer employment opportunities to people with additional challenges in life, such as a learning disability or a mental health problem to provide them with the support and confidence to thrive.”

Paul Cheal, Big Issue Group CEO, said: “Our new Big Issue Group five-year strategy brings all our work together – from vendor support to parliamentary campaigns, to social investment and our campaigning journalism. This is an exciting next step for Big Issue Group, which will enable us to support even more people than ever before.”

To join us and be part of the solution to change lives, visit: https://www.bigissue.com/changing-lives-through-enterprise


[1]https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/jobsandvacanciesintheuk/march2022

[2]https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/employmentintheuk/february2022

[3] https://www.jrf.org.uk/data/overall-uk-poverty-rates#:~:text=More%20than%20one%20in%20five,and%202.1%20million%20are%20pensioners

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    Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

    Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

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