By Claire West

Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk spent yesterday undertaking ‘work experience’ at Ashley Anderson Ltd, a furniture manufacturer based in the West Midlands. This was Mr Prisk’s second day working with small businesses, enabling him to gain better insight into the experiences of companies on the ground.

The ‘Week in Small Business’ initiative was introduced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to gain an in-depth understanding of the specific needs of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs account for more than 99 per cent of private businesses and their performance and activity is a key driver of the UK economy.

Mr Prisk is also actively encouraging employees working on enterprise policy at the Department to participate in the initiative to help boost their understanding of the real-life issues faced by smaller firms, and bring SMEs and Government closer together.

Mr Prisk said:

“The experience I will gain from this initiative is invaluable, and I have already developed a better understanding of the issues facing small businesses from my first day with DIY Kyoto.

“It is a great opportunity to gain real-life experience at a different type of business, and I am looking forward to getting to know how Ashley Anderson operates on a daily basis. The manufacturing industry is vital to the recovery of the UK economy and the Government needs to provide the right conditions to ensure manufacturing succeeds in the globally competitive environment.

“Spending a day with Ashley Anderson will give me crucial insight into how we can address the barriers that manufacturing businesses face.”

Ashley Anderson is the manufacturing arm to the Willowbrook group, and the company has just over 40 employees. It specialises in the manufacture of mobility furniture and all products are handmade in the UK.

Keith Manvell, Director of Ashley Anderson, said:

"We are thrilled to have Mark Prisk spending the day working with us. We have plans to expand in the near future and it will be great to speak to Mark about this opportunity, and other ways the Department for Business can help small firms such as ours.

“We are also looking forward to showing Mark the day-to-day operations of a UK manufacturing business, and explaining some of the issues we face on the ground."