By Francesca James

A new Study from Social Networking Entrepreneur, Penny Power and Fast Future Research, shows that 84% of SME’s recognise the importance of social media in the growth of their business, but that only 12% had staff directly involved in this role.

During a year of consultation and research Penny Power has been seeking to solve two problems. The need for Small Businesses to fully embrace the ‘new digital world’ for their survival and growth, and to reduce unemployment by working with Youths to harness their knowledge of social media and the new ‘social’ culture.

"The answer to the economical and societal challenges we experience” Penny believes, “lies in matching those ‘Born Digital’ with the Baby Boomer and Generation X who are struggling with the technology and also the openness and habits of the social world online. By encouraging Youths to help SME’s with this challenge, we will be helping to solve two problems at once”

"I am creating an ecosystem of networks and companies from industry, Public Sector and Academia to build a national program that delivers a Social Media Apprentice scheme and job placement initiative. Initially we will seek those Youths who have or are studying media and or Journalism to take a step into the commercial world, thereby picking up the surplus of Youths studying this subject that will not be absorbed into the Media Industries, our goal is to ensure they do not add to the unemployment problem in this sector. We will then work within local areas bringing Colleges, Business Networks, Housing Associations and the Job Center Plus resources together to work closely on an extensive match-making initiative.”

Louise Punter, Chief Executive at the Surrey Chamber of Commerce said “we recognise that innovation is key to the growth of small businesses. We are excited by this proposed apprenticeship programme for Small Business and the matching of Born Digital Youths as we can see that this would enable smaller businesses to embrace and adapt to the shifts in communication and business development allowing them to compete on a level playing field in a global marketplace. We will certainly be encouraging our members to get

The Pathfinder Study conducted this summer in association with Fast Future (www.pennypower.co.uk ) discovered that 59% of the SME’s said they would see the value in having a dedicated social media apprentice to manage their social presence online. "We hope that by highlighting this obvious match, and solution for the UK, we are able to attract the right support from the Government and business in supporting our efforts in building the courses and infrastructure required”, Penny Power added.

These initiatives and training courses for Youths and will underpin the Manifesto for Business Britain launched in March 2011, and endorsed by Mark Prisk, that sets out the need for a change in Business Mindset toward Social and Digital Technology. (Download the manifesto at www.pennypower.co.uk )