Thursday, 27 November 2008

News from Sir Alan Sugar


Sir Alan Sugar will be the face of apprenticeships in England in a new TV advertising campaign, ministers announced today.

The self-made business leader and star of TV’s The Apprentice will front a high-profile advertising campaign being aired from February 2009 promoting the benefits of taking on apprentices to employers and championing work-based qualifications.

It comes as the Education and Skills Bill received Royal Assent and became law – landmark legislation today welcomed by high-profile employers, charities, trade unions and professional associations.

This will mean that all young people will stay in education or training until the age of 18 from 2015 and more adults across England will be given the legal right to free training.

The legislation builds on ongoing reforms to expand participation to 18 - through introducing new Diplomas and extending work-related learning, alongside more traditional qualifications such as A-Levels and GCSEs.

Ministers hope to bring forward new legislation – at the first opportunity – to strengthen and massively expand apprenticeships, with the number on offer increasing to around 400,000 in England by 2020 – covering one in five young people, compared to just one in 15 at present.

The new legislation will also help many more adults take advantage of the opportunities of an apprenticeship with an aspiration of 250,000 people beginning their training by 2020.

Ed Balls, Children, Schools and Families Secretary, said:

“Sir Alan Sugar is synonymous with success, hard work and determination – so it’s great to have him on board. I know young people and employers will listen carefully to his support for apprenticeships and that his backing will ensure that they are given the recognition they deserve.

“Expanding and strengthening apprenticeships is a key stepping stone to addressing the need for skilled workers, dealing with challenging economic times and paving the way toward extending the education and training age to 18.

“This legislation is the biggest change to education and training in a generation and will benefit millions of young people for decades to come. This is a bold step and one that we have not taken lightly. Everyone must continue learning if we are to have a fair society where all young people have a chance to do well in life. Too many young people drop out or end up in dead-end jobs with no prospects of promotion or advancement.

“A job for life is a thing of the past. Young people without qualifications are going to find it increasingly difficult to gain employment. We must have an evolving education system that reflects the requirements of employers and the fast pace of change in business. No young person should be left behind.

“We do not expect every 16 and 17 year old to remain in school – young people will be free to work as long as they are learning too. This system is about creating real opportunity all so there is something for everyone.”

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said

“We have rescued and expanded apprenticeships, ten years ago only 65,000 people started one and today that figure has almost trebled to more than 184,000. And we have driven up the chances of completion, in 2001/02 completion rates were 24 percent and today they are 63 per cent. We want to see many more people having the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship with at least 250,000 doing so by 2020.

“Sir Alan Sugar has proved that hard work and commitment can lead to success, and many apprentices share those qualities. I hope that even more individuals and employers take advantage of the opportunities that our expanded and improved apprenticeship programme offers them.

“The expansion in apprenticeships is backed up by today’s historic Education and Skills Act. For the first time all adults in this country with very few or no skills have a legal right to free training, meaning that they have the opportunity to realise their full potential and improve the lives of their families.

“In addition we are offering a legal right to all young people up to 25 to gain the essential technical skills needed by business to boost their chances to progress in their careers and contribute to our economic success.

“Ensuring people have the chance to obtain a wide range of skills, whether by doing an apprenticeship or doing a vocational course is the most effective way to boost the life chances of those with very poor skills and support social justice.”

Sir Alan Sugar said:

"Young people need choices that motivate them - not everyone who leaves school at 16 has the drive to succeed that I did. The fact is that some people learn better on the job or by seeing how their learning applies to the real world – that’s why I’m backing apprenticeships.

“People who do apprenticeships become ambitious, they’re ‘doers’, the kind of people who will make things happen. These are the qualities I look for in people. Success is all about finding people like this – people who will help make any business grow, especially in times like these. It’s important that employers take apprenticeships seriously – apprentices make things happen and can help a business to grow and thrive. "

Education and Skills Act 2008

The key elements of new legislation are:

· Education and training age raised to 17 by 2013 and to 18 by 2015 – ensuring that every young person is in some form of recognised education or training until they are 18. No young person will be forced to stay at school there will be a range of opportunities, including, part time training alongside employment, work based learning and apprenticeships.

· Giving all adults in England from August 2009, the legal right to funding for:
basic skills courses (literacy level 1, numeracy entry level 3);
a first level 2 vocational qualification (the same standard as 5 good GCSEs);
a first A level equivalent (level 3) qualification for all 19-25 year olds (including vocational qualifications at this level).

· Enshrining in law that all adults are entitled to basic skills (including literacy and numeracy), first GCSE-level vocational (level 2) and 19-25 year olds their first A-Level equivalent qualification (level 3).

· improvements in the quality of information, advice and guidance and support available to young people by:
o transferring the responsibility for delivering the Connexions service to local authorities, enabling more integrated and targeted support; and
o making it clear that it must be impartial and in the best interest of the young person. Makes improvements to the regulatory regime for independent and non-maintained special schools.

· legislative changes to put into effect the Secretary of State for Children’s announcement on 14 October of an end to key stage 3 tests from summer 2009; and

· toughening up compliance with the mandatory School Admissions Code – requiring all local authorities to report annually on whether schools are complying with the mandatory Code and widening the independent watchdog, the Office of the School Adjudicator’s powers, to investigate and deal with unlawful admission arrangements.

Notes to Editors

1. More than 130,000 employers currently hire apprentices and there has been a three-fold increase in the last decade in the numbers available. There are more than 180 types of apprenticeship available in more than 80 sectors of industry and commerce

2. To find out more, employers should visit or call the apprenticeships helpline on 08000 150 400.

3. Commenting on the Education and Skills Bill getting Royal Assent:

News from Virgin Media

Sacré bleu! Brits name French icon queen of cool: Carla Bruni tops Cool List 2008

Cross-channel rivalries have been put aside as the First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, is today named the coolest person of the year in the Alternative Cool List 2008. The former model and singer-songwriter has rocketed to the top of the poll with almost a quarter (22 per cent) of all votes, in a year that has seen her marry French president Nicolas Sarkozy, release her third album and stay with the Queen on a state visit to Britain.

In the week that the NME prepares to unveil its Cool List of hot young personalities, the poll of over 4,000 Brits reveals Carla, a former girlfriend of Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, is the people’s choice to be crowned queen of cool in 2008. Beating a number of cool kids who are likely to appear on the NME list, Carla has had a remarkable year that included a performance alongside Metallica on Later With Jools Holland and an auction of a nude photograph of her selling for more than 20 times the expected price at Christie’s.

Beating an enviable list of female musicians to the top spot, Bruni is tailed by alternative singer Kate Bush (14 per cent), British girl band Girls Aloud (13 per cent) and American singer Beyoncé (10 per cent) in the poll. Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant (nine per cent) is the top male to appear in the Cool List 2008, the full results of which can be seen at The most surprising entry in the poll comes in the form of Peter Kay’s fictitious character and singing sensation Geraldine McQueen who also received nine per cent of the vote after beating X-Factor’s real winner Leon Jackson in a recent chart battle.

Also completing the list is Kylie (seven per cent) who conducted her KYLIEX2008 European tour earlier this year and currently celebrating his 50th year in music, Cliff Richard received four per cent of nominations together with manband Take That who are continuing their cool comeback. Sir Paul McCartney received three per cent of votes together with Jay-Z who appears seven places behind his wife Beyoncé after a secretive marriage earlier this year. Finally, British singer Estelle makes up the top twelve coolest characters of 2008 with two per cent of the vote. Cool List 2008

Carla Bruni - 22%
Kate Bush - 14%
Girls Aloud - 13%
Beyoncé - 10%
Robert Plant - 9%
Geraldine - 9%
Kylie - 7%
Cliff Richard - 4%
Take That - 4%
Paul McCartney - 3%
Jay-Z - 3%
Estelle - 2%

News from Virgin Media

Kelly Osbourne makes cinema debut: Kelly gets animated in a big screen ad for Virgin Media

Kelly Osbourne is making her cinema debut this week in the latest ad campaign from Virgin Media. Following in the footsteps of Mel B and Mick Hucknall, the rock chick has been immortalised using state-of-the-art animation techniques to appear alongside Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, promoting Virgin Media’s TV on Demand service.

Kelly, who shot to fame alongside her zany family in fly-on-the-wall show ‘The Osbournes’, is the third celebrity to be animated for Virgin Media’s cinema ads. American company So! Animation captures the star in her element as she takes to the silver screen to highlight the array of TV shows available on demand to Virgin Media customers. A back catalogue of whole TV series, from complete seasons of classics such as Friends and The Sopranos to newer shows including Big Love, The OC and Nip/Tuck, Virgin Media’s TV Choice on Demand offers the pick of the best TV to watch whenever you like.

From Friday 21st November, cinema-goers will be entertained with Kelly paying a tongue-in-cheek visit to fictional rehab clinic ‘The Friary,’ to see a therapist who specialises in SADOS – ‘sons and daughters of stars’. In a bid to direct Kelly away from her late night encounters with the paparazzi and her ‘partying lifestyle’, the therapist prescribes she ‘gets her kicks’ at home with Virgin Media. In the ad, Kelly is hugely excited by the prospect of a dose of TV rehab and she leaves the clinic satisfied, whilst the audience see the therapist revealed as Sir Richard Branson in disguise.

Hugely entertained by the ad, Kelly said, “I am thrilled with the animation – the likeness is uncanny and they’ve even got all of my tattoos in the right places!”

Ashley Stockwell, managing director of brand and marketing at Virgin Media added, “We’re delighted to have Kelly on board for our new cinema ad - she is the perfect choice for promoting the variety of TV shows available in our huge TV on Demand library, for customers to watch whenever they want. Her animated alter-ego looks fantastic, capturing her expressions, style and mannerisms perfectly – even down to her trademark Christian Louboutin shoes!”

To view the ad, go to

News from Bennetts

Beware of the Billboard Beauties:
Bennetts reveal Girls Aloud are top distraction for bikers on the road

Having achieved a series of number one hits, best-selling albums and dozens of awards, Girls Aloud have been awarded with yet another accolade – they have been named the biggest distraction on the road in the last year by motorcyclists, according to
a survey by Bennetts, the UK’s number one for bike insurance*,

The results released today reveal over a third (35%) of UK bikers admitted taking their eyes off the road to catch a glimpse of the pop princesses in their recent advertising campaign.

The survey shows the girl band were the top distraction for a second year running, with their campaign for Kit Kat Senses proving as disorientating as the familiar Sunsilk shampoo ad in 2007, when they also topped the study. In second place was Eva Longoria with 31% for her Magnum ice-cream campaign and getting helmets turning in third was the face (and body) of Triumph Bra range, Louise Redknapp, with 13% of the vote. Despite having a baby girl last year, Myleene Klass continues to make her mark as she models for M&S in fourth position whilst rounding-up the top five is Eva Longoria once again, with her silky brown tresses in her L’Oreal shampoo ads causing a stir amongst 3% of the bikers surveyed.

Director at Bennetts, Paul Galligan, said of the findings; ‘It’s very interesting to see how easy it is for motorists to take their eyes off the road and judging by the results, using attractive females is a very effective way of advertising! We hope that by identifying that some billboards can lead to distraction, it will encourage bikers to save the staring for when they are at home.’

Most distracting billboard adverts

Girls Aloud for Kit Kat Senses - 35%
Eva Longoria for Magnum ice-cream - 31%
Louise Redknapp modeling for Triumph Bras - 13%
Myleene Klass in a yellow and white bikini for M&S - 10%
Eva Longoria modeling for L'Oreal shampoo - 3%

* Based on brand tracking research in April 2008

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

News from Ocado

Brits Replicate Restaurant Dinners At Home

(November 04, 2008) Figures released today reveal Britons are beating the ‘Crunch’ by switching from eating out to whipping up gourmet meals in the kitchen.

Online grocer Ocado analysed the shopping baskets of one million of its registered customers and noted a surge in people buying premium meat cuts - featuring highly were veal escallops, up some 30%, and sirloin steak, up over 50%.

Quality ingredients are being washed down with higher value wines, with a 15% increase in consumers paying between £10 and £15 a bottle, versus a 15% decline in bottles under £5.

Across the board there has been a 15% in sales of cooking ingredients, pointing to a firm rise in ‘scratch cooking.’ Chopped tomatoes have shot up 129% and fresh cooking sauces are up by 165%. Conversely ready meals have fallen by 5%.

Other notable changes in the make-up of UK shopping baskets include:

Luxury ice-cream and sticky toffee pudding sales – up 42% and 159% respectively, suggesting customers are further enhancing their ‘dining in’ experience with indulgent desserts

Organic sales – slid to 13% of the average shopping basket in the summer (their lowest rate since 2005) but are buoyant again at 14.5%

London organic capital of the UK - Londoners fill 17% of their shopping basket with organic produce, compared to 14% nationally

The residents of Notting Hill aren’t reigning in their tastes – they’re ordering five times more Champagne than the rest of the UK and spending an additional £8 per bottle.

Editors’ Notes:

1- All figures detailed represent year-on-year, 2007-08

About Ocado:

Ocado ( was established in 2000, started trading in 2002 and is now one of Britain’s leading online grocers. Unlike its competitors, Ocado operates a centralised distribution model which means that it does not rely upon a network of stores from which to service customers. This approach has numerous benefits including, not least, a significantly reduced environmental impact. Ocado boasts over 15,000 product lines including Waitrose and John Lewis-branded goods; most recently it has launched non-food lines such as toys, magazines and fresh flowers.