It’s been a busy few weeks here at the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce. We welcomed a visit from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Director General, Shevaun Haviland; published the results on an opinion poll on the planned expansion of Luton Airport; met with Vauxhall to discuss electric vehicle strategy and funding; and hosted a Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) event to help businesses combat the skills shortage.
As a set of activities, it demonstrates the sheer breadth of support we bring to our members – elevating local issues and opportunities in the media and at national (and governmental) level; fighting our businesses’ corner; and getting our regional employers’ voices heard.
Here’s a quick round-up of where the Chamber has made a difference to its members recently, and how we have made it possible for both members and other businesses to have their say on education, training, and the skills gap.
Influencing Government to act
The opinion survey we commissioned on the proposed expansion to passenger services at London Luton Airport showed just how strong support for the proposal is and highlighted its perceived benefits to local businesses: more jobs in the region, positive impact on the economy, and the attraction of more investment to the area.
By bringing the BCC’s Director General to Luton to meet with the airport leadership team and publishing the results of the survey to local and regional media, we created popular interest around the proposal, strengthening its presence on the radar of central Government, and supporting its passage through the public enquiry it is currently undergoing.
It’s an excellent example of how our connection to the wider British Chambers of Commerce amplifies our ability to raise local matters that concern members – whether smaller businesses or larger concerns like London Luton Airport – to the ‘top table’ of Government.
Funding the region’s future
Equally, our recent meeting with Chamber member Vauxhall broached issues of national importance – including UK supply chain, incentives and funding, the post-Brexit regulatory environment, and the pathway to vehicle electrification.
Once more, this demonstrates how local businesses not only have influence in the local area but can often reach way beyond that, and why their voices need representation at a national level.
Skills shortage: helping businesses reset the agenda
One of the most important topics we have enabled our membership to speak out on in recent times has been the Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs).
This Government-backed initiative seeks to address local employers’ skills shortages by enabling them to influence the subjects, skills, and competencies taught in local Further Education (FE) institutions.
This will help them ensure these abilities more closely meet their businesses’ future requirements, as well as helping prospective and current employees to develop the skills they require to get good jobs and enhance their prospects.
We have already undertaken a lot of survey work to sound businesses out and capture their views on this issue. (Your view is important too, so if you haven’t already completed the survey, please do so at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/X27X8M6) and in March we ran an in-person event – Skills: The Employer’s Voice – with nearly 100 businesses, partners, and key stakeholders in attendance, to drive still wider participation.
The event set itself four key areas on which to capture delegates’ views:
- Skills Demand: the skills most needed to support local economic growth and boost productivity
- Skills Supply: to identify the skills, capabilities or expertise currently supplied in the region and the extent to which there are gaps in meeting current or future requirements
- Sector Skill Needs: to identify current and future skill needs required in the region in specific business sectors
- Target Groups: to understand the demand for skills and how employability, progression and life chances of residents can be improved to meet the identified needs of employers
At the same time, delegates attendees were shown the reality of the skills shortage in the region and, statistically, it was perceived as the biggest constraint on business growth after Covid.
In the meantime, we at Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce are determined to continue capturing businesses’ input to ensure that the Government has the most extensive and comprehensive data possible to work from, to get the initiative right first time.
To this end, we’ve opened up our survey to all local business – not just Chamber members – to submit their views on the skills shortage, and help us to drive a better outcome from the Plan.
The full LSIP report for this region will be produced by May 31 when it will be sent to the Secretary of State for approval. By summer 2023 we expect most of the country to have an LSIP developed and approved by the Secretary of State.
As with all such projects, it’s then that the hard work really begins. But Chamber members can take heart from the fact that, with us on their side, they won’t be expected to do it alone.
Scan the QR code to take part in the survey www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/X27X8M6
For more information on how Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce works to represent your business’s views locally, regionally, nationally, and in Government – as well as connect you to like-minded peers, prospects, and suppliers – visit www.chamber-business.com, or call