Friday, 31 January 2014

It's now time for Herts to capitalise on manufacturing growth

More good news - a new survey of 367 manufacturers shows growth in orders it at its highest rate since 2011.

Stephen Gifford, CBI Director of Economics, says that although confidence is building in the sector, now is not the time to take the foot off the gas: “There are still risks ahead and our manufacturers need help to break into high-growth markets.”

Luckily, Herts Chamber is responding to Mr Gifford’s last point - it is launching a brand new Engineering & Manufacturing Network next week, an initiative built on collaboration and innovation. More specifically, the network sets out with six objectives, to:

1. Support both local supply chains and international trade
2. Share best practice between larger organisations and SMEs
3. Set-up fact finding site tours
4. Accelerate knowledge-transfer by providing academia links
5. Address skills shortages through a local education programme
6. Raise the profile of the engineering & manufacturing scene

A better connected manufacturing industry in Hertfordshire will boost growth further, and it is the Chamber’s mission to ensure these connections happen. Neville Reyner CBE, Chairman of environmental charity Groundwork, will host the network’s first event, an opportunity for people to input their ideas on how the network can progress.

Join this free event next Tuesday

Thursday, 30 January 2014

British Chambers' new approach to lack of young talent

Today, the British Chambers revealed its skills manifesto, garnering wide media coverage. The story featured in the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, The Mirror, Independent, Metro and others.

Articles picked up on the lighter sides to the release, providing examples where job candidates ask when/where they can take naps at work.

But the manifesto wants to eradicate despondent messages, such as companies blaming schools for failing young people, having not equipped them with appropriate skills, and seeks much higher interaction between pupils and employers.

For children, it wants careers education to start in primary school, thus forming a fully integral part of a youngster’s education.  For companies, it wants far more open doors for apprenticeships, and for increased work-based training. Local Chambers will provide support for enterprises to realise their potential in creating wealth both for their company and the next generation.

There is also the aim to make unemployed people attractive to businesses, with clear definitions between those who are work-ready and those who need further support before entering work.

In order to make all of this a reality, British Chambers, and its fifty-three accredited chambers, will work hand-in-hand with employers, helping them every step of the way when welcoming promising talent into their workplace.

There is a major case for both public and private sectors coming together and building a bridge between businesses and people in school. It is the most efficient way to drive our economy forward. The age of bemoaning the incompetence of school leavers must end, and we should now share the responsibility for reaching out to the younger generation, giving them all the help they can get.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Media Roundup

Not a month goes by without mentions of Herts Chamber in the press, and we're very grateful to local media outlets for recognising our achievements. Since mid-January, we have made it into both the Mercury and Hertfordshire Life, with articles detailing our exciting progress.

On the 16th of this month, the Cheshunt & Waltham Mercury featured our mission, in collaboration with Broxbourne Council, to ensure the creation of 6,300 jobs by 2030. The article pointed towards a draft strategy, which is open to feedback - if you're interested in Broxbourne's future make sure you take a look at this outline and submit feedback.

Meanwhile, the February 2014 issue of Hertfordshire Life has run a feature on Herts businesseswomen, which includes a section from Herts Chamber CEO Yolanda Rugg - here, she outlines seven steps for start-ups.

Skip a few pages further, and you will find a column on our new initiative, Business is Good for Young People, which details how we are going to increase apprenticeships in the region by emphasising their value to employers.

To check out these articles, pick up a copy of Hertfordshire Life from your local shop or newsagents.

Stay tuned for more on both Broxbourne's job creation plan and our Business is Good for Young People initiative.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Export help tailored for medium-size businesses - the real catalyst for international trade?

The Trade Minister wants businesses to export, and he's sending personal letters to prove it.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) announced today that Lord Livingston will write personally to the UK's 8,900 medium-sized businesses, offering individual assistance to expand to the EU and beyond.

Such news ties in nicely with all the buzz around export in the Herts Chamber. In our Year of International Trade, we are working our socks off to engage Hertfordshire, ripe for overseas countries' picking, in expanding on a global level. It was only Monday we were sitting down with government figures from Chengdu, all of whom had earmarked Hertfordshire as the county to import from.

Nonetheless, our growth in exports is still incredibly slow, clocking in at a mere 1.5% up on January 2013. Moreover, just 17% of UK mid-sized businesses garner business from non-EU countries, compared to 25% in Germany and 30% in Italy. It seems to me that the world is waiting for the UK to start exporting. Is there any tangible reason why businesses should not get stuck in, tapping into areas of rapid growth?

Even if the answers are glaringly obvious to some, the consistent pushes to grow international trade may result in the message becoming saturated. David Cameron and his 'World Trade Mission' in China is all very well, but this method of boisterous monologues to media outlets does not seem to have done the trick. People, especially people in business, prefer action over words about action.

This is where Lord Livingston and the UKTI may have the answer. The letter, and the personal offerings included within, are tangible. All the recipient has to do is say the word 'yes', and they have tailored resources at their disposal. Forgive me if this sounds slightly too intimate, but that may be the point. The mass message might, no matter how enthusiastic, not be engaging enough.

Maybe the future is direct contact? But that serves as a more general point, not to be expanded upon at this juncture.

I believe Lord Livingston's approach will work, the value of reaching out and providing tangible, personal support is nurtured in Herts Chamber, and it certainly works for us. The mass-media reported World Trade Mission, on the other hand, with its hope to inspire higher export trade, did not engage as many people as the Prime Minister would have hoped. The reason covers ground well trodden - actions are louder than words.

It may well turn out that this time, Lord Livingston's actions will bring the results.

Our two new, people-led networks

Herts Chamber is in for a very busy early-Feburary, as it is launching two new networks in the space of two days. This is a perfect example of how we are expanding at a significant rate, and we have some amazing individuals on board who are here to live out our mission of connecting, collaborating and growing businesses in Hertfordshire.

To kick things off, Neville Reyner CBE will be launching his Engineering & Manufacturing Network on Tuesday 4th February, with a free event at the Intstitution of Engineering and Technology. Neville will outline his vision for the network, and will invite attendees to input their needs. This will allow both the Chamber and those in the network to facilitate those needs, which can involve anything from skills shortages to best practice.

The following evening will see another significant figure, Alex Mortimer, one of our Chamber Ambassadors, take to the stage to launch his Property, Construction & Sustainability Network. Alex identified a key need for such a group as construction, Herts' second largest industry, requires better network links and B2B activity, especially between SMEs and larger companies, of which there are many in the county.

A lot of ground-work is being done to drive the success of our new and existing networks, and Herts Chamber is looking forward to revealing the fruits of these labours this upcoming month.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Forging a new bond: Chengdu and Hertfordshire

This morning, Herts Chamber of Commerce held an exclusive meeting with the Chinese Delegation of Chengdu, discussing how two economies, one needing exports, the other needing imports, are able help each other. The highly positive results pave the way for small Hertfordshire businesses engaging in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The expansion of Shanghai raced along at a rate previously unimaginable. Now China has another up-and-coming superpower on its hands.

Chengdu: keep an eye on that skyline (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Introducing Chengdu, the city whose growth is currently at an astonishing 12-15%. Let that figure sink in. Similar to the rest of China, Chengdu is well-versed in exports, but it currently wants to grow imports, the opposite of the situation in the UK.

In addition, Chengu’s primary industries match Hertfordshire’s to a tee, those are:
-          Food, drink and leisure
-          Healthcare and education
-          Automotives
-          Property & construction
-          Expansion in green technology and IT

From the meeting this morning, Chengdu’s government want the business of small-medium enterprises (SMEs), of which Hertfordshire has many. Even businesses with two or less employees – which account for 40,000 out of 55,000 registered companies in Herts – are welcome, as globalisation may hold the key to success for small-scale set-ups, both start-ups and well established enterprises.

After the meeting: the presentation of pandas

Links between the region and Chengdu have never been stronger, with British Airways recent opening of a direct link between London Heathrow and Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, resulting in an impressive 11 hour trip.

Furthermore, moves by GSK’s Herts-based operations into the city’s economy will lay foundations for SMEs – whom our new friends are most interested in - to take full advantage of the copious opportunity now at their disposal.

Neville Reyner, ex-head of the British Chambers of Commerce, current-head of University of Hertfordshire’s business school, successfully identified two key areas, which were welcomed unanimously:
  1. For the Hertfordshire’s thriving clean-tech industry to expand into Chengdu, using technology to improve the CO2 footprint of homes
  2. Greater student-exchange links for those in education and healthcare, opening access for English students to one of China’s most rapidly expanding cities
Thirteen people (including our wonderful interpreter, who took the shot) were involved in the high-impact discussion

With geographical difference, it is still easy to underestimate the potential rewards of expansion, especially for small-medium enterprises. However, with a combination of modern technology and newly-formed links between Herts and a city whose sights are set on the county, the time for local enterprises to dip their toes in overseas markets is now.

Made in Hertfordshire

How the University and the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce partnered to grow Herts' property & construction sector
By Alex Mortimer

Good news, the UK construction sector growth continues to remain strong, and nowhere is this truer than the south-east - it would take an undiscerning London-dweller to overlook the increase in property & construction. But did you know the HQs of many large construction companies are based in Hertfordshire? The list is long, and includes the likes of Vinci, Willmott Dixon, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska, VolkerFitzpatrick and Bouygues.

Grant Thornton, in association with Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said in November 2013 of the property and construction sector in Hertfordshire ‘It is a sector which is highly important to the overall performance of the county’ and ‘only second to healthcare – the construction sector delivered particularly impressive turnover growth.’

How can we capitalise on this for our county and continue to support the construction sector? What could we do that was different and unique?

I’ve done a lot of work in the construction sector, as part of my work with the FBE (Forum for the Built Environment) to create partnerships and learning & development partnerships with organisations such as Byrne Group, Mace, Ground Construction (GCL) and others – but most of my work has taken place in London.  I ask myself, why do most of these organisations need to go to London to meet and network, instead of meeting in their home county of Hertfordshire?

The Herts chamber is very forward-thinking, so when I asked their CEO Yolanda Rugg these questions we realised we should do something about it!   We have set up this dedicated networking group, hosted by the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) at the University of Hertfordshire, which aims to support organisations involved in property, building development, cost, planning, sustainability, design and construction by encouraging the development of an economic environment in which all businesses and their employees can prosper.

Core team members currently include representatives from NCPM, Herts Chamber, Morgan Sindall, Willmott Dixon, Just Housing, Uniserve, Scott White & Hookins, Bouygues, SW Bruce, Mitsubishi Electric, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The Property will ensure that list grows bigger.

The Property, Construction and Sustainability Network will be holding a series of five events, each featuring a relevant speaker from the industry. 

On 5th February, 2014 there will be a talk on Sustainability linking to BIM, and then on 10th April a representative from Morgan Sindall will present a case study on Building Information Modelling (BIM).

These events are open to both members and non-members of the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce.

Why attend?
• Network with key players in the sector to promote and generate business for your organisation, including architects, building services, chartered surveyors, construction, developers, engineers
• Meet local business in the county
• Connect with senior decision makers; gain access to leading industry figures
• Hear relevant talks from the sector
• Keep up-to-date with trends and developments and exchange information with like-minded
• professionals
• Raise your profile, build relationships and strengthen strategic alliances
• Entertain your clients at these informative events
If you would like to find out more about the Property and Construction Network please contact Alex Mortimer:  01707 28 4855

Hertfordshire Limited 2013: Investing for growth November 2013