Chamber President’s Column - January 2018

Posted on 24/01/2018

New Year, new opportunities ...

For Chamber members, the New Year can mean many things. For some it will signal ways of developing new opportunities. At Yee Group, we take time to review the latest innovations and their applications.

Our customers, no doubt like yours, are constantly searching for new methods and processes to improve the effectiveness of their businesses. This frequently includes reviewing potential cost-savings; and, simultaneously introducing new techniques to enhance their efficiencies.

Two members recently reminded me that new technologies change our working world in ways that we can’t at first foresee. Applications of digital technology in particular, combined with the sharing of related physical information are beginning to revolutionise key industrial sectors, for example, construction.

The key promise being held out by using new digital technology working in conjunction with physical information is reduction in poor quality, cost overruns and disrupted programmes. I am sure many of us would all applaud improvements of that sort. What is being dubbed as mixed reality, along with other new technologies, is being adopted across industries in a drive towards smarter factories and machines. This is already being labelled as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0.

Productivity has been much in the news recently for many of the wrong reasons. Measured in terms of the number of widgets produced in a set time, this country’s productivity has stood still for the last 10 years.

According to KPMG, ‘The performance of all (my underlinings) the Regions is crucial to the future success of the UK. For far too long, the productivity of most of them has lagged behind that of London and the South East, creating an imbalance that is increasingly unsustainable’.

The report* identifies that the productivity gap offers one of the greatest opportunities for growth. This Government’s Industrial Strategy highlighting regional growth, with its devolution agenda, will empower local leaders to influence the economic environment on their doorsteps.

Having read the 44-page report, I noted that it confirms the current low productivity and highlights that it requires significant, sustained investment.

Along with other Chamber members, I will be delighted that ‘it is by addressing the regional transport infrastructure and educational standards, there will be an improvement in productivity. Innovation remains critical for the development of industries to achieve genuinely sustainable competitive advantage’. Likewise, I agree that technology is radically changing the skills and training requirements of our workforce.

The report points out that ‘a total of 27% of employers identified motivation and work experience as the major skills lacking among 16-year-olds’. Our region also fares poorly when employers assess the job preparedness of 17-18 year old recruits. ‘Net satisfaction stands at 14%, compared to the national average of 21%’.

Summarising the report for our region, skills and education are certainly priority issues. ‘Local government working with higher and further education institutions can improve educational attainment to meet the needs of our local businesses’. Significant investments, e.g. the advanced manufacturing-design centre at Stafford College are mentioned. It is suggested that there needs ‘to be effective career guidance to incentivise prospective students’.

Our higher and further education institutions in East Staffordshire are already contributing to improving standards and setting new goals. At Yee Group, we use our annual reviews to assist all staff with their career planning. This goes beyond simply providing apprenticeships. It includes ongoing training and skills development. It enables our team to expand their careers and experience, whilst making valuable contributions to the business.

At the beginning of this New Year, I would like to wish the business community of Burton, East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire a successful and prosperous 2018.

I welcome feedback and comment on this column and the work and activities of the Chamber. You can contact me at President@Burton-Chamber.com

*: KPMG – ‘Improving UK regional productivity performance’ - 16 November 2017

Simon Chapman

President of Burton and District Chamber of Commerce

Managing Director, Yee Group Limited