Gone are the days where Marketing is solely used to attract clients. We now need it to attract staff with the right skills.

Posted by Caroline Kingsley

Director of Kingsley Associates

  • T: 0151 242 1630
Fri 06th, Mar

During 2014, the UK saw job increases in 41 key sectors, but as the economy recovers, a new battle is waging over talent.

With around 90% of firms looking to recruit this year, employers need to not only market their business to attract clients, they also need to apply similar methodologies to recruiting the right candidates.

Long gone are the 1980’s style interviews, where candidates were made to feel as though they were being interrogated. Companies need to offer enticing benefits, family friendly policies, clear paths for progression and opportunities to train and develop.

This can be a challenge for some small business, but by adopting marketing tactics usually aimed at attracting customers, business owners can look at their USPs, and use a lack of corporate identity to their advantage.

A lack of corporate identity is appealing to many candidates, particularly those who have been in the rat-race for a number of years and are looking to get out.  Smaller businesses are sometimes able to provide more flexible working hours. Deciding upon the location of a business is always a challenge. Therefore, anyone setting up a business needs to think very carefully about the demographic of their workforce.  Being out on a business park could be cheap, but if there are no nearby rail and bus links, your future employees, particularly at the lower end of the market,  are unlikely to be able to get to work.

The recession has left a distinct lack of skilled candidates being available. Those who graduated in 2008 – 2011 struggled to secure roles within their chosen field, which led to many not even entering the sector in which they studied. Highly skilled candidates with four years plus experience are highly sort after, which can make them unaffordable for small businesses. By embracing Apprenticeships, smaller businesses can help plug the skills gap in the future.

Unfortunately, gender, age and race are still very real barriers of entry to working for some people, but those employers who are embracing a diverse workforce will be the ones who succeed in the long term. 

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Apprentices are crucial to create jobs and expand businesses

Posted by Mary Smyth

Operations Manager

Mon 02nd, Mar

We’ve just had the welcome news that unemployment fell again in the last quarter of 2014.

But the silver lining has a cloud. If you are aged 18 to 24, your chance of being out of work remains unchanged at about one in six.

The problem is not unique to the UK. In fact, things are a lot worse in several of our European neighbours.

Getting young people into jobs seems to be a problem for most western economies. At the Chamber, we have concrete evidence to back this up: there are 65 jobs available on our apprenticeship scheme but are short of candidates to apply for them.

In the last twelve months, we’ve placed apprentices at more than 160 companies in a wide variety of sectors. It’s a proven way for young people to find out what type of job they want to do and to get on the career ladder.

At the Chamber, we pay above the apprenticeship minimum wage and encourage our companies to do the same. But still demand still outstrips supply, even though the statistics* show that apprentices are more likely to be in employment for longer and that they get paid 11 per cent more than their peers at intermediate level and 18 per cent more at advanced level.

Business owners are quite outspoken when they’re asked what they want in young recruits: punctuality, literacy and numeracy skills, and a willingness to do as they are told are usually top of a fairly predictable list.

What they are often not so good at is articulating what they can offer people who step onto the lowest rung of their organisation.

We can all remember what it was like to be a teenager. But we forget how fast things change. Anyone who is now over 40 started work in a different era – economically, technologically and socially.

The young are more aware of this, and that makes it highly unlikely that they will take much notice of any careers advice we give them.

It’s no wonder that it can be difficult for employers and young jobseekers to communicate effectively. Difficult, but not impossible.

The best placements are those where apprentices can see the contribution they make to an organisation. That enhanced perception of their own worth is as valuable as any skill they will learn by doing the job they are entrusted with.

We want to raise the profile of apprentices, so if you are one, or you employ one, tell us your experiences by leaving a comment below.

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Legislation to ensure SME engagement in public sector procurement is a start but fundamental barriers remain

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 27th, Feb

On Wednesday I attended a roundtable session with Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office concerning new legislation aimed at making public sector procurement easier and more accessible to SMEs.

 

Hosted by the Crown Commercial Service in Liverpool, the roundtable focussed on central government efforts to award 25% of procurement spend by value with SMEs, directly or via supply chain, in 2015. The new legislation will:

  • Ensure all public bodies are publicly accountable for paying suppliers and their sub-contractors within 30 days
  • Abolish Pre-Qualification Questionnaires for low value contracts, simplifying and quickening the bidding process
  • Ensure all public sector contracts above £25,000  (£10,000 for central government) are posted on the government’s contracts finder website (www.gov.uk/contracts-finder)

 

Public sector procurement has long been a bug bear for many of our members with a lack of transparency, communication combined with excessive administrative burdens resulting in SMEs being unable to do business with government and the wider private sector.

 

The new legislation is undoubtedly a step in the right direction but must act only as a starting point for a wider overhaul of how contracts in the entire public sector are advertised, awarded and subsequently managed. Local authorities are under pressure to abide to the Social Value Act and it will be interesting to see the extent to which they adopt the “single set of principles” that central government have embraced and legislated for.

 

Culture is a key watchword within any organisation and it’s fair to say that organisational culture within public sector procurement is powerful and entrenched. Instigating changes in mindset within such teams is undoubtedly difficult to achieve, particularly in these times of austerity, and it must be acknowledged that improvements have already been made in the operations of some local authorities including our own.

 

Access to procurement opportunities cannot simply been solved by a software-based solution. Contracts Finder will undoubtedly provide a useful source of intelligence and contract information, yet it is the relationships between buyer and contractor that must be facilitated to help engender trust between both parties.

 

Many ‘Meet the Buyer’ type events now take place enabling buyers to “engage SME customers” but where such events are costing SMEs astronomical figures just for a meeting, we must question their accessibility. Such Meet the Buyers must not price out the very audience they are supposed to attract.

 

I would be delighted to see the wider adoption of the approach taken by Liverpool City Council in recent months whereby dialogue with SMEs is undertaken on a one to one basis through channels such as the International Festival for Business, Chamber of Commerce and other business networks, which can facilitate public sector access to SMEs in a far more affordable way.

 

As for the ease with which our SMEs can now gain access to government contracts, we look forward to hearing about our members’ experiences.

Access the government's Contracts Finder website: it lets you search for information about contracts worth over £10,000 with the government and its agencies.

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Business engagement from John Lennon Airport is a great step forward - now it's our turn to reciprocate

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Thu 26th, Feb

“We will create the airport our region loves.”

 

Last week’s Chamber of Commerce session with Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s Chief Executive, Andrew Cornish, and his management team gave us a great insight into the current status of the airport and how new blood can reignite the energy in an apparently tired organisation.

 

Never before has the Airport had such an open and engaging Chief Executive who has spoken of the Airport using realism and honesty in his assessment. His quote above reflects a perception that at some point, we fell out of love with our airport. But how and when did this happen?

 

Apparently it’s all about those ’08 carpets.

 

Perhaps it’s more to do with our obsession with Manchester and an unconscious (or perhaps increasingly conscious) sense of inferiority to what’s seen as the in-vogue economic powerhouse of the North. The airport has perhaps become the symbol of the contrasting scale and scope of both cities – as Manchester shows little sign of slowing it’s growth rate of routes, destinations and air carriers, little ol’ Liverpool is there depositing its handful of customers to a fraction of the destinations.

 

And I mentioned the carpet, right?

 

Customer experience is everything in the 21st century; it’s the marketers phrase of choice and in a world demanding instant gratification, lapses in standards are seized upon by consumers and escalate in the time it takes to switch on your mobile and tweet. The PR concerning drop off charges prove it.

 

The Airport’s self-diagnosis as “a bit marmite” is perfectly indicative of our relationship with it. It’s refreshing that the management team’s focus on customer service will ensure that the ‘minor’ things such as carpets, toilets, accessibility, greetings are very much in focus. Such improvements inevitably leave a positive impression, for customers, visitors, holiday-makers and investors.

 

We now have an airport which doesn’t aspire to be the biggest, grandest, most connected airport in the universe. Such aspirations are out of kilter with the real world. What we have is an airport that remains ambitious in its aspiration to be niche, boutique and connected to appropriate destinations, through a hub or directly where feasible.

 

Lost amidst the doom and gloom rhetoric are some real positives: 4m passengers in 2014, 10% business travellers, increased load factors and the serving of more than 60+ destinations with the most recent link to Prague commencing in May.

 

Engagement with Andrew and his team is invaluable. Businesses in this city region now have a responsibility to back the Airport up, to act as its Ambassadors and to contribute to its market engagement efforts.

 

The airport is surveying businesses on their travel requirements, understanding the destinations and frequency of visits on business and the locations from which they receive visitors. Without this market intelligence the Airport cannot make an informed business case to commercial airline operators who won’t introduce new routes to Liverpool on a wing and a prayer (if you’ll excuse the pun).

 

If you have specific destination requirements as a business or within your networks, let the airport know. If you need a specific link from Liverpool, it’s crucial this requirement is made clear and, where possible, quantified. If a lack of connectivity with a specific market is stifling inward investment opportunities, let the airport know that too.

 

The watchword at JLA is “Potential.” There is a plan, a strategy and for the first time in forever, a real sense of engagement with the private sector.

 

It’s time to roll up the old carpet and fly.

Complete the Airport's business route demand survey today

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Both the public & private sector need to work together if we are to grow our city's region construction industry

Posted by John Sutcliffe

John Sutcliffe is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Surveyor who was appointed as Chair of the Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce in September 2012.

Tue 17th, Feb

The announcement that there could be 5,000 new jobs in the North West’s Construction industry came out a few weeks ago, the same week the Chamber hosted a Construction Breakfast where we heard from Liverpool City Council about some of the developments in the city both now and in the future. There is much to be positive about in the industry and Liverpool’s construction sector is in a far better position now than at any point since the 2007 recession.

After all, it’s important to remember the economic downturn of the recession hit the industry hard and resulted in many skilled and experienced professional and tradespeople leaving to find work elsewhere.

But things are looking up, especially for the North West & business people like myself and the variety of construction projects that are currently underway is telling of the city’s growing economy including an increased contribution from the private sector. I’m encouraged to learn that the public sector continue to be committed to driving large investment projects. As well as the new Royal Hospital and Alder Hey, a further £118m will be invested in The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and I’m delighted Chamber member Laing O’Rourke has won its contract.

However, it’s important that we can’t get ahead of ourselves. Take a look at the results of our recent Quarterly Economic Survey, for example. Yes, it’s promising that investment from the public sector fosters clear aspirations but confidence levels for businesses could be better. Fees for construction consultancy are still low as the economy is recovering and there is the issue of material shortages, particular bricks and steel.

Similarly, there are also broader issues that need to be addressed. Following the Chamber event, it got me thinking about the impact of the Atlantic Gateway and how it has the potential to become a major brand to influence private sector investment whilst becoming a crucial element to the Northern Powerhouse. I hope it will represent an opportunity for cross sector collaboration: private sector construction businesses working hand in hand with government to inform policy and deliver sustainable projects to stimulate economic growth and further funding opportunities.

If you're a supplier to the infrastructure sector currently looking for opportunities, Business in the Community are running an "Access the Buyer" event, next Tuesday at Merseytravel.

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I had a bit of a shock the other day when I realised that hardly anyone under 30 can remember a time when you could fly direct from Liverpool to Heathrow Airport.

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sat 07th, Feb

It really doesn’t seem like something that should be lost in the mists of time, but for many people it is.

It was in 1992, during the recession that followed the first Gulf war, that British Midland pulled the plug, having run five flights every weekday for about four years.

The service lost money overall but, until the Gulf war, passenger numbers were growing at 8% per annum and viability was in sight, thanks in no small part to the loyalty of the business community – business travellers accounted for 58% per cent of the traffic.

The main reason the route was pulled was that British Midland wanted to use its precious London slots for new European services. Even in those days, Heathrow was struggling to cope with its own growth.

Other airlines have tried since to run a London service to London City Airport, Gatwick or Stansted, but none have lasted because none of those airports is a major world hub like Heathrow.

KLM had a go at running a service from Liverpool John Lennon Airport as a spoke to its Schipol hub, but it only lasted two years until the economic downturn killed it off in 2011.

Currently, LJLA has no connections with any major hub airport and no direct flights to London.

Those are two serious gaps in the city region’s connectivity and there is only one way that they will ever be plugged: expansion of Heathrow Airport.

There is huge pent-up demand for such a service. In 2013, more than 1.1 million passengers from LJLA’s core catchment area flew from other UK airports on connecting flights to Heathrow.

That’s why the Chamber is supporting LJLA in lobbying the Airports Commission to come out in favour of more runway capacity at Heathrow.

Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle are also making the same argument for similar reasons.

A direct route from Heathrow to LJLA will make it easier for potential investors to get here. Meanwhile, the absence of direct flights is bound to make them wonder why the city doesn’t seem to merit an air link with the capital.

As far as Liverpool and Merseyside are concerned, the expansion of Heathrow can’t come soon enough. 

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Omega, the distribution park on the M62, has sprung out of the ground in little more than a year.

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sun 25th, Jan

Omega, the distribution park on the M62, has sprung out of the ground in little more than a year.

Driving past and seeing the huge sheds gleaming in the winter sun, I can’t help thinking how Liverpool and Manchester are being dawn closer together into a single metropolis.

Talk of city region devolution and One North also suggests a blurring of the lines between cities which have, until now, maintained strong and separate identities.

The idea is to combine the various attributes of the Northern cities to create a single powerhouse that can counterbalance London’s domination of the UK economy. 

It’s a worthwhile aim and we support it, but it’s worth pondering over the implications of it coming to pass. For example, would every city benefit in equal measure or would there be winners and losers?

Although many professional firms have concentrated their North West operations in Manchester over the past couple of decades, several still have a big Liverpool presence, notably the major law firms.

Would the drive towards a single northern powerhouse make them feel obliged to concentrate all their resources in one place? And might Liverpool and Leeds lose out to Manchester as a result?

It’s certainly a possibility but it doesn’t necessarily have to work out that way. To prevent it, Liverpool must have a vision of what it can bring to the Northern Powerhouse that other places cannot.

In fact, that vision – and the distinctive attributes which underpin it – will be all the more important as cities merge into a single economic unit.

It’s easy to think of some things Liverpool has that Manchester doesn’t: car manufacturing, a port capable of handling post-Panamax vessels (when Liverpool 2 opens later this year), and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

What else would you put in the list? Tell me by leaving a comment below.

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I don’t know about you, but certain rules for making a good start have been drummed into me (even if I don’t always observe them).

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sat 17th, Jan

Examples:

Before starting to assemble flat pack furniture, read the instructions and check that all the parts are present.

When it’s cold, it’s a good idea to let the car’s engine warm up for a minute or two before driving off.

But what about starting a business? It’s impossible to come up with a single piece of advice that covers every eventuality. So what are the rules that new entrepreneurs should follow? 

The best way to find out is to talk to people who have done it and learn from their experience. That’s what business owners do on Spark Up, the Chamber’s programme for helping start-ups to grow and create wealth and jobs.

They get a mentor. Somebody who been through the mill, round the block a few times and has got the T-shirt. Cliches aside, mentors also remember that they were once newbie start-up entrepreneurs, and they want to pass on what they have learned.

As well as providing coaching and advice at workshops and masterclasses, they introduce our Spark Up candidates to networking events and business opportunities. 

It’s rewarding and inspiring work. So much so that our mentors are often the best advocates for the programme and spread the word throughout the business community.

Mentors commit a minimum of four hours per week but many do more. Perhaps that’s because they have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping to create the next generation of business talent here on Merseyside.

People like the finalists from our pilot programme last year: Amie Russell and Carl Brown, founders of vintage hairdressers Russell and Brown’s; Alissa Koopal, who created baby products range Izzy Melody; and the eventual winner Andrew Milne, the man behind Triketastic, which takes tourists on trips around Liverpool in VW Beetle trikes.

If you would like to join Spark Up, as a candidate entrepreneur or as a mentor, contact me at sparkup@liverpoolchamber.org.uk 

It’s time to get started.

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It’s a pity that the debate over devolution for Merseyside is dominated by reports of infighting between politicians.

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Sun 11th, Jan

Instead, the focus should be on the huge opportunity that these proposed changes will create.

The issue is not just about politics, it’s also about economics in its purest form – decisions about the allocation of resources.

Central government spends hundreds of millions of pounds in this region.  Some is spent well and some not so well.

Common sense dictates that spending decisions are best made by people with a strong understanding of local needs.

For example, it makes sense to ask local businesses in some detail about the type of skills they look for before deciding how to spend money on youth training.

A devolved Merseyside city region would gain control hundreds of millions of pounds of public spending on business support, housing, health and social care, skills, transport, and getting the economically inactive back into work.

But the city region’s leaders need to listen and take notice of the views of business people before they make spending decisions.

The Chamber is your voice in this important debate and we will be making sure the politicians hear us loud and clear. So let us know what you think. Post your message to the region’s council leaders by commenting on this blog.

A devolved Merseyside would control hundreds of £ms of public spending. Post your message to the region’s council leaders by commenting

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