Restoring business confidence in a post Covid/post Brexit world
As we move towards the lifting of Covid restrictions, hopefully for the last time, we need to focus on how we can restore business confidence in a post Covid/post Brexit world. The BCC’s latest monthly economic review highlights the current dilemma for businesses – record UK GDP growth forecast for 2021 coupled with ongoing challenges including skills shortages across a wide range of sectors, high levels of debt and barriers to international trade. Businesses, government, local government and organisations like the Chamber all have a role to play in addressing those challenges and fundamental to a successful and sustainable recovery is investment – in both our people and our places.
The impact of Covid on our city centres in particular has been stark but has prompted an much more ambitious debate around what we want our cities to be and the need to be more flexible in response to change. Changes in our living and working patterns will give businesses the opportunity to help shape our high street, not just in the city centre but also in local commercial and retail hubs, creating a more inclusive economy and addressing economic disparities both locally and regionally. Public sector investment needs to both enable and support the private sector, allowing it to unlock capital, to be innovative and to create opportunities – essentially doing what it does best.
We need a similarly ambitious and creative approach to investing in skills. The skills “crisis” is not new but Covid and Brexit have created a new urgency around the problem, particularly for construction, hospitality and logistics which have been particularly hard hit. Whilst apprentice programmes are growing and industry wide initiatives in place to train UK workers there will be an inevitable gap, exacerbated by the ageing workforce in some sectors (it is forecast that in the next 10 to 15 years, more than 500,000 UK construction workers are expected to retire). Digital skills shortages cost the economy an estimated £2 billion and retraining and reskilling staff is only part of the solution.
We need to collaborate to find innovative medium term solutions, or investment in large infrastructure projects and new technologies, crucial to the UK’s recovery from Covid, will be undermined and growth stifled without skilled and trained staff to deliver them.
The BCC’s Rebuild document sets out a series of actions to help restore business confidence as we emerge from the pandemic. It covers a wide range of issues, many based on feedback from across the membership. We would like your feedback on anything you think it has missed or any innovative solutions that businesses, working in partnership with the public sector, can deliver. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org