How Bedford businesses can seek help to return to growth

Bedford firms managing the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic can find a welcome helping hand from the region's Local Enterprise Partnership.

The partnership is focused on making sure people have the skills to drive sustainable growth.
The partnership is focused on making sure people have the skills to drive sustainable growth.

As England faces weeks more of national lockdown, businesses and organisations can find much-needed support through the partnership – which has set out a plan for the area's short-term and longer-term economic recovery.

The plan, available online at www.semlep.com/economic-recovery-strategy, details the ways which people and businesses across the South East Midlands can find the right support to invest in reskilling and training as well as seeking investment for scaling up when the time is right.

In recent years, the region has seen impressive capital investments in everything from infrastructure to business facilities and training centres, including bringing in an additional £27.5million in the Autumn to fund new FE facilities, green infrastructure and technologies and local town centre improvement projects.

The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP)’s teams continue to work hard behind the scenes to seek new investment for the region, working closely with local and national organisations to deliver business support and grants and promote trade opportunities for local firms abroad and attract further growth for the region.

Investing in people

The South East Midlands has enjoyed considerable success in recent years in bringing together local organisations to help people to acquire the skills local businesses need, both now and in the future.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact upon the local labour market, with some job losses already and more difficult times ahead. In response, SEMLEP and local partners have worked together to assess which sectors and groups are being hardest hit, and guiding people and employers to relevant support and career opportunities. An Employment and Skills Covid-19 Response Working Group has been set up to include local and national key stakeholders.

This work will continue in the coming months, led by the Skills Advisory Panel, with even more focus on support for those being made redundant and those who are unemployed after leaving education. Community grants and other sources of funding are available to support those facing barriers to work, in conjunction with voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations.

The partnership is focused on making sure people have the skills to drive sustainable growth in the South East Midlands in line with the needs of local employers, including core competencies, attitudes, behaviours, STEM and digital skills.

Boosting the business environment

The changes which the pandemic has made to the business environment have been significant, and the first half of 2020 saw SEMLEP’s Growth Hub and local authority partners focus on helping companies to survive through government support schemes.

As the situation begins to stabilise, the emphasis has shifted to enabling businesses to adapt and diversify within the new conditions. Webinars on adapting to the new trade deals, new peer-to-peer support groups and the Growth Curve project, which supports scale-up and pre-scale-up businesses, have all played a part in this.

SEMLEP has also been busy gathering evidence of the pandemic’s impact on businesses, to inform new government schemes and local policy.

What lies ahead?

Looking to the future, this focus on growing and diversifying will continue with work ongoing to promote exports, help business to access funding for research and development, the launch of a new business training programme on doing business in the EU, delivered in partnership with the Chambers of Commerce, as well as new webinars to assist businesses to succeed in procurement opportunities and write effective business cases.

Work will also continue to promote inward investment in partnership with local authorities, developers and commercial agents to help match prospective businesses with the right site.

To find out more about how SEMLEP can help you or your business survive and thrive, visit www.semlepgrowthhub.com.