Evan Davies, the South Wales Chamber of Commerce’s business development officer for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, looks at the results of the Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey and why a joined-up approach to business support is essential.

THIS month marked the release of our latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), which gives us a great insight in to how business across south west Wales are performing, their plans over the next few months and beyond, and what challenges they currently face.

A strong theme coming out of the survey was that businesses in the region are keen to recruit, but finding it difficult to get the right people in. In fact, nearly half (46.4%) of respondents tried to recruit in the past three months, which was a huge increase on the previous quarter, but a great deal more found it difficult to fill the vacancies they had.

Looking ahead, many want to increase their workforce over the next quarter, and this is something we’ve seen first-hand in Pembrokeshire, particularly from businesses in sectors such as manufacturing and skilled labour.

Generally, there’s a great deal of optimism in the region right now, with people spending money and looking to grow their businesses. That was certainly the mood at our recent facilitated networking breakfast at St Bride’s Spa Hotel in Saundersfoot, which was attended by more than 40 people from a diverse range of businesses.

We were lucky enough to have speakers from Redkite Law and Thomas Carroll to discuss its support for businesses, and from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David to outline its Elevate Cymru project, a work-based learning programme funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government

The event was once again in conjunction with Pembrokeshire Business Initiative (PBI), who provides a wide range of consultancy and subsidised support services to small businesses and start-ups through workshops and one-to-one sessions.

Much like our work with Pembrokeshire Tourism, which I discussed in last month’s column, we have a long-standing relationship with PBI and work with them very closely on running events locally.

That’s central to our approach to business support services in the region; working together to offer a joined up strategy that doesn’t result in duplication, but a combination of resources and practical support packages for businesses that allows them to grow and fulfil their potential.

That joined-up approach should also extend to relationships between the private and education sectors. While more further education institutions are introducing vocational training courses for young people, it’s crucial that businesses and academia work together to ensure our schools, colleges and universities are equipping people with the skills that make them readily employable after finishing their education.

After all, that’s what businesses are crying out for right now; confidence is up and they’re looking to grow their workforce. By collaborating our efforts, we can help give young people the skills that can really add value to our businesses, securing them long-term jobs and enabling the local economy to flourish.

Should you have any queries about the support available from the South Wales Chamber, then please feel free to contact me on 07791 585835 or by email evan.davies@southwaleschamber.co.uk.