east midlands business news

Research finds half of East Midlands businesses have an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy

Better workplaces, improved decision-making and increased innovation are among the benefits cited by East Midlands businesses that have an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy, according to a new report.

Research by East Midlands Chamber, in partnership with housing association emh group, found that almost half (48%) of businesses in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire have a dedicated policy in place.

More than two-thirds (68%) consider EDI can contribute, at least to some degree, in the success of their business plans over the coming 12 months – while it was attributed as an important part of leadership strategy by 55% of firms.

When asked to give a score between one and 10 to how important consideration of EDI would be to the success of their organisation, the average score was 5.6 – suggesting that while it may not be integral to firms overall, it’s also not an insignificant consideration within business activity in the East Midlands.

The research will be presented at the Chamber’s Celebration of Culture and Communities event, which will be held tonight (24 March) at Leicester Tigers’ Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium – showcasing the region’s diverse mix of cultural backgrounds via music, dance and food.

East Midlands Chamber director of resources at Lucy Robinson, who is the business representation organisation’s diversity and inclusion champion, said: “It’s clear from these findings that equality, diversion and inclusion is increasingly becoming less of a ‘nice-to-have’ for organisations and more business-critical.

“The majority of East Midlands businesses recognise an important role for EDI within their planning and activity, and there’s clearly a need for further support in helping those that identify its value but are yet to have policies in place.

“A core of roughly one in 10 feel it doesn’t play any role in their success. When examining this figure further, these businesses are more likely to be micro in size, with a very small bias towards the manufacturing industry.

“Given that those actively engaged in the EDI agenda have illustrated some very real commercial benefits – ranging from a better workplace culture, recruitment and retention, through to supporting innovation and a diversity of thought in decision-making – we should now be looking at how to better showcase good examples of business success in this agenda.

“We will also explore further work that may quantify how progressive approaches to EDI can result in productivity gains – which is high on the business priority list as they seek to grow once more following the pandemic.

Key findings in equality, diversity and inclusion research

The Chamber and emh group surveyed 341 East Midlands companies in November for the study – the first of its kind in the region – which found:

  • 48% of businesses have a specific EDI-related policy, but four in 10 (40%) haven’t and 12% were unsure whether they did
  • 68% felt having specific approaches to EDI would play a role in supporting the achievement of business plans for the next 12 months, with 26% believing this role would be significant and 11% saying it would play no part
  • 55% of respondents felt EDI formed an important part of their leadership discussions and strategy, with 14% saying this was to a great extent and 12% believing there was no EDI focus at all
  • When asked about the benefits of having an engaged approach to EDI, 61% said it can help create an inclusive working environment, 54% believed a “diversity of thought” could lead to better decision-making, 45% felt it supported innovation and creativity, 42% claimed it supported staff retention and recruitment, and 41% identified how it helped to better represent customers and clients – with just 17% seeing no real benefits

The research also highlighted some particular sectoral gaps across the East Midlands economy when it comes to embracing the EDI agenda.

While 48% of all businesses have a specific policy in place, the proportion fell to 43% for manufacturers – although those unsure increased to 20%, suggesting slightly less understanding or communication of EDI activity within these businesses.

Chan Kataria OBE, chief executive at emh group, said: “This research builds on our joint commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within communities and organisations across the region.

“The findings provide a solid platform for exploring opportunities to enhance performance on EDI.

“We see this as a starting point for showcasing engagement on EDI issues and exploring some of the barriers within specific sectors and small businesses. We look forward to further discussions with Chamber members to consider and share good practice.”

How businesses can increase engagement with the EDI agenda

A set of recommendations were made as part of a discussion paper published by the Chamber and emh group, titled Understanding attitudes and approaches to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the East Midlands:

  • Further support on developing EDI-specific polices can be offered to those businesses that view these as having a value but are yet to have policies in place
  • Businesses that are active in this space should be encouraged to demonstrate their approaches and showcase best practice
  • There is an opportunity for further work to quantify how progressive approaches to EDI can support a business’ success and productivity gains

To read the full report, click here.

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East Midlands unemployment rate hits another record low

The East Midlands’ unemployment rate continues to drop – once again hitting its lowest point on record, new figures show.

It was 3.4% for the period between October and December last year, compared to a 4.1% national average.

This is the lowest level since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began publishing regional labour market figures in April 2015, and is higher than only four other regions – East of England, South West, Wales and Northern Ireland.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “After falling to 3.5% in the previous reporting period, it’s fantastic news for the region’s labour market that the unemployment rate has fallen to a new record low, which sends a clear signal that the East Midlands is open for business.

“It reflects our own research that indicates our region’s firms are creating jobs to meet strong demand following the effects of the pandemic. The Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for Q4 2021, covering the same period as the ONS figures, showed two-thirds of companies attempted to recruit, while a net 35% expected to increase their headcount in the first three months of 2022.

“We are represented by a very diverse economy in the East Midlands but there have been some standout sectors to celebrate in recent times, such as a logistics industry that has been a major driver of job creation during the pandemic, which has accelerated pre-existing online shopping trends.”

However, the East Midlands economic inactivity rate – which measures the proportion of 16 to 64-year-olds who have exited the labour market for reasons such as retirement, caring duties or studying – was above the 21.2% national average at 21.9%. It recorded the largest increase compared with the previous year at 1.7 percentage points.

Another key finding in the ONS data was that UK wage growth continues to lag behind the rising cost of living – representing a 0.8% fall when taking inflation into account.

The ONS said early estimates suggest employers are beginning to push up wages further and faster – with median monthly wages in January increasing by 6.3% compared with the same month last year, and 10.3% higher than before the pandemic in February 2020.

Scott added: “Despite the positive trajectory in unemployment, businesses are still encountering major recruitment challenges in a super competitive jobs market, as evidenced by yet another record of 1.3 million job vacancies nationally between November and January.

“The significant rise in the proportion of people exiting the labour market in the East Midlands means there are fewer people to choose from – a worrying trend at a time when companies are desperately trying to fill roles to cope with demand, which will enable them to continue growing and creating more opportunities for local people.

“Many companies in traditional industries such as manufacturing and construction often tell us about the difficulties in replacing an ageing workforce with younger talent, and the latest QES showed that eight in 10 of those that attempted recruitment struggled to find people with the right skills.

“All this highlights the importance of investing heavily in skills, something that was highlighted in the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper as one of its 12 ‘missions’ but must now be prioritised with rapid action to ensure our post-Covid and post-Brexit economic recovery doesn’t stall.”

 

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East Midlands unemployment rate hits lowest point in seven years – but Chamber warns of recruitment challenges

The East Midlands’ unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point on record, new figures show.

It was 3.5% for the period between September and November last year, compared to a 4.1% national average.

This is the lowest level since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began publishing regional labour market figures in April 2015, and represented the smallest proportion of the workforce being unemployed since the three months to December 2019, when the rate was 3.6%.

It also marked a significant drop on the previous reporting period for August to October 2021, when the region’s unemployment rate was on par with the UK average at 4.2%.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “This is fantastic news for the region’s labour market and sends a clear signal that the East Midlands is open for business.

“It reflects our own research that indicates our region’s firms are creating jobs to meet strong demand following the effects of the pandemic. The Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for Q4 2021 showed two-thirds of companies attempted to recruit, while a net 35% expect to increase their headcount in the first three months of 2022.

“We are represented by a very diverse economy in the East Midlands but there have been some standout sectors to celebrate in recent times, such as the logistics industry that has been a major driver of job creation during the pandemic, which has accelerated pre-existing online shopping trends.”

Tightening labour pool presents acute challenge for businesses

While the East Midlands has one of the lowest unemployment rates for over-16s in the UK, the economic inactivity rate for people aged 16 to 64 rose from 21.02% to 22% in the most recent reporting period.

UK job vacancies also soared to a record high of 1.24 million between October and December – 462,000 higher compared with the three months before the pandemic.

Scott added: “Despite the positive trajectory in unemployment, businesses are still encountering major recruitment challenges in a super competitive jobs market.

“The 0.8% increase in the economic inactivity rate represents a rise in the number of people who have opted out of employment, whether it’s for studying, caring or to take early retirement – with the latter being a noticeable trend during the pandemic.

“This means the labour pool is tightening at a time when companies are desperately trying to fill roles to cope with demand, which will enable them to continue growing and creating more jobs for local people.

“Many companies in traditional industries such as manufacturing and construction often tell us about the difficulties in replacing an ageing workforce with younger talent, and the latest QES showed that eight in 10 of those that attempted recruitment struggled to find people with the right skills.

“As we await publication of the Government’s delayed Levelling Up White Paper, the wider context behind the latest ONS data illustrates the need for policymakers to understand how we can pull the right levers in order to support the local economy’s requirements.”

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Figures show East Midlands businesses favour hybrid working approach

Three-quarters of East Midlands businesses don’t anticipate a wholesale return to pre-pandemic ways of working, according to new research by East Midlands Chamber and Air IT.

Greater flexibility is among the top reasons for a new hybrid working approach – where employees spend part of their week working from home and part of it in the office – as eight in 10 businesses say they have so far decided against a full-time resumption of office and other on-premise working.

The findings were revealed as part of the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey, in which Air IT – a Managed Service Provider based in Nottinghamshire – commissioned a set of questions posed to business leaders regarding their views on the future of work, and whether it will revolve around the office or the home.

The research was conducted before the Government mandate to work from home where possible was reinstated.

East Midlands Chamber director of resources and HR lead Lucy Robinson said: “This research confirms what many Chamber members have been telling us in recent months, which is that they expect to embrace a hybrid structure of office and remote working in the future.

“It’s obviously not feasible for every organisation to take this approach and there’s still lots of jobs that can’t be done remotely, while it’s clear that the office will remain an important hub for collaboration between teams and developing the skills of younger employees.

“However, the disruption of Covid-19 has paved the way forward for a new mindset among some businesses that have witnessed a number of benefits from greater flexibility – including making it easier to attract and retain employees, as well as lower operating costs – and we expect to see a hybrid approach become significantly more popular in the long term.”

Main findings of the survey

Fewer than 20% of the 400 Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire businesses that responded to the Q3 2021 survey, undertaken in August and September this year, said they had “totally” returned to pre-pandemic working patterns.

Meanwhile, 27% planned to do so in the future – with 66% maintaining they would only “mostly” or “partially” do so, and 7% that said “not at all”.

The findings suggest strong support for the hybrid working model, which has proven popular this year as businesses have sought to ease employees back into the workplace while retaining the benefits of working remotely.

But the report shows that, for many organisations, it is no longer a temporary solution – it is here to stay.

Focusing on flexibility, technology and wellbeing

For those planning to continue most, some or all their pandemic-induced working habits, one of the primary reasons was to do with travel, which many businesses are deeming less necessary after experiencing the benefits of video calls, online events and cloud computing.

When asked what has changed for their business, 78% of respondents cited greater flexibility in location of work, and more than half had reduced in-person events as well as local and international travel.

When asked about the implications of changes to working habits, the most popular answer was “increased investment in new technologies”, selected by 61% of respondents.

Another big change was that business leaders want to see increased investment in staff engagement and wellbeing, an option selected by 59% respondents.

Lee Johnson, chief technology officer at Air IT, said: “A lot of our work at Air IT recently has revolved around hybrid working and how we can support SMEs as they adjust to this new era. Technology has been arguably the biggest factor in keeping businesses going since the pandemic hit, so many business leaders are looking to update their IT infrastructure in order to stay ahead.

“Remote and hybrid working are here to stay so it’s important that businesses invest in supporting their employees through this transition, making it as easy as possible for them to do their job.”

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Chamber celebrates helping 1,000 young people find job placements via Kickstart Scheme

East Midlands Chamber is celebrating after passing a major milestone – helping more than 1,000 young people to secure a job placement via the Kickstart Scheme.

The region’s leading business representation group has been commended by the Minister for Employment after playing a key role in assisting companies to create six-month work placements for people aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.

The Chamber is the UK’s largest and – with almost half the vacancies created resulting in a position being filled – top-performing gateway organisation, which lodges funding applications on behalf of businesses to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

It celebrated the landmark achievement by welcoming key civil servants at the DWP to the Chesterfield Jobs Fair, hosted by Chesterfield Borough Council, earlier today (15 September).

East Midlands Chamber deputy chief executive and Kickstart lead Diane Beresford, along with education and business partnership manager Pieter Eksteen, also met with Jo Macdonald, who chairs the Kickstart gateway approvals board for the DWP, to explain how the Chamber has managed to secure so many placement starts among young people.

Diane said: “Young people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic both in terms of their mental and physical wellbeing, and the significant amount of unemployment it has created.

“The Kickstart Scheme has therefore been a lifeline for them to get the skills and work experience that will be vital to their future prospects. We’re delighted with our track record in converting applications into real jobs, which have played a key role in giving young people the chance they may not have otherwise had while also enabling companies to trial new roles.

“We’re continuing to support businesses and job centres to place young people, as well as look beyond the six-month period to ensure there’s a future roadmap to full-time employment.”

How Kickstart Scheme has benefitted businesses and young people

Nick Hogan, owner of Chesterfield Escape Rooms, has hired six games masters via the Kickstart Scheme – with two other vacancies now live and an application for another position currently being processed – and joined the celebration event with Kickstart employee James Bryan.

Nick has entered into a joint venture partnership with some members of his Kickstart team to establish Chesterfield Games Quarter, which will comprise the escape rooms as well as a video games zone, virtual reality zone and the existing Geeks board game venue. Based in Soresby Street, it is due to open in October.

“I used the Kickstart scheme because I wanted to give something back to the town and create new opportunities for young people,” said Nick, who has given the team a five-figure, interest-free loan to the team to help it run the business.

“But it has also allowed me to get my foot into the market to assess the business opportunity, and has given me the confidence to now grow this into the Chesterfield Games Quarter concept.”

Freelance actor James, 22, of Chesterfield, (pictured above) is four months into his Kickstart placement at the escape rooms business after finding acting work opportunities deteriorated during the pandemic.

He said: “It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime to get involved with a new business, and gain some really valuable experience and diverse skills for my CV that will be really important for my future employability.”

How does the Kickstart Scheme work?

The DWP funds 100% of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage, national insurance and pension contributions for 25 hours a week over a six-month period.

Employers can choose to top up this wage and are also eligible for a £1,500 Government grant for training people on a Kickstart placement.

Once applications are accepted, young people are referred into the roles via a Jobcentre Plus work coach.

East Midlands Chamber has had more than 2,700 placements approved among almost 800 businesses located in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and other locations. Of these, 2,200 have resulted in vacancies being created and 1,024 of those have now been filled.

Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP said: “It’s fantastic to see that over 1,000 young people have begun their Kickstart journey thanks to the vital support from East Midlands Chamber, in a range of exciting new roles, setting them on the road for their future careers – crucially part of the over 69,000 young people who have now started these jobs.

“Our Plan for Jobs is focused on creating and spreading opportunity just like this around the UK as we push to level up across the country.”

East Midlands Chamber and Chesterfield Escape Rooms support the marketing and economic growth of the town through Chesterfield Champions, a network of over 190 organisations across Chesterfield and North Derbyshire.

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Talented Chesterfield professionals recognised at inaugural ‘Generation Next’ Awards

Talented young people working within several Chesterfield businesses have been given recognition at East Midlands Chamber’s first ever Generation Next Awards.

The ceremony celebrated emerging talent across the whole region, with Chesterfield’s Oasis Studio, GBS Apprenticeships and Banner Jones Solicitors named amongst the winners.

The Excellence in Innovation and Technology Award was given to Tony Buck, who has led Chesterfield-based creative design studio Oasis Studio’s EyeSiteView team, which is aiming to transform how residential property is traded by using virtual and immersive technology.

Coral Guard of GBS Apprenticeships took home the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ accolade, on the same day as the company’s grand opening of its new offices at Chesterfield’s Markham House.

The winner of the Customer Service Award was announced as Jenna Hadfield, who works for Chesterfield’s Banner Jones Solicitors as a will writer, based at the company’s offices on Glumangate and in Dronfield.

East Midlands Chamber director of resources and Generation Next lead Lucy Robinson said: “Generation Next is a really exciting new initiative from the Chamber and we’re delighted to have held our first major event, which was a fantastic showcase of the amazing young talent we have across the East Midlands.

“Young people don’t always receive the recognition they deserve but we hope that celebrating their achievements will provide the confidence they need to continue growing as they develop within their careers.

“Our winners are an incredible advert for our region’s entrepreneurial instincts and we can’t wait to continue supporting them as their careers develop.”

Professor Kamil Omoteso, pro vice-chancellor and dean of the University of Derby’s College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, said: “Since the University of Derby became a partner in the Generation Next scheme earlier this year, it has been fantastic to see how it is providing valuable support to young professionals across our region, and I would like to congratulate the East Midlands Chamber on developing this very welcome initiative.

“Celebrating the success of young people through these awards demonstrates the huge talent that exists across all areas of employment and enterprise. Recognising innovation and impact, entrepreneurial skills and the positive effect of volunteering in our communities are excellent measures of their skill, knowledge and dedication.

“Leadership is a vitally important quality which we integrate across our curriculum at the University of Derby and deliver to our local business community, so the Generation Next Future Leader Award, which we have sponsored, is a particularly exciting category for us, identifying those who have already made a significant contribution to their industry and have the potential to make a real difference in their field.”

Generation Next was established by East Midlands Chamber last year as a network for young professionals to make connections, build new skills and advance their careers.

It features networking sessions and educational events on topics such as marketing, brand awareness, sales and personal finance, as well as the awards.

A board of 12 “champions”, consisting of young people in the East Midlands business community and two University of Derby students, lead the network.

The Generation Next Awards will be broadcast again by Notts TV in the coming weeks.

For more information about the Generation Next network, visit generationnextemc.co.uk.

Generation Next Awards 2021 winners

Breakthrough Award (sponsored by Nottingham University Business School)

Winner:

Daniel Jones – Professional Heating Solutions

Finalists:

Holly Daulby – Honest Communications

Max Poynton, Jacob Watts and Matthew Bond – Project D

Kate Johnson – Rate Social

Junyi Xiao – W&W Trading and Consulting

 

Excellence in Innovation & Technology Award (sponsored by GBS Apprenticeships)

Winner:

Tony Buck – EyeSiteView (Division of Oasis Studio)

Finalists:

Rikan Patel and Tanrik Patel – Business 2 Business

 

The Community Award (sponsored by Hardy Signs)

Winner:

Charlotte Robey Turner – Leicestershire Cares

Finalists:

George Hanvere and Elliot Dipper – Paragon Law

Nisha Pahuja – Charnwood Regency Guesthouse Limited

Katie Gilbert – TTK Confectionery

 

Apprentice of the Year (sponsored by Loughborough College)

Winner:

Coral Guard – GBS Limited

Finalists:

Chloe Newton – BEDE Events

Chris Guard – GBS Limited

Chloe Deville – Hardy Signs

Olly Torrence – Purpose Media

 

Entrepreneur of the Year (sponsored by Fraser Stretton)

Winner:

Max Poynton, Jacob Watts and Matthew Bond – Project D

Finalists:

Trent Peek – CCM Group

Holly Daulby – Honest Communications

Jordana Chin – Nutri2Go Ltd

Aaron Gent – Aroment

 

Customer Service Award (sponsored by East Midlands Chamber)

Winner:

Jenna Hadfield – Banner Jones Solicitors

Finalists:

Beth Bearder – Keebles

Rob Spence – Paragon Sales Solutions

Emily Marriott – Order Blinds Online

Evie Margetts – Corporate Architecture

 

Generation Next Future Leader Award (sponsored by the University of Derby)

Winner:

Kate Walker – ExpHand Prosthetics

Finalists:

Edward Morley – Rise & Recline

Harry Dodge – Far-UK

Leah Binney – TTK Confectionery

Theo Kirk – Express Recruitment

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UK’s largest Chambers of Commerce urge Prime Minister to confirm full project delivery of HS2

HS2 is about “much more than a new railway” and should be viewed as a catalyst for levelling up, according to chief executives at the four largest Chambers of Commerce along the route – as they urged the Prime Minister to deliver the project in full.

Scott Knowles at East Midlands Chamber, Henrietta Brealey at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Clive Memmott OBE at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and Sandy Needham DL at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce – whose organisations represent more than 14,000 businesses combined – claimed the high-speed rail project “remains fundamentally misunderstood” as only a transport investment.

In a joint letter to Boris Johnson, they said HS2 would bring strong economic growth to each of their areas and called for the “speedy confirmation” of its delivery in full and as planned.

A final sign-off on how and when the project will be delivered has been delayed on several occasions and is now expected in the Autumn.

In the letter, the Chambers of Commerce leaders say: “We believe that HS2 remains fundamentally misunderstood.

“In many quarters, it is still viewed as being purely a rail investment project sitting within the Department for Transport.

“The various reviews done to date – and in which we have wholeheartedly participated – have approached it almost universally as being solely about transport investment, judging it through this singular lens with regards to cost/benefit analysis.

“Such an understanding of HS2 is hopelessly flawed. While even with this narrow focus the project still more than stands up to scrutiny given capacity constraints, connection shortfalls and the need to upgrade transport to green, clean alternatives, we cannot emphasise enough how HS2 is about much, much more than a new railway.”

The letter points out how each of the regions where HS2 will pass through have developed local plans for growth that have centred around the opportunities it will bring.

Not only do they consider the immediate vicinity of the stations, but also further afield through enhanced local connectivity, “often in areas that have faced chronic underinvestment over a number of years”.

“This growth is about new business investment, house building, place regeneration, high-skilled job creation, innovation, green technologies and more,” the leaders add.

“Indeed, we are already seeing these plans start to come to fruition across Birmingham, where the certainty of the first phase of HS2 has already spurred private sector investment and development.

“Without the development of HS2 as promised, these plans will be critically undermined, and any delivery that does happen will certainly not be of the magnitude aspired to.”

Rather than just being viewed as a transport project, the four chief executives believe it should be regarded as a “levelling up game changer” and an opportunity to rebalance the UK’s economy.

While much of the conversation around the project since its launch a decade ago has focused on cutting journey times to London, they argue it goes much further.

They add: “It is a comprehensive transformation programme that will change the way as a country we approach innovation, environmental commitments, skills development, modern methods of construction and more – not to mention our broader understanding of the ways in which we live, learn and work.

“Ultimately this is about the most ambitious investment made by this country in living memory and its returns will be realised across multiple facets of our economy for generations to come.”

Although the Prime Minister has previously provided assurances that HS2 would be delivered in full, other ministers and Government officials have more recently suggested this may not happen.

The Chambers of Commerce leaders round off the letter by reiterating their belief that “anything other than the full development of the new HS2 line on the scale and scope intended will fall short of what is needed”.

They add: “We believe that any such decision would, in time, come to be viewed as a significant missed opportunity for the UK to demonstrate itself as the ambitious, future-thinking, world-leading country we know ourselves to be.

“In the immediate term, it would send the wrong signal to investors at home and abroad as the economy recovers from the impact of the pandemic.

“Beyond this, it would stunt our possibilities for future development, hamstringing our longer-term growth ambitions.”

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Derbyshire economy bounces back strongly, East Midlands Chamber survey finds

Confidence among Derbyshire businesses is continuing to make a strong comeback as the economy reopens – hitting heights not witnessed for almost three years, according to new research by East Midlands Chamber.

The latest Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2021 by the region’s leading business representation group shows recruitment, sales and investment all increased significantly as the Government roadmap out of lockdown progressed.

Its State of the Economy Index – a measure of the region’s economic health compiled by aggregating various indicators – reached its highest level since Q3 2018 as the steady recovery was replaced with big growth expectations.

More than 400 businesses across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire took part in the survey between 17 May and 8 June.

Key findings from the survey for Derbyshire included:

• UK sales increased for a net 35% of businesses, while advanced orders were up for a net 31%
• Overseas sales rose for a net 3% of respondents and overseas orders increased for a net 2%
• A net 17% of organisations increased their labour force in the previous three months, while a net 44% expect to grow it over the next three months (only 3% expecting it to reduce)
• There was finally some positive news regarding cashflow, which had decreased for the majority of firms during each of the previous five quarters, with a net 6% reporting it to have improved
• Investment intentions are rising, with a net 32% expecting to spend on machinery and equipment while a net 28% predict they will invest in training
• A net 63% of businesses are confident their turnover will improve over the coming quarter, while a net 33% believe profitability will increase too

Chris Hobson, director of policy and external affairs at East Midlands Chamber, said: “Building on the recovery seen in Q1 2021, growth across Derbyshire – both in terms of activity and sentiment – continued to strengthen as the Government roadmap for re-opening progressed across the past three months.

“Domestic markets performed particularly strongly for both sales and orders, while overseas markets were stronger for advanced orders than in-quarter sales.

“Employment has also increased and looks set to continue growing with positive recruitment intentions. Encouragingly, following a year of cashflow deterioration, as more businesses have been allowed to open and confidence has grown, access to cash has also improved for the majority of firms.

“While there remain certain sectors for whom the roadmap has been slower to reach them and are still in need of support, the overall picture is one of strong growth and strong prospects for future demand and activity.”

Despite the positive trajectory for most key economic indicators, there were signs of potential growing pains ahead.

Six in 10 respondents attempted to recruit in the second quarter and, of those 62% struggled to fill roles. These difficulties were particularly acute for skilled and professional jobs, but also present across less skilled roles.
As workforces increase, half of businesses reported difficulties in finding the skills they need – versus 42% that were confident of doing so.

Pressures on pricing may be the biggest issue to watch, with a net 49% anticipating increases in their prices over the coming quarter. The biggest pressure is coming from raw material prices (60%), particularly for manufacturers, but it is also coming from other overheads (42%), including energy costs and staff pay.

Chris added: “Although the headline figures are clearly positive, it’s not all plain sailing for businesses.

“At the same time, problems associated with growth are immeasurably preferable to those associated with decline, and businesses overall will be encouraged with where the economy currently is, particularly given where we were six months ago.”

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New Advisory Panel launched to support Chesterfield and Derbyshire’s manufacturing sector

A newly-launched panel will support and accelerate the growth, productivity, and competitiveness of the manufacturing economy across Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership estimates the manufacturing sector employs over 125,000 people and generates £7.2bn into the region’s economy – ranking third outside London and the South-East – and has the largest cluster of transport manufacturing and R&D in the country.

The LEP will be working with local manufacturing business leaders, the region’s universities, local authorities, and business organisations including Make UK to champion and strengthen manufacturing across region and improve the regional economic performance, retaining excellence in sectors including aerospace, automotive, food and drink, medical and rail.

Primary objectives of the panel include developing an action plan for competitive and sustainable manufacturing and co-ordinating, facilitating and forging closer links between academia and industry with a focus on supporting businesses to adopt new digital innovation and disruptive technologies and embrace low carbon growth.

The panel will also forge strong connections at a national level, particularly with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and Innovate UK.

Martin Rigley MBE, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Lindhurst Engineering and Chair of the D2N2 Manufacturing Advisory Panel said: “Clearly the way manufacturers do business is changing at a rapid rate and it’s important that manufacturing is prepared to face the challenges this brings; particularly in the adoption of digital technologies and meeting net zero targets.

“The Manufacturing Advisory Group is sector and size agnostic and aims to use its strong network amongst businesses, large and small, supported by our strong FE and HE representation to guide manufacturing businesses in our region through an evolving way of doing business.”

Sajeeda Rose, CEO of the D2N2 LEP, said: “Manufacturing is our region’s largest sector and employer. As we transform into a more competitive, greener economy, our manufacturers will need support to embrace industrial digitalisation and net-zero challenges.

“We are proud to be bringing together such an impressive group to provide a strong voice for manufacturing across D2N2 to address these challenges and drive our economic growth.”

Charlotte Horobin, Region Director for Make UK in the Midlands and East, said:

“Manufacturing is key to the prosperity of D2N2, the need to ensure our manufacturers are equipping themselves with the skills and technologies to boost their competitiveness has never been so important.”

The D2N2 Manufacturing Advisory Panel met for the first time on 30 June and will meet every two months to collaborate on how best to drive growth and productivity the region.

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Finalists announced for East Midlands Chamber Derbyshire Business Awards

The finalists of this year’s East Midlands Chamber Business Awards have been revealed.

About 165 organisations from across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire have been recognised in the 2021 edition of the annual contest, which is once again run in partnership with principal sponsor Mazars.

The awards are split into three events for each county and feature 13 categories, with a new award this year for Collaboration Project of the Year to celebrate pioneering partnerships within Chamber membership.

There’s also a new-look Excellence in Innovation award, which replaces the Innovation in Manufacturing category, as more ground-breaking firms are invited to showcase how they are pushing boundaries in their sectors.

Winners are chosen during a virtual judging day by a panel including sponsors, a Chamber board member and a representative from the Chamber’s senior leadership team. An overall Business of the Year is also selected for each county from all the finalists by Mazars.

After the awards ceremonies were held virtually last year due to lockdown restrictions, the Chamber plans for a return to physical events in late 2021, pending Government guidance.

The Derbyshire Business Awards will take place on Friday 12 November.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Last year, we were proud to celebrate the achievements of more than 120 organisations during what was a difficult period for many, so it’s absolutely fantastic to see even more businesses, social enterprises and charities recognised this year.

“There were so many examples of incredible innovation, growth and resilience among our members in the entries, giving us a chance to shout about all the great things our region has to offer.

“We can’t wait to hold another set of memorable awards ceremonies, hopefully this time in person, with the brilliant support of our sponsors.”

For more information about the East Midlands Chamber Business Awards, visit www.emc-dnl.co.uk/businessawards2021.

Derbyshire Business Awards 2021 finalists

Business Improvement Through Technology – Sponsored by Purpose Media
• Futures Housing Group
• Healthy Stuff
• Penny Hydraulics
• Scenariio
• Thompson Tree Services (Midlands)

Community Impact Award – Sponsored by University of Derby
• Fortem Solutions
• Griffith Foods
• Liniar
• MVIS
• Resilient World Solutions

Outstanding Growth Award – Sponsored by Amazon
• Fibre Tec Solutions
• Professional Heating Solutions
• Project D
• Sky Recruitment Solutions
• SureScreen Diagnostics

Environmental Impact Award – Sponsored by Futures Housing Group
• Derby City Council – DE-Carbonise Project
• Devtank
• Griffith Foods
• Liniar
• MVIS

Commitment to People Development Award – Sponsored by 2020 Training
• AIM Commercial Services
• Aztec Oils
• Nelsons
• Peak Indicators
• Purpose Media

Apprentice of the Year – Sponsored by Derby College Group
• Keenan Gregory – Futures Housing Group
• Lisa Scarboro – Futures Housing Group
• Amelia Burton – Griffith Foods
• Mia Cooper – Joined Up Careers Derbyshire
• Tom Sharratt – Neuways

Entrepreneur of the Year – Sponsored by Ryley Wealth Management
• William Crooks – Cawarden
• Adam Bamford – Colleague Box
• Peter Ellse – Cosy Direct
• Jillian Thomas – Future Life Wealth Management
• Max Vaughan – White Peak Distillery

Education and Business Partnership Award – Sponsored by RDS Global
• Access Training East Midlands
• Derby College Group
• Dronfield Heritage Trust
• Embark Federation
• REAL Education

Excellence in Customer Service – Sponsored by Aston Lark
• Anoki
• MaryJanes Catering
• Purpose Media
• The Accountancy Recruitment Group
• UK Asbestos Training Association

Excellence in International Trade – Sponsored by HSBC
• Atlas Copco Medical
• Aztec Oils
• Cathelco
• Graphoidal Developments
• SureScreen Diagnostics

Small Business of the Year – Sponsored by Begbies Traynor
• Peak Indicators
• Project D
• The Input Group
• Think3
• Thompson Tree Services (Midlands)

Excellence in Innovation – Sponsored by Rolls-Royce
• HSG
• Liniar
• Scenariio
• SureScreen Diagnostics

Excellence in Collaboration – Sponsored by HSBC
• Derbyshire Voluntary Action
• Marketing Derby
• Penguin PR/Colleague Box and Vibrant Accountancy
• Safe and Sound
• The Swap Shop

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East Midlands unemployment rate continues to fall as economy gradually reopens

More people in the East Midlands are returning to work, according to the latest Government figures.

The unemployment rate reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) fell to 4.8% in the February to April period this year, down 0.4% compared to the previous three-month period and only 0.1% above the UK average.

However, it remains 0.9% higher than the unemployment rate for the same quarter in 2020.

Nationally, the number of job vacancies in March to May this year was 758,000 – just 27,000 below pre-pandemic levels.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “The jobs market appears to be moving in the right direction, with yet another decline in the unemployment rate alongside an increasing number of vacancies and people on payroll.

“For much of the pandemic, the East Midlands has suffered disproportionately, with a significantly greater proportion of people in our region out of work than across the UK, so it’s a relief to see the gap being narrowed.

“This trend no doubt reflects the reopening of outdoor hospitality towards the end of this period, on 12 April, as well as the greater resilience of our manufacturers to both the ongoing restrictions and post-Brexit trade changes.

“We’d expect to see further positive news for the three-month period to May, as step three of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown commenced, and more people came out of furlough.

“Our latest Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2021 shows that a net of one in five businesses in the East Midlands increased their headcount during this period*, while a net 41% expect to hire more people over the coming three months – with only 3% anticipating a decrease.

“This is clearly very positive news and also comes with big expectations of confidence in turnover (a net 62% of businesses expect this to increase) and profitability (a net 41% believe it will rise).

“The latest ONS data again shows the huge impact of the pandemic on young people, with the unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds at 13.2%, but we’re delighted with the take-up among businesses of the Kickstart scheme, which creates Government-funded six-month work placements for people in this age group who are on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.

“So far, the Chamber has helped about 500 young people find employment, with another 1,400 vacancies, among more than 700 businesses.

“However, as yesterday’s announcement that stage four of the roadmap will be delayed for four weeks also demonstrates, we can’t get complacent and sectors such as hospitality, events and leisure will continue to suffer from reduced capacity or complete closure – which in turn has an impact on jobs.

“This means it’s crucial the Chancellor postpones the tapering of furlough, which is due to commence on 1 July, for the duration of the roadmap delay, while grants would also help many of these businesses that have lost both expenditure and expected income.”

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber

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