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Chamber round up mid-September 2017


See our recent news updates on the workforce survey, employment figures and how A&C Associates delivers quality over quantity across the globe.

Workforce survey results revealed

Almost half of North East businesses have faced skills or labour shortages in the last year, but only a minority are actively looking overseas to fill vacancies, according to a survey released on 13 September 2017, by the North East England Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber).

The annual workforce survey, based on the responses of over 1,400 business people across the UK, found that 45% of firms in the North East had faced skills or labour shortages over the last 12 months. Of these, most sought to address the shortages by increasing investment in recruitment (39%), training (32%), and pay and benefits (24%). The survey found that only 8% of businesses target recruitment of non-UK nationals overseas.

According to the findings of the survey, three in ten (30%) businesses in the North East have employees from other EU countries on their workforce, while 25% have employees from outside the EU. 22% of North East firms say future restrictions on the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK would have a negative impact on their business.

Other key findings of the survey are:

  • When trying to fill vacancies, North East companies are most likely to rely on word of mouth (49%) and using UK-based recruitment agencies (45%)
  • 42% of businesses receive job applications from EU nationals and 21% from non-EU nationals
  • Chamber members report that their non-UK workers tend to be highly skilled: 46% skilled manual/technical, 36% professional/managerial, 25% clerical/administrative and 11% un-/semi-skilled

Susan Laing, Dean of Teesside University Business School, said: “Teesside University has an established international reputation for academic excellence and the global impact of our research. We foster creativity, enterprise and innovation and have helped to shape the lives of students from over 100 countries worldwide. We welcome this report into the impact non-UK nationals can make to businesses in our region.

“The University is a catalyst for business growth, strategic partnerships and regional and national prosperity and we want to work with more global businesses to bring skills and opportunities to the region. We have recently launched our Centre for Professional and Executive Development (CPED) to help meet the region’s demand for thousands of skilled jobs and are working with employers across multiple sectors to design and deliver training which meets their demands and the skills needs of their workforce.”

Paul Carbert, policy adviser, North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “Members report that skills shortages are prevalent across all sectors, particularly at higher and technical levels, and almost half of North East businesses say they struggled to fill vacancies in the last year. Our members look to fill posts locally, and many many invest in training and apprenticeships, or build links with educational institutions to recruit the staff they need. However, skills shortages remain, as competition for highly skilled staff grows within the UK and across the world.

“Many businesses in the North East benefit from having a diverse workforce with staff members from across the EU and beyond, and our 5 world-class universities provide an important boost for the region’s economy by attracting international students and research talent. Skilled overseas workers are often attracted to work for firms in the North East when they are already working in other regions of the UK, and any future restrictions will inevitably have a knock-on effect on our members’ ability to recruit the staff they need to facilitate growth.

“As the Government plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy, our members want to see a flexible and unbureaucratic system that allows businesses to access the best global talent. We will ensure that our members’ views are represented in the review currently being undertaken by the Migration Advisory Committee.

Employment figures suggest challenges ahead

Paul Carbert, policy adviser, North East England Chamber of Commerce said: “The latest figures released showed a small increase in unemployment in our region over the previous three months, but an increase in the employment rate over the past year. The North East has seen the greatest fall in unemployment of any region over the last 12 months. Although the recent results are not as positive as previous months, we are still in a much better place than we were a year ago.

“Our Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2017 has shown that our members are positive about future workforce growth, and recruiting for permanent, full time roles. Almost half of the Chamber members responding to our 2017 Workforce Survey said that they have faced skills or labour shortages over the past 12 months. This indicates a need to align training and upskilling programmes, with business aspirations to open up opportunities for jobseekers. We will be calling for the Government to make this a priority in the upcoming Autumn Budget.”

Angela Wright, HR Officer, of Seaham-based Prima Cheese, a Chamber member which exports its products all over the world said: “The annual figures confirm our own experience. Since joining Prima in June 2015 our workforce has increased to 106 employees from 54 employees. In the past year alone our headcount has increased by 27%.

We are currently in a continuing period of business growth and to support this we are installing a further production line, in addition to our existing three and we expect to increase our team by a further 15% by April 2018.

Not only will permanent positions be created in our production area but we will also be creating roles in all departments to support with the increase in production levels.”

Food experts sink teeth into international markets

WHEN it comes to food industry expertise and fast moving consumer goods, one North East firm is securing its place at the top table.

Like the best restaurants, A&C Associates delivers quality over quantity and a guaranteed recipe for success for clients across the globe.

The multi-award winning firm, founded in 2013, offers consultancy to food service industries and fast moving consumer goods businesses across the world, with expertise in franchising, cracking new markets, acquisition and training in change management, procurement and sales.

Support from the Department for International Trade North East (DIT) recently helped A&C Associates win substantial export contracts in Saudi Arabia with Innovative Foods and in Kuwait with La Francaise Catering Co.

ERDF funding, supplied via DIT, has also been approved for travel and an exhibition stand at the enormous “Work 2.0 Exhibition” trade show in Dubai in October.

UK Director, Catherine Wood, said DIT support via the Passport to Export programme and ERDF grant funding has helped A&C grow quickly and establish strong customer bases in South East Asia, Middle East, Europe the USA and Canada.

“DIT support has been invaluable from the very beginning,” she said. “It is accessible and provides an immediate benefit that helped pay for flights and hotels in the Middle East and trade shows in the US, which allowed us to focus on target markets, meet key contacts in the industry and gave us that kick-start to become players in international markets.

“Now we are being supported to rent our own space at Work 2.0 in October, which is a huge trade show and so important for us to meet and catch-up with contacts all in one place at one time.”

A&C Associates is overseen by managing director, Andy Skowronski. With a CV boasting senior positions at international firms such as PepsiCo, Krispy Kreme, Americana and Yum Brands - providing strategic brand development for Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, among others – he is revelling in his role as a global gun for hire across the industry.

He said: “Having spent years working in Poland, Singapore, USA and Dubai in various roles, I was looking forward to spending some time back home in England, but the business has taken off to such an extent I’m back on the road again and enjoying every minute.

“All three main strands of our business – consulting, training and franchising - are doing incredibly well and keeping everyone at A&C busy.”

The business supports two full-time and two part-time jobs in the UK, five roles in the Phillipines and two further consultant roles.

“Through Andy’s hard work and fantastic reputation, A&C has fast established its team as the go-to guys when it comes to food service consultancy,” added Catherine. “Whether that’s procurement, storage, logistics, commissaries, franchising…literally anything, anywhere, we can help.

“Our training course has been delivered in Japanese, Polish, Spanish and a number of other languages and our change management programme “Road to Transformation” is delivering real and immediate results for some of the largest firms operating in the foodservice, engineering and biotech industry. We always knew there was a market for our services in these industries, but the speed with which we have established ourselves in the global marketplace has been helped enormously by the DIT’s fantastic support.”

Director of international trade, Julie Underwood, said: “A&C Associates is a truly global operation. The knowledge, experience and sheer desire to succeed has seen them grow rapidly and cement an incredible reputation in their industry.

“Helping North East firms with such ambition and desire to break into overseas markets is a real thrill and I’m delighted A&C have enjoyed so much success so quickly – I can only see great things for them in the future.”