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Skills and business guidance needed to fuel Hertfordshire economy rebound from coronavirus

More skills training for young people and guidance for businesses will be essential to help Hertfordshire’s economy recover in 2021, business leaders have said.

The comments were made by Hertfordshire business leaders at an event organised by chartered accountancy body ICAEW, which examined business performance in the final quarter of 2020.  

Speakers at the event were Julian Daly, President of the ICAEW Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Hertfordshire District Society and a former leader of St Albans Council; Bim Afolami MP; David Bisoni, Senior Vice President for Business Affairs and International Development at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden; and Neil Hayes, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

The event heard that Hertfordshire’s economy had the building blocks to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic in 2021, in large part due to the strength of its film, pharmaceutical and environmental technology sectors. However, it was suggested that the county’s young people needed to be given the skills to get jobs in these sectors, so no one was left behind.

Neil Hayes recommended that Hertfordshire businesses work with local universities, colleges, and schools to create apprenticeships and work experience placements, to ensure students were given skills for the workplace.

Business leaders at the event also appealed to Hertfordshire professionals in sectors such as accountancy and law to continue to support struggling businesses with advice and guidance, such as on eligibility for government support schemes and tax issues. David Bisoni said that the professional services sector should find innovative ways to offer its services as businesses worked to return to growth in 2021.

Coronavirus changes infrastructure priorities in the county

The panellists also discussed whether the impact of the pandemic had changed the region’s infrastructure needs.

Bim Afolami MP said that the pandemic had shown the need for investment in local roads, as people were spending more time locally, and in digital and mobile technology to help those working from home.

Mr Afolami added that train timetables may need more flexibility to allow different rush hour timings once the government begins to encourage people to commute again.

Julian Daly, President of ICAEW Beds, Bucks and Herts, said: “I am pleased so many expert representatives from Hertfordshire organisations attended this event and shared their views on how to make next year better for business. It’s been a difficult year, but with strong local businesses I am sure the prospects for 2021 are bright.

“The change in working patterns is a challenge, but also a huge opportunity for Hertfordshire. Innovation in how businesses run, as well as innovation in their products and services will be critical to recovery. If SMEs are to recover quickly, they will need guidance from Hertfordshire’s professionals and to see skills training for young people in the sectors with most potential.”

Positive outlook for business

Last month ICAEW published the Q4 Business Confidence Monitor™ (BCM) for the East of England, including Hertfordshire, which surveyed chartered accountants on growth, investment and business confidence. [1]

While the BCM found that the region’s economy had been hit hard by the pandemic, it predicted an economic rebound for the East of England. Feedback from members surveyed was more positive than that given by respondents from most other parts of the UK.

Notes to editors:

1. www.icaew.com/technical/economy/economic-insight/business-confidence-monitor-regional/east-of-england

2. Audio and video recordings of the event, or an interview with Julian Daly are available on request.


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