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Greater support for manufacturers needed, conference told

The slowing pace of growth in the manufacturing sector across Nottinghamshire was the focus of a major economic conference at Donington Park earlier today.

East Midlands Chamber organised the conference, which attracted more than 120 representatives from local businesses.

Chris Hobson, the Chamber's Director of Policy told the audience that slower growth in the sector across the East Midlands at the end of last year, combined with continuing global economic uncertainties, a slump in oil prices and the potential for an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU, should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers that the sector needs more support.

He said that although local manufacturers remain confident about their prospects in the year ahead, they aren't as bullish as they were two years ago.

He continued: "We make things and we move things here in the East Midlands. It's what we're famous for.

"But, there needs to be greater support for manufacturers that are looking to use a strong domestic base to grow their overseas markets in difficult conditions, and for the sector as a whole to ensure the right skills and attributes in potential staff members are available as it continues to invest to grow."

Carol Stanfield, Assistant Director of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), told the conference that the manufacturing sector was bucking the national trend in terms of the widening skills gap, with 18% of firms in the sector telling a recent UKCES survey that it was a problem, compared with a national average of 14 percent for other sectors.

"These gaps tend to be concentrated in lower skill level jobs," she said. "But, businesses are doing a lot to address this in terms of increased training, supervision and monitoring of staff."

And John Holmes, of Oxalis Planning, the consultants behind Roxhill Developments' proposed East Midlands Strategic Freight Rail Interchange, said there would be a significant amount of movement of people to and from the site, which it is estimated will create up to 7,000 jobs once it's fully operational.

"We are already talking to the tram board in Nottingham and East Midlands Councils about whether or not there is an opportunity to bring the tram trains from the HS2 hub at Toton to the site.

"Clearly, those opportunities exist and would help spread the attraction of the site further across the region, into Nottingham and other areas."

The Chamber's conference was part of Love Business East Midlands, an annual business expo, now in its fifth year, which attracted more than 3,500 business people through its doors yesterday to network, make new connections and visit more than 200 exhibitors.

Source: Nottingham Post

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