Issues around skills shortages and digital infrastructure rank highest for Somerset businesses, even above concerns over Brexit, according to the latest membership survey from Somerset Chamber of Commerce.
More than half of the respondents to the Chamber’s annual membership survey said that issues around education and skills (56%) and digital infrastructure (52%) were a major concern for their business, with Brexit (42%) ranking third in the collective list of key concerns for Somerset firms.
In terms of the Chamber’s lobbying activity, respondents felt that influencing the Somerset skills agenda (62%) and lobbying for improved digital infrastructure (56%) should be the priorities. The vast majority (91%) of businesses that responded said they felt that local representation by Somerset Chamber was important, giving a voice to the many and varied firms within the county.
A total of 92 different businesses responded to the 2018 membership survey, representing firms of varying sizes and from a wide range of industries. Somerset Chamber is already putting plans in place that aim to address these concerns and provide greater support and value for Chamber members in 2019.
This includes working with broadband providers to facilitate communication and get the best possible coverage for Somerset businesses, including pushing for the introduction of 5G across the county.
The Chamber will also continue supporting the Somerset Education Business Partnership, developed with Somerset County Council and launched in October, which aims to build strong connections between businesses and schools, colleges and other training providers.
Stephen Henagulph, Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce, commented: “Whilst there is considerable debate around Brexit, the results of the Somerset Chamber membership survey show that the skills shortages and broadband issues faced by the county’s businesses continue to be a significant concern. As a result, we will be prioritising these issues and ensuring they are featured in our communication and lobbying activity at a local, regional and national level. The Chamber will continue to amplify our members’ challenges and concerns, ensuring the relevant organisations and government departments hear loud and clear what our members are saying.
“I am grateful to all the members who took the time to provide feedback through our annual survey; your input is enormously valuable and helps to steer our focus for the coming year. We look forward to continuing to support and work with Chamber members and patrons in 2019 in order to make progress on these issues, fixing the fundamentals so that our county’s businesses have the best possible chance of success and growth.”