Thinking out loud – “LEPs are in the best position to co-ordinate a range of business support that isn’t just responsive – but sector shaping”, Alun Rogers –
Alun Rogers, chair of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP, discusses the unique position of LEPs to offer the best support to businesses going forward.
Building a business can sometimes feel like climbing a mountain. In my experience, for years, building my own digital business felt like a trek and was really hard work. But now, businesses are able to receive the best support they have ever had, with LEPs at the heart of that ongoing transformation for the benefit of the community and wider economy.
As a unique partnership bringing together private, public and education sector provision, our business support network across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent has never been better.
While the amount of business support available across our region has never been a problem, during the pandemic it was even more important for that support to be accessible, and for our business advisors to help those already in shock to navigate the maze of support and be responsive to their needs.
To say that our Growth Hub co-ordinated business support and connected businesses with the right help for their needs at crucial times, would be an understatement. They were, and still are, critical, and at their very best they made an incredible 40,000 interventions to help businesses through the economic shock that no one could have seen coming.
And, as with all LEP initiatives, the Growth Hub brings together the very best of public, private and even education sector support, using specific local knowledge and working closely with providers to ensure that they are bang up to date on the variety of support options readily available.
They are a shining example of being responsive to the needs of customers and have been critical – and not only in helping our economy to weather the storms over the past year. They have helped inspire the innovation that many businesses have adopted and that in turn have modernised and even revolutionised ways of working across all sectors.
Here in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, we’ve demonstrated once again how LEPs occupy a unique position to bring together such partnership at speed. Our region was the first in the country to respond to the need to moderate the threat of immediate and ongoing redundancies brought about by the pandemic by forming the region-wide ‘Recruitment and Redundancy Triage Service.’ Here, jobs and careers specialists, from local advisors right up to and including the DWP, have come together with local public, private and HE sector partners, both to support individuals at threat of redundancy into work in new emerging growth sectors, and also support businesses experiencing extreme change themselves. We have the experience, skills and business intelligence to move at pace, mitigate redundancies and support businesses experiencing growth to recognise and take on immediately-available local people with the talent and transferable skills they need to realise their potential.
It is not just about surviving. This partnership reshapes sectors and with furlough coming to end, this task force has never been more important than it is now.
Both the Growth Hub and the Triage Service are examples of the unique value that LEPs offer, both in ‘normal’ circumstances and at times of crisis. We move quickly to forge the high-impact and action-orientated business-support needed yesterday, offering this to business in a straight-forward, highly–personalised and tailored package so that they can concentrate on what they do best.
Moving forward, we are prepared to act upon what businesses need and will be more responsive than ever. The outcomes of the LEP Review will ensure that our LEP is in an even stronger position to support businesses across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire with what they need to grow, thrive and transform, and make a huge contribution to national competitiveness.
It’s about helping business feel that they’re not alone in climbing that mountain. As a LEP, we build ladders to help them climb and succeed.