Reasons to be cheerful in the months ahead
By Rob Freeman | 5th January 2021
Not all is doom and gloom for business in Gloucestershire heading into 2021, despite tightening coronavirus restrictions threatening more economic damage.
That is the view of Business West's Gloucestershire director Ian Mean, who believes there are reasons to be optimistic.
He said: "It would be very easy to be full of doom and gloom but I am not for two key reasons - the triumph of science with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Brexit deal.
"Something near normal life, we are told, could return for Easter if we are able to develop the biggest logistics and delivery exercise with the new vaccine since wartime.
"You would not bet your house on this Easter prediction, but it gives business the added confidence for their employees to consider returning to work as normal when safe."
The Brexit deal, finally agreed with just days to spare before the end of the transition period, provides added confidence to companies - although he admits it may be a little thin, particularly in the services sector.
But Mr Mean stressed business faces huge challenge in the post-Covid era.
"We simply have to invest more in vocational education," he said. "How many times have we said this but nothing happens to improve it?
"That is what they do in Germany to produce world-class engineers."
He pointed to Gloucestershire's further education colleges as having a key role to play through apprenticeship training.
"The Government must immediately address apprenticeships, which have fallen off a cliff," he said.
"And they must offer realistic incentives for hard pressed companies here to invest in our young people.
"These young people are increasingly interested in green issues. Gloucestershire is well placed to take advantage of this interest and develop a thriving green economy which must have government support."
He continued: "I have been impressed, for instance, by the way that Cotswold District Council has been developing a clear, workable strategy to build a local green economy.
The Gloucestershire 2050 project research a few years back told us that we were haemorrhaging young people at an alarming rate.
"That is still happening and we must develop new streams of green business to encourage our young people to stay in the county."
He believes innovation must be the watchword for business on the way out of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Gloucestershire will thrive if we support the innovators and there are plenty of them here," he said.
"Many of those innovators are on life support and government must continue to realise that and fully back business in Gloucestershire."
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