Despite accounting for nearly a sixth of all businesses in the south west and employing around 144,000 people, there is one sector of industry that is facing more challenges than most when it comes to business growth.
As one of the UK’s most creative locations, there are just under 40,000 businesses in the region’s creative sector, yet, according to one business leader, nearly one in five of them has experienced difficulties in recruiting staff in recent years.
Adam Chambers, chief executive of Peninsula Enterprise, which delivers the Business Link Skills service, says this is a genuine concern for regional and local economies as such firms in the design industry account for nearly a third of all of the creative businesses in the south west.
He said: “The situation is all the more a cause of concern when one considers that many employers within the sector are saying that lack of experience and specialist skills are the main obstacles for recruitment to help them grow, yet 85% of creative and cultural businesses have no specific entitlement to funding support for training.
“Clearly, there is a need to more closely align higher education with the practical needs of businesses in this field and for employers to obtain impartial advice on skills development and to focus much more attention on vocational training such as creative apprenticeships.”
Chambers believes the vulnerability of creative businesses that are so closely linked with other sectors of the economy badly hit by the economic downturn is a cause for concern, but that the region’s strength in software and digital media and the imminent arrival of superfast broadband technology gives room for more optimism.
“South west businesses working in software development, computer games and electronic publishing are building on their earlier successes and many are bucking the trend,” he said. “For others, help is available. The special Skills services we provide as part of our Business Link service provides owners and managers of creative enterprises with the advice and support on the skills development they need in order for their business to move forward onto the next stage of development.
“By developing skills within their existing workforce and, where appropriate, introducing apprentices, such businesses can realign any future need for recruitment into those areas where there is greater chance of success.”