We don’t often do this but wanted to share this important message for South East businesses in it’s entirety.
As we enter this second national lockdown, we all have a better idea of what to expect, but this period will no doubt bring with it a flood of concerns and challenges for businesses, particularly at this time of year.
The road ahead remains difficult, but our business community has proven its dedication, ingenuity and resilience over 2020 – the traits needed to get through lockdown. We can do it again and we will do all we can to help you.
As coronavirus cases rise across the country, and the South East, we must follow Government measures to ensure that we manage this virus as far as possible. While it may be incredibly frustrating to have to close down a business mere weeks after being able to re-open, the only way we can return to normal as fast as possible is to minimise contact and reduce the potential spread of the virus.
The South East is a region of entrepreneurs. Small local businesses make up a huge proportion of our business collective. We appreciate the sacrifices that have been made and we as a LEP remain dedicated to supporting all businesses small and large to make it through this new challenge. We have every belief that our business community has the strength to do this, but understand that many cannot go it alone.
That’s why we are still working hard to get our £2.4 million COVID-19 Business Support Fund and £2 million Skills COVID-19 Recovery Fund ready to deploy capital to those who need it most. Our Getting Building Fund programme is well underway, with a raft of projects set to have their funding approved in the coming weeks by our Board. These shovel-ready projects can then begin to help rebuild our economy in the industries, towns and rural areas that need it most across the South East.
Importantly for our entrepreneurs and business owners, our Growth Hub continues to offer tailored support to businesses, providing guidance on the financial options available, training programmes, business webinars and more. The Growth Hub can provide a one-stop service to find out details about all the local and national schemes on offer to South East companies. We encourage businesses to sign up to the Peer Networks programme, a national peer-to-peer networking programme for SME leaders that want to grow and develop their organisation for future success.
We also urge businesses that have to close for the next few weeks to make use of this time by encouraging staff to bolster their skills, or broadening their horizons digitally. Our Skills agenda and Digital Skills Partnership are working hard to launch a brand-new website that will act as a comprehensive repository of information, guidance and course and webinar listings for apprenticeships, digital skills training and reskilling.
This site will also offer support to those who have been furloughed or made redundant during this time, providing information on the industries in the South East and the various courses or avenues out there to reskill in a new area or look for work. Our Digital Skills Partnership has just launched its new collaboration with FutureFit AI to offer 100 South East residents free access to FutureFit’s careers guidance platform until the end of January 2021.
There is also help and funding available through our Local Authorities, who have stepped up their business support at this important time and we would encourage you to reach out to your local Councils to see how they may be able to help your individual situation.
As I said, the road ahead remains difficult. But the South East business community will get through this, as it has got through every other difficulty faced this year. I encourage you to use the LEP and its services. We stand beside the business community, and are here to help. Post-COVID-19 recovery lays in enterprise, and I have no doubt that the South East will be the region that leads the rest of the country down the road to recovery.
Chair, South East Local Enterprise Partnership