Leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP is calling on Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, to boost growth by focusing on measures to help mid-sized businesses access talent, increase exports and deal with less regulation.
At last month's Grant Thornton Election 2015 Business Debate, senior executives were asked to rank the top priorities they'd most want the new government to tackle. Respondents pointed to: 1) Making education and training more relevant to their needs; 2) More help to enter new export markets, and; 3) Reducing the regulatory burden on business. Business chose these ahead of the issues which had been more prevalent in election manifestos, such as access to finance, addressing late payment and reforming the EU.
In order to better find the skills needed for their business, respondents pointed to the following priorities:
- Better links with colleges
- Helping young people find out what skills and qualifications businesses need
- Links with universities and access to milk-rounds
These were prioritised ahead of reforming apprenticeships and training or measures to improve commuting.
The main barriers they faced in unlocking export growth were:
- Language skills
- Access to government advice and help (UKTI, UKEF)
- Legal advice
Sacha Romanovitch, CEO-elect, Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented: "The UK's mid-sized businesses are the nation's wealth creators, who generate the jobs, enhance Britain's global business profile and are key to unlocking material growth in the UK economy. The Government must continue its progress in better understanding the critical role MSBs play and design a legislative environment which supports their continued growth. The areas identified by business require action across government; with all departments putting their weight behind exporters, education and business Ministers working together to crack the skills gaps, and the Better Regulation Executive leading work across the public sector to reduce the burden of regulation on mid-sized businesses.
"What is really interesting is that the thing these businesses most wanted from government is in many ways very simple and doesn't involve spending large amounts of money – they want to build a stronger, more open relationship with schools, colleges and universities. They see this as the key to unlocking their skills gaps. I hope the Education and Business ministers, and their officials, will take heart and work with business and educators to make this happen."
The mid-sized business leaders surveyed felt that government (politicians and civil servants) does not truly understand the challenges and opportunities faced by mid-sized businesses. Asked to rank government understanding of businesses like them, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very good), the average score was 4.
Romanovitch added: "The new government has a great opportunity to invite mid-sized businesses into Whitehall to advise on the issues which matter most to them. The UK's dynamic MSB population has long been the unsung hero of the UK economy, and more recently has been spearheading it's revival. The Prime Minister could send a powerful signal if he invited mid-sized businesses to join his business advisory panel and benefit from their insights into further growing the economy."
The survey was undertaken following the Grant Thornton Election 2015 Business Debate, where representatives from the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties debated the issues critical to mid-sized business. The event was held on 14th April, to an audience of over 100 senior business leaders representing the UK's mid-sized business community.