Businesses urged to do more to develop and keep young talent

Sturge, the West of England president of the ICAEW, which represents business finance professionals in the region, urged businesses to challenge traditional educational routes.

He said: “Growth in the region will only continue if we have the right talent available to fill the roles which will be created. A shortage of skills will undermine the South West’s ambitions.

“The talent agenda is a core component of the regional ICAEW strategy. That’s because we believe the professional services sector which we represent, together with other business sectors, has a collective duty to inspire future talent to be part of the business-rich landscape here in the West, including traditional, hi tech, services and creative industries, as well as our significant track record for entrepreneurship.”

Sturge cited developments at the region’s educational establishments that the business sector needed to take full advantage of, including Weston College’s Law & Professional Services Academy, UWE’s new Faculty of Business and Law, and the University of Gloucestershire’s emerging expertise in the area of the cyber world. He also encouraged alternative educational models such as apprenticeships which span across many industries.

He said: “The building blocks are in place – now it’s down to the business community to make it happen.”

Sturge called upon the region’s business community to be more innovative in helping to fund young people as they transition into their working lives at the same time as paying rents and student loans back. He also urged more collaboration between the region’s business bodies to enable effective joint working for the benefit of economic development in the region.

Simon Holdsworth, managing partner of Thrings solicitors, sponsors of the event alongside Brunel Professional Risks, expanded on the education and talent development theme when he said: “With today’s clients and future clients becoming increasingly discerning and ever-more diverse, the generation span is wider than ever, and providers of professional services now have to demonstrate greater levels of flexibility and agility when working with clients.

“The legal profession remains extremely competitive, and a growing number of law firms are now seeking adaptable, flexible team players who can not only understand and advise on legal matters, but who can also communicate effectively with clients and work as part of a team.

“The traditional path of university to law school to trainee to solicitor to partner is now just one of a number of different routes to a successful career. Many of our solicitors have non-legal degrees, we have non-solicitor partners and we are soon to appoint our first-ever legal directors. Our new elective development curriculum, meanwhile, allows people to undertake training to develop their softer skills and provide clients with a more rounded service offering.

“Across the board, our clients are looking for continuity of delivery. Longevity of talent is crucial to maintaining long-term relationships with clients. Few people – least of all clients - like change, so the imperative to meet the varying needs of our people is now more important than ever.”

Jonathan Filer, Director, Brunel Professional Risks, said: “SME business across the country is now consistently challenging the status quo of the so called established power houses across all industries, and none more so than amongst our culturally diverse entrepreneurs within the South West. Clients too are looking away from the major names towards specialist or upcoming firms, and in order to keep up with this bucking trend businesses within our region need to continue to support the growth of our various education centres.

“We at Brunel take great pride in the number of UWE graduates within our ranks and the support that we are looking to provide the flourishing apprenticeship schemes on offer through Weston College. It is vital that we as a business ensure we continue to employee a high calibre of individual, and whether that is proven through academic or personal attributes does not always come into our considerations but what does is their willingness upon arrival to continue their own personal development. It is for this reason that we always first look to promote from within and offer a vast range of employee training programmes either through internal training modules, or additional external qualifications.

“Acting in this way to our employees has a domino effect on the way in which they then interact with our clients, and we hope inspires more young people to remain in the region beyond their studies.”

Guests at the event were entertained by impressionist and comedian Rory Bremner who drew on his political satire expertise for the evening, including references to the forthcoming EU Referendum.

The event was supported by the Prince’s Trust.

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