I would like to start by wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year. 2016 was filled with fantastic achievements across the county and I am sure we will continue to deliver many more throughout 2017.
The latest QES report shows more reason for optimism, with nearly 70% of businesses expecting a greater turnover. However, the report did also highlight that 53% of businesses had trouble in recruiting suitably skilled staff. Worcestershire LEP is committed to ensuring that we raise the skills of our local workforce and part of achieving this is to grow the number of apprenticeships in the County. Business have the opportunity to meet with our future workforce at the Worcestershire Skills Show on Wednesday 8 March, and I would encourage companies to participate in the event and showcase the fantastic careers we have available locally.
We have seen the great impact that the Growth Deal fund is having on the local economy and we will continue to find ways to improve the business environment. Businesses like Affinity Car Leasing have been able to vastly improve their productivity thanks to the growing digital infrastructure provided by Superfast Broadband. Over 90% of business and residential premises already have access to fibre broadband and with investment from Worcestershire LEP, this figure will rise to 95% this year.
I am also pleased to inform you that a new European Regional Development Fund of £1.3m has been announced to promote resource efficiency, and a number of other European Structural and Investment Funds remain open. For further information on all of the latest EU funds announced, businesses will be able to attend ‘Pie and Pint’ workshops, the first of which is to be held in February. I would encourage any interested businesses to attend these workshops and further understand how your company can access European funding.
I look forward to meeting with many of you at upcoming events and working together to continue the county’s growth and success, making 2017 Worcestershire’s most successful year to date.