The Chamber hosts two Area Councils, one in Worcestershire and one in Herefordshire. Each Area Council consists of 15 specialists, from different sectors, who meet six times a year to provide feedback from their respective professions. The feedback is then used to inform our economic reports and shape the policy activity we deliver to Member businesses.
To find out more about your sector representative, or to get in touch to ensure your views are heard, click here.
Below is a summary of key sector updates from the latest Herefordshire Area Council meeting.
Hugely linked to hospitality. As the UK has unlocked it has been very busy in terms of packaging. Difficult to get packaging in time. Pent up demand. Some hospitality is still not open e.g. festivals, but it’s getting there. People are adapting, predict a surge but then a slowdown. Challenging side is that agriculture is reliant on seasonal staff. Packaging side, challenge in finding good, reliable staff. Import/export, getting hold of parts, bottles, caps is all a challenge. Market is slowly calming down and getting back to normal. Focused on Christmas now, mulled wine and cider. Sector extremely busy but nowhere near pre-Covid.
Difficult 15 months due to markets. Aerospace and automotive have been down, aerospace still is. Automotive stopped in March 2020 but also supply motor sports which has helped them. Started to recover. Semiconductor shortage and shipping have had an effect, affecting JLR and other carmakers. Biggest issue has been Brexit. Bring a lot from European warehouses which has been a nightmare. Freight forwarders unprepared, costs high, delays doubled or trebled. Tried to get new freight forwarder. Couple of deliveries damaged in transit which hasn’t happened before. Lead times are easing a bit but nowhere near where it needs to be, causing issues with customers.
Lot of lateral flow tests. Apprenticeships are where they’d expect to be, but completions have been delayed. Lower number of new starts in apprenticeships and don’t want to have to reduce capacity. Submitted bid to DfE for Strategic Development Fund. White paper released which has been superseded by Parliament bill. The aim is to change government relationship with colleges so they are better placed to help employers. Number of pilots across the country, working with local colleges to get right skills for business with a focus on healthcare.
Biggest priority is student recruitment, 100 due to start in September. Received ESF funding to help support people into entrepreneurship. Working on Kickstart Scheme. Through Covid working with staff on staff retention, absence levels have reduced and flexible working being considered.
Engineering much the same as manufacturing. Strong demand, materials going up 30% is not unusual. 400% increase has been seen. Shortage of materials, 3 months lead times for some so must shop around. Difficult maintaining prices and delivery, upsetting customers. Recruitment using Kickstart and apprenticeships. Investment in machinery but 12-week delivery going up to 22 weeks for CNC.
Legal sector very strong, over last 12 months better than ever. Crisis leads to more work. Busy areas: Brexit advice, housing and home working policies including cyber security. Family work at a record high, lot of divorces. Moving back to the office on a hybrid basis.
Spike in home improvement demand continues. Expansion plans being made. Pricing and availability an issue. Key focus is on people and health and wellbeing. People tired and stressed due to last year.
Really busy supplying to healthcare. Healthcare stayed strong, other sectors bit slower to return. Supply of materials difficult, for example, sheet metal is expensive. Trying to cut costs where possible. Shipping costs high, customers unhappy because deliveries are late due to not enough drivers. Positive but have challenges. Record year last year, similar or better this year. Looking for larger premises soon.
Marketing & Media
Digital sector doing well overall. Things have shifted as lockdown has eased with businesses spending more on marketing and reinvesting in their online presence. Businesses feeling more confident to diversify although some are a bit cautious when investing due to remaining uncertainty. If there is another lockdown, marketing spend would be cut back first. Customers in the public sector have funded projects available, for example, encouraging people back to high streets.
Science and Medical
Market conditions very buoyant, good level of opportunity and demand. Capacity utilisation is good in all business streams. Global capacity shortage for some work, long lead times. Business plans remain unchanged. Some staff have been WFH but are now coming back more regularly, continue to hybrid work where possible. Increased staff turnover because of a buoyant market and people reflecting during the pandemic. More wanting to retire. Recruitment positive with strong candidates except for specialised roles which is always a challenge. Supply side – PPE, reagents, analytical equipment a struggle. Import/export a struggle, lot slower and more expensive. No certainty on dates going forward. Biggest fallout is from Brexit.
Transport & Logistics
Really difficult situation as lockdown has eased. Demand has outstretched supply for the last 10 weeks. Hotspots in the South West with a lot of hospitality businesses. Shortage of drivers has worsened, especially from Eastern Europe. Current staff are looking to take more holiday. Exports a challenge but exports to Ireland have settled down. Other exports are flowing but with doubled transit time, extra costs, and uncertainty. Imports are challenging too. Long delay on vehicles because of a shortage of components e.g. chips, trailer now has 35-week lead time.