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‘The way we work and live today is changing’ – that’s pretty much been the opening gambit of the majority of blogs, comment pieces and insights over the last three months. In fairness, it’s not wrong. I too alluded to it in a piece for The Argus, where I wrote that prior to the lockdown, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that only 30% of UK employees have ever worked from home. This figure will have now seen a sharp rise with all but essential workers either working from home or on furlough.

Whilst there has been government support for many of these businesses and individuals, the truth is that as restrictions are relaxed and people begin to return to work, we will slowly start to see the impact all this has had. 

With news that the UK public debt has exceeded 100% of GDP for the first time since 1963, there are plenty of markers that Europe, and probably the world, is about to head into a recession the like of which not seen since the 1940s. 

So it’s with tough times ahead that we welcome the comments from Economy Minister Ken Skates and his announcement that some of the £40m from the Economic Resilience Fund (ERF) would be used to help over 16’s into work, self-employment, education or training.  

Mr Skates said: “We will make sure everyone over 16 in Wales gets the offer of support and advice to find work, to pursue self-employment or to find a place in education or training.

“Over and above existing skills and employment support, we are preparing to use an additional £40m from our Economic Resilience Fund to deliver this commitment.”


We can make the difference

We’ve already seen how the ERF can help businesses, with our own Hackathon event last year leading to a £100,000 investment in an ICE member-created company SWAPP. However, now it will need to be utilised differently.

Along with ourselves, there are four other Welsh Government Enterprise Hubs in Wales spread across the regions. These hubs could and should be a huge focus for how we support people that find themselves between jobs or searching for a new opportunity. 

Naturally, as the leader of Welsh ICE, I am biased, but in truth, we have cause to be. Our model works!

In 2018 an independent study found that since starting in 2012 ICE members have generated a £53m net benefit to the Welsh Economy. In a nutshell, for every £1 that was invested in ICE businesses, those businesses went on to create a £22 benefit to the Welsh economy, through jobs created, taxes paid etc.

The community at ICE is incredible. 74% of businesses at ICE have traded with each other and 77% of new businesses survive past their first three years – compared to the UK average of 61%.  

As the hard work of the Hubs continues, if similar results are achieved across all the regions, you can begin to see a way forward for local economies, which will impact on the wider Welsh one.


An experience like no other

It’s also not just about creating and growing businesses. Many people who start up as freelancers in ICE will simply go on to full-time employment, which is fantastic. The experience and connections individuals can make through working for themselves can honestly topple many internships, work experience and training programmes out there. 

When you then factor that this is done under the umbrella of the support provided by Hubs like ICE, there are further reasons to be optimistic about how we can help fulfil the ministers pledge.

So if you are looking to start a business, are already up and running or just want to learn about the opportunities for support that are available, get in touch with us. From our membership packages to our 5-9 startup support to our workshops and training seminars – we are here, and we can help.

Give us a call on 02920 140 040 or email us at [email protected]