Small businesses had a lot to shout about today when Labour’s shadow secretary for small business came to Gloucester.
Training up new skilled workers is a big must for Excel Precision Engineering, a highly specialised small business in Quedgeley, which prepares parts for the space, aviation, oil, gas and medical industries.
Toby Perkins MP, joined by Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, Sophy Gardner, toured the business at the Olympus Business Park.
He met with Adam Masters, a 20-year-old trainee, who said: “I started here in January and I’m earning money whilst learning new skills on the job. It is really exciting to be a part of this industry.”
His boss Tony Sitek, manager director of the firm, said: “There are not enough skilled workers out there. They have got to have the basics in numbers and computer skills.
“We want to bring 14 and 15-year-olds into the workshop and show them that engineering is not like being down in the pit, it isn’t messy – it in fact holds great opportunities for them to work all over the world with hi-tech equipment.”
Other small businesses in the city met at City Works, in Alfred Street, to tell Mr Perkins over lunch what they need more help with.
John Down, a board member for Co-operative Futures, an organisation which supports community-led companies and co-operatives, said: “Businesses need to have someone who they can call on for support.
“You can have the best idea for a business but you need someone to challenge and encourage the thought process to make it a reality.”
Pottery class leader Patrick Esson, who runs classes to help vulnerable people, has lost some of his long-term clients because of cuts in social care funding at Gloucestershire County Council – but he still has high hopes of working with other small businesses to one day create a new gallery space in a warehouse, in which creative industries can show off the work they are doing.
Mr Esson said: “I have been doing this for 20 years but the last three years have been difficult. I have lost some clients who have been coming to me for 10 or 15 years and that is hard because when people come here you really see them come out of their shell.
“We keep on pushing for our ambitions of opening a gallery one day. We are quite positive that the only way is up but it would be nice to see more support for this.”
Mr Perkins set out key policies which Labour would introduce to help small businesses. They include:
- Linking up small businesses with resources available to them and supporting the creation of regional banks.
- More consistent support for business start ups from area to area, with the creation of new bureaus in major cities and towns.
- Clampdown on late payments by big business to small firms.
- Further support for business rates to encourage occupation of empty units in city centres such as Gloucester.