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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber Welcomes Final Cole Commission Report

Chris HobsonA new degree-level qualification in exporting should be introduced to help British businesses unlock their full potential in the global marketplace, according to an independent report published today.

The final report from the Cole Commission calls for political leadership from the Prime Minister down to drive a “revolution in export culture”.

It recommends that the Government works with higher education providers and leading exporters to develop a qualification – at either undergraduate or postgraduate level – which equips young people with the skills and experience they need to take “British products and services into new markets and complete deals”.

The qualification would include skills in language, culture, geo-politics, marketing and export finance and would be backed by a range of UK exporters offering work placements, both at home and abroad.

The report also recommends reforming UK Export Finance (UKEF) and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to ensure they “work as one to champion UK exports”, by co-locating both organisations and uniting them under a shared set of key performance indicators aimed at boosting exports. Under the reforms, UKTI would be tasked with targeting and working more closely with major UK exporters while UKEF would place emphasis on simplifying its processes, speeding up its response times and adding more competitive key products needed by exporters.

Other measures in the report include the introduction of Cabinet-level leadership to drive exports with an “implementation committee” delivering the plans, the creation of a one-stop-shop to coordinate and simplify export support for SMEs, and the introduction of a public procurement strategy which encourages bidders to bring UK SMEs into their supply chain, ready for exporting.

Chris Hobson, Head of Information and Representation at East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “As a country, our trade deficit – the continuing imbalance between the value of the goods and services that we import against those that we export – remains a substantial dampener on our ability to achieve sustainable growth.

“The Cole Commission is right to call for a radical shake-up that places international trade at the very heart of Government activity. These are the results of an industry-led review, its findings are what business is saying needs to be done.

“There are huge opportunities in the global marketplace for local firms working in all areas, from small-scale production through to high-end services. It’s crucial that businesses thinking of starting to export or those looking to grow their international activities can access the support and finance they need to achieve their ambitions.

“In particular, the creation of a dedicated degree-level qualification specifically tailored to exports will not only complement the work the Chamber already does in delivering accredited export training, but will also fulfil its key lobbying priority aimed at fixing the link between education and the world of work.

“It’s also good to see the report acknowledge the role that Chambers of Commerce have in helping the Government to achieve its export ambitions. As it states, no other business network has the same local and international footprint, infrastructure, or the entrepreneurial flexibility needed to help small and medium-sized companies meet their export and trade ambitions.

“There is a target to achieve £1tn worth of exports by 2020. The Government must reaffirm its commitment to reaching that goal, working with Chambers of Commerce and others to ensure the country can achieve sustainable growth in a global marketplace”

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