Dozens of Oxfordshire’s business leaders gathered yesterday (1 November) as OxLEP held its 2022 annual event with a clear message – it’s determined to support an even greater number of the county’s business population.
Following what has been another demanding and testing 12 months for business in Oxfordshire, the event saw over 125 people from across the county’s business community attend the event at the Curzon cinema in Westgate Oxford.
At the conference, OxLEP underlined its commitment to business and highlighted some of its key achievements during the past financial year.
They emphasised how they had directly supported over 1,500 businesses, as well as ensuring that just under 1,300 businesses were triaged to further business support – including grants, one-to-one advice and business recovery plans.
OxLEP also added it had pivoted its own role promoting opportunities to young people by introducing a new virtual careers platform – ‘Find Your Future’.
The platform saw 70 local businesses being able to showcase their career opportunities to hundreds of young people, at a time when face-to-face discussions were limited.
OxLEP further added how it helped to ‘fly the flag’ for Oxfordshire internationally too, helping to secure 38 foreign direct investments for the county, in partnership with Department for International Trade, leading to 765 jobs being created or safeguarded.
With its many partners, OxLEP also reaffirmed how it has now secured over £1bn of investment for Oxfordshire to-date, not just benefiting individual companies and workforces, but many communities too.
Key capital programmes delivered over the past 12 months include the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ project – a programme supporting the temporary repurposing of existing business and retail space – the Green Construction Skills Centre at Abingdon and Witney College, the Activate Learning Hospitality Suite and the Life Sciences Lab Space project at the Wood Centre for Innovation.
Moving into 2023, and with businesses continuing to re-emerge and ‘pivot’ following the Covid-19 pandemic alongside the current economic and energy challenges, OxLEP reinforced the support it has to offer companies across all sectors and of all sizes.
Nigel Tipple – Chief Executive of OxLEP – said: “As we head into the latter stages of 2022 and beyond, it remains important for us to work with the Oxfordshire business community to continue to understand both the challenges and opportunities that businesses face.
“We need to ensure that our programmes give companies from across Oxfordshire the best opportunity to be productive and indeed, resilient given the continued challenges.
“We therefore continue to encourage as many businesses as possible to engage with us.”
Following a successful 2022 event that engaged more businesses than ever before, the OxLEP Skills team also launched the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards 2023 at Tuesday’s conference.
Fronted by award sponsors, the event’s business-led committee and previous Oxfordshire Apprentice of Year winners, the launch showcased the importance of apprenticeships to the Oxfordshire economy and wider labour market, as well as the opportunities that such schemes can bring to young people.
OxLEP Skills also highlighted its new £1.7m Social Contract programme and, in particular, the importance of Oxfordshire businesses either using or committing apprenticeship levy spend to maintain talent in the county.
The awards – which will be entering its seventh year – aims to raise the profile of higher, technical qualifications and celebrate the achievements of apprentices, employers, training providers and school career leaders.
Next year’s awards will take place on 18 May at WilliamsF1 Conference Centre with nomination entries closing on 17 February.
During the event, OxLEP continued to reinforce its online business support tool – a mechanism introduced by the organisation’s growth hub in response to the pandemic, which sees a bespoke business action plan created for companies looking for support.
Nigel Tipple added: “The business support tool was developed to give organisations of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to receive an action plan from OxLEP, helping them to reach business goals. It takes just a few moments to complete and we are determined to reach even more businesses.
“We would like them to make the most of this opportunity if they haven’t already, or spread the word if they have. Our support is easy to access, free of charge and could make a huge difference to a business.
“We are determined to reach out to even more businesses who are yet to benefit from our work.”