On the day of the Capital Cardiff exhibition at City Hall, managing director of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, DAVID RUSS, explains why Wales needs to invest in the talented entrepreneurs of the future.
“The fact that youth entrepreneurship remains the one surviving element of the Welsh Government’s scrapped Entrepreneurship Action Plan says a lot about its importance.
“Over the past 10 years, Wales has made some significant achievements in developing youth entrepreneurship, but the downturn has also hit youth the hardest. In some areas of Wales nearly half of young people are unemployed, while during the last five years Wales’s youth unemployment has increased by 50 per cent and is higher than the UK average.
“This poses a significant challenge that we need to overcome quickly as young entrepreneurs are central to kick-starting growth and in many ways are the lifeblood of the economy. We should be investing in and developing the talent of our youth now, equipping them with the right skills and giving them the platform to fulfil their potential as business leaders of the future.
“Today’s Capital Cardiff conference, a free event hosted by the South Wales Chamber of Commerce and Cardiff Council to help budding entrepreneurs and expanding businesses, aims to do exactly that.
“The event will offer insight from expert key-note speakers, seminars and exhibitions, as well as the chance to network, all with the aim of inspiring our entrepreneurs. Furthermore, it will also give fledgling businesses the chance to secure investment and funding opportunities.
“Capital Cardiff is not the only thing we’re doing right in Wales though. Initiatives here like the Dynamo programme, the Graduates into Business programme and the Big Ideas Wales campaign have made giant strides towards instilling an entrepreneurial spirit in people from an early age.
“But now is the time to build on this and provide a fresh impetus into what we are already doing by taking it a step further. This means developing a new Entrepreneurship Action Plan that is fit for purpose in today’s world.
“As chair of the Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group, a joint private and public sector initiative, I am passionate about youth entrepreneurship. But that’s no good unless our youth themselves are instilled with the same enthusiasm, and this will not happen unless we invest in the talent of the future today.
“The Dynamo programme played an important part in underlining the importance of role models for young entrepreneurs. Under a new Entrepreneurship Action Plan, this would be supplemented by the appointment of an entrepreneurial champion, whose role it would be to provide the link between the private sector and the Welsh Government and be a figurehead for current and future business leaders.
“We should also be investing in the training and educational needs of young people to make sure we are delivering a skilled and employment-ready workforce to meet the future needs of industry.
“This means continuity from an early age, with a linked programme running from primary to secondary education, and from secondary to higher education – all designed to build confidence in young people so they are thinking entrepreneurially and are enthusiastic about starting a business.
“Young entrepreneurs also need more than just virtual support for starting a business. They need physical business centres that signpost somewhere where they can go to for support and advice – much like those that exist in Dubai – as currently there isn’t any place obvious for them to turn. This is something we are championing at the Chamber under the One Gateway Proposal; a physical one-stop shop location for budding entrepreneurs in Wales to gravitate towards to find that type of expertise.
“One such physical location which would provide a significant boost to the Welsh economy is the Green Investment Bank. The decision to name the location for its headquarters is set to be announced shortly, with Cardiff one of the cities in the running.
“The new bank would see a guaranteed initial £3billion investment from the Treasury and provide a huge boost to entrepreneurs with aspirations for establishing ‘green’ businesses.
“With Cardiff’s already strong central business district set to become a financial services enterprise zone, the Green Investment Bank would be the flagship development the zone is looking for, helping create 10,000 new jobs. Furthermore, as the nearest capital city to London, and with transport links set to approve further with the electrification of the Paddington to Cardiff rail line, Cardiff is a strong contender to get the nod.
“Wherever it is located, the bank is exactly the type of joint private and public sector investment initiative that we need to help bolster our economy.
“Although on a different scale, Capital Cardiff adopts the same principles; the public and private sector working together to support businesses and young entrepreneurs. Through this type of joined-up approach, we can build on the infrastructure we already have in place to nurture our budding young entrepreneurs – those that will truly help drive economic growth for years to come.”