Chair of DBF & CEO of Comtek Network Systems

North Wales has ample human resources and particularly high concentrations of skills within sectors such as aerospace, advanced manufacturing and energy. The development of a workforce armed with skills essential to these sectors has taken many decades. However, we are now witnessing the beginning of a potentially catastrophic downturn in our economy and businesses throughout our region have begun severe cost cutting exercises - including issuing redundancies.

Many of our young people have not even had the chance to demonstrate the benefits of their education yet, and such opportunities in the employment world could be in short supply in the coming years. With these factors in mind, I, for one, am extremely concerned that we are on the verge of losing vast numbers of current and future skilled workers in North Wales.

It will be impossible to grow a successful and ambitious economy without high calibre local workers. High-tech international companies will remain unconvinced by the prospect of moving into a region void of a trustworthy reputation in human resources, even with the promise of generous grants. Such organisations continue to prefer to settle in expensive regions such as Thames Valley or Cambridgeshire, despite the high initial costs and lack of financial assistance from the government. It is clear then that the availability of a well-trained, skilled workforce is key in their decision to invest in an area.

During the 2008/9 recession, Germany introduced a subsidised, flexible short-time working model called "Kurzarbeit" (somewhat similar to our current flexible furlough scheme). The eventual result was that companies did not have to resort to mass redundancies, and hence their economy recovered much faster than any others in Europe. Many European countries have since recognised the long-term economic benefit of Germany's government-subsidised model and adopted similar schemes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

To remedy our economy for the long-term, the tried and tested German furlough model should be embraced and adopted by the UK Government for 12 months. I believe it would be short-sighted and highly damaging if the decision to end the flexible furlough scheme goes ahead in October as planned.

Secondly, and with regards to our young people, I suggest it would be prudent to encourage all employers to take on fully subsidised apprentices for 12 months. These apprentices should attend a relevant part-time college/university course leading to a recognised qualification alongside their apprenticeship. These are just two suggestions among many on how we can do more to retain our region's skilled workers, entice employer investment and develop the workforce of the future.

Investing now in the creation of high-calibre human capital in North Wales will quickly see us become an economically sustainable and prosperous region ready to bounce back post-Covid.