South Thames College are very proud to be Patron Members of Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce, and are extremely grateful for all of the on-going support they provide. Here we talk to Steve Pinto (CEO of the Chamber) to find out how the Chamber works with the College, and support the local business community.
Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and the work of the Chamber of Commerce.
I have been involved in various roles with the Chamber for 16 years, acting as CEO for the last 5 years, and have worked passionately to develop it into a modern and inclusive organisation that plays a very active role locally, with a variety of businesses, from SMEs to multi-nationals.
Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce is an independent local organisation that works to provide partnership opportunities for businesses in the borough of Wandsworth that encourage partnership working both within the network and with key local stakeholders, and looks to provide the chance for these organisations to become part of the supply chain for major developments, such as the regeneration of the Battersea Power Station site.
There are over 200 active business members within the Chamber, and approximately an additional 1000 firms who regularly engage with members on a range of different activities. We normally organise over 60 networking events each year, and regularly engage with local organisations through our website, quarterly magazine, and weekly email newsletters.
Can you tell us how the Chamber works with South Thames College?
The Chamber enjoys a really strong partnership with the College. We regularly co-host events at the College’s Wandsworth site, and staff from the Employability Team play a very active role within the network of local businesses.
As this partnership has developed over the past 2 years, a number of Chamber member businesses have hosted College learners for Work Placements, and worked on a number of very successful projects, such as the Fashion Show 2019 with Wandsworth Oasis, which resulted in winning the Innovation of The Year award at the Wandsworth Business Awards last year.
What do you see as the key employability skills that local Chamber members look for from young people entering the world of work for the first time?
The way in which people do business is changing rapidly. More and more Chamber members tell me they are looking for staff who are flexible, adaptable, and can be relied upon. The ability to add value through bringing digital skills such as social media management will become even more important in the immediate future. In addition to this, employers are still looking for people who can demonstrate honesty and respect for others.
Please can you give us an overview of how the Chamber is supporting local businesses during the current Coronavirus pandemic.
The Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the business community in Wandsworth, especially as the majority of firms are in the SME category. Prior to the outbreak of the disease, Wandsworth was flourishing economically.
Over the past few months I have introduced a number of activities to support the local business community, including a weekly business online update with the Council’s main economic leaders, regular newsletters highlighting relevant financial support & guidance being provided by central government, and virtual insight sessions on topics such as managing staff contracts, and taxation. We are also running a weekly online open call for Chamber members to have an informal chat and relaxation at the end of what can be challenging weeks.
If local businesses are interested in finding out more about joining the Chamber, what should they do?