Amid the political turmoil of the last few weeks, which hopefully will now start to calm down, there has been a tendency to assume that all the economic background is equally dreadful. But conversations with Ashford businesses suggest that one of the various economic problems discussed on the national stage is a particular problem for them.
That problem is a shortage of workers. At a couple of business events recently I have been struck by the consistency of the message. Firms are finding it difficulty to recruit suitable workers, and it makes little difference whether they are trying to fill specialist or lower-skill posts.
You may reasonably think that for workers and job seekers this is not at all bad news. Individuals will have a range of jobs to pick from, and wages will stay up. Unemployment in Ashford is low, and on this basis will remain so.
The problem though is that a shortage of workers can reduce the prospects of long-term growth, and lower growth affects us all. So it is important that we try to keep the flow of new workers in balance with the demands of business.
One area I am personally very keen on is encouraging older workers to stay in the jobs market. This is partly because they are often good employees, and make businesses more profitable, but mainly because there is strong evidence that working longer gives you a happier and healthier old age.
Many older workers drifted away during the pandemic and have not come back. For their sake, many of them should consider re-engaging with the world of work.
The other change needed is better training for young workers. With that in mind I am delighted to see work starting on Phase 2 of Ashford College. This will serve 250 extra students, with an emphasis on engineering. The students will know that there are jobs waiting for them at the end of their course.