“Through the Looking Glass” – Episode 5: The South Wales Chamber of Commerce

Corporate Profiling

Welcome to our series of looking at the day to day impact the Coronavirus is having on a selection of businesses within the CCR through the different perspectives of both a newly appointed graduate and their respective managers.

Our next feature covers The South Wales Chamber of Commerce (SWCC) – an organisation dedicated to connecting key people and businesses to each other – locally, nationally and internationally. They are one of the many Companies in the CCR who are doing their very best to maintain business as usual in these unprecedented times.

We spoke to Jo Price, Director of International, and South Wales Chamber of Commerce about the challenges the Coronavirus “lockdown” has presented to the business;

“We had started preparing for lockdown well in advance of the 23rd of March as, from observing what was happening with our international connections, it was obvious it was only a matter of time before the UK followed suit. Our planning and preparation for moving to a virtual platform even involved us trial home working on a 2 in the office, 1 at home rota until we were all confidently able to access everything we needed to be able to work remotely effectively.”

Like many other organisations the South Wales Chambers of Commerce found that home working kit required a bit more than a laptop and some members of the team had to have printers and other hardware delivered to their homes.

Henry Hopkins, International Trade Executive and CCR graduate who started just 3 months prior to the Covid-19 lockdown told us;

“My role involves dealing with large and varied documentation on matters of trade but the company has been excellent in basically replicating the workplace environment in my own home with full desktop and printing capability. There was a large paper based dimension to my role pre Covid-19 but increasingly that is becoming more and more digitalised. I am having so many more electronic applications now as everyone adapts to the change in ways of working. It’s what the British Chambers of Commerce have been pushing for some time so in that respect it’s all good – and we get  the added bonus of saving more trees in the process too!”

When asked what impact Covid-19 had had on the type of activities undertaken by the SWCC Jo talked about the increase in interventions in national and international supply chain issues and the increasing demand for solving the production issues caused by broken supply chains.

“With demand for hand sanitisers going exponential there was a practical supply and demand issue with sourcing dispensers. We were able to step in and play a key role in facilitating the sourcing of UK based bottle suppliers. This is the type of thing we increasingly find ourselves doing and it enables us to add real value to our members in what is an extremely challenging trading environment.”

The SWCC has also found itself adapting from a face to face events based operational model to a model that is online and webinar based. This has involved a lot of preparation work in transitioning physical event based materials into online collateral but the team have embraced the challenge and the feedback the Relationship Management team have been getting from members is excellent so they are clearly hitting the mark.

Jo added; “we are finding the volume participation in our webinar activity is also increasing from a numbers perspective and geographic reach as the time commitment is obviously far less when there’s no travel implications. So as an engagement model the online resource approach is proving a win win.”

When asked about the impact of remote working on mental health and the efforts made by the SWCC to maintain team morale and engagement

Henry told us;

I was unemployed for a period after university so I have some experience of long periods indoors. In some respects also it’s not a great deal of change from that fallow period after studying that many people go through. The key difference is that now I have a job and an income and I am very grateful for that. I think I’ve been proactive in not letting it get to me, realising you can only do your small part and stick to the rules.  I keep myself busy, stick to a routine much the same as I would do in the office.”

“The whole team have been great in ensuring that everyone keeps the communication flow going. We are a close knit unit used to being able to chat to one another at any time so at first it was hard but now we are all getting used to Microsoft Teams meetings and telephone 121’s.”

Jo added

“the management team are totally committed to maintaining a high level of personal contact with our respective teams and across all teams. Communication has never been more essential and we are all doing the most we can to make everyone feel involved, informed and inspired. We are all really proud of how well the whole team has embraced the situation and risen to the challenges presented.”

Finally with regard career ambitions for the future and whether the current situation had changed any of his thinking Henry told us;

“I’m hoping to stay where I am in the future and continue to progress as I love the place I work and really enjoy what I do. I did my degree in French and Business Management and I would like to use both parts of the degree with maybe more international expansion. I’d love to one day work for the Civil Service, possibly in the Department of International Trade in London”.

On the Cardiff Capital Region Graduate Scheme Henry added;

“my experience to date has been totally positive and I would advocate the scheme to anyone looking for a graduate role within the CCR. As soon as the news broke about the virus I even had an email from Laura Carter to check in and check I was ok. Little things like that mean a lot!”  

If you are evaluating your capacity and need any further resource to manage at this time, the Cardiff Capital Region Graduate Scheme may be able to help. The Scheme can provide a free and streamlined recruitment service that can match your immediate resourcing needs to high-skilled graduate talent in the region.

If you are interested in finding out more please get in touch with either laura.carter@cardiff.gov.uk or Geraldine.OSullivan@cardiff.gov.uk.


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