HAMPSHIRE Chamber of Commerce has relocated its Fareham head office with a move designed to champion and strengthen links between the worlds of business and education.

After nine years based at Wates House on Wallington Hill, the chamber has moved two miles west to take up office space on Fareham College’s Bishopsfield Road campus.

And the business membership organisation will become the ‘anchor tenant’ when the College opens a new business centre there in spring 2022.

Ross McNally, Hampshire Chamber’s chief executive and executive chairman, said: “Our move to Fareham College will help us continue to improve member services while strengthening our strategic links with the education sector.

“Time and again SMEs and other employers speak of the constant challenges they have of addressing skills gaps in their businesses.

“That’s true whether they are in advanced manufacturing, engineering, hospitality, retail, the creative industries or any other sector.

“It is only through effective engagement between education providers and businesses that these skills gaps can be tackled.

“Becoming the anchor tenant at the new business centre puts us right at the heart of the facilities and solutions that will be involved in solving the skills issues facing Hampshire businesses.”

The chamber’s new location will house a core team of nine working on international trade, membership and events services, and provide flexible working space for four more staff.   Fareham College is partnering with nine fellow colleges to launch the new business centre having secured funding from the Department for Education’s Strategic Development Fund.

The others are Isle of Wight College, Eastleigh College, HSDC, Brockenhurst College, Southampton City College, City of Portsmouth College, Itchen College, Barton Peveril College and the Lighthouse Learning Trust.

The aim is to create the Solent’s first business centre specifically designed to improve employers’ access to future skills training including technical education.

Beverley Poole, Fareham College’s director of business centres, said: “We have a successful and long-standing partnership with Hampshire Chamber already.

“In welcoming the Chamber onto our campus and the new College business centre when it opens, we can strengthen our joint working for mutual benefit.

“From the college point of view, we can build even stronger links with the business community while the Chamber can take advantage of a new and exciting space to run its activities including the management of its events, membership, trade support and general enquiry services.”

The new business centre is one of 14 projects around the UK being taken forward under the government’s Skills Accelerator programme.

Its key focus, set out in the Skills for Jobs white paper, is to ‘research skills, education, training and job needs in marine technology, net zero and digital futures’.

Employer groups such as chambers of commerce are specifically named in the white paper as strategic partners to help fill local skills gaps.   

Each of the business centre projects across the UK is expected to enable incubating, fledgling, SME and bigger companies to develop.

At Fareham College, Hampshire Chamber will be able to develop membership offers, training and education as part of the Skills Accelerator collaboration.

Future initiatives are likely to include business skills clinics, Young Chamber projects and awards, and efforts to bring more girls into technical education.

Hampshire Chamber’s office move was facilitated with input from Portsmouth-based social enterprise the Recycled Assets Company.