COMPANIES need to invest in skills and do more to exploit export markets if the recovery is to take hold.

That was the message from Dorset representatives at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference.

A delegation from Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) – whose 700 members employ nearly 37,000 people – were at the event in London.

The Dorset group consisted of the DCCI, residential property company Saxe Coburg, aircraft maintenance tooling manufacturer Field International, economic development and regeneration consultancy Pidela Consulting, AFC Bournemouth, real estate provider Savills and marketing and public relations agency Deep South Media.

DCCI chief executive Ian Girling said: “The main feeling in the conference was that the economy is most definitely on the up, with low inflation and rock-bottom interest rates enabling members to plan ahead and invest.There are, however, caveats.

“It was clear that companies need to upskill staff, explore exports in high-growth markets across the world, do more to create apprenticeship places and forge strong links between schools and business for employability reasons. Focusing on exports, we may have a great ‘Made in Britain’ brand globally but the UK’s share of global exports fell from 4.4 per cent in 2000 to just 2.6 per cent in 2012; the government’s target is £1trillion by 2020.

“The DCCI will support any Dorset companies who want to consider exports. Figures show that 120,000 businesses nationally could export sustainably.”

He said delegates overwhelmingly agreed that the UK had the right young talent to build the economy.

“As business legend Theo Paphitis told the conference, we are looking for passion, drive, ambition and confidence in a new employee – we can teach them everything else,” he said.

Speakers included Karren Brady, vice chairman of West Ham FC and the government’s small business ambassador; education secretary Michael Gove; shadow chancellor Ed Balls; former business secretary Lord Mandelson; Ken Clarke MP, minister without portfolio; and former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders, now Chief Market Strategist, UK and Europe, JP Morgan Asset Management.