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Graduates Making Their Mark in CCR Businesses: South Wales Chamber of Commerce

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Henry Hopkins started working with the South Wales Chamber of Commerce as an international trade executive just three months before the coronavirus lockdown.

As a recent graduate, he didn’t find the transition to working from home too difficult.

“I was unemployed for a period after university so I have some experience of long periods indoors,” he said.

“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 hardest thing, he said, was adjusting to not being able to meet colleagues every day.

“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 1-2-1s,” he said.

Henry’s role at the South Wales Chamber of Commerce involves dealing with large and varied documentation on matters of trade, but he said the company had been excellent in replicating the workplace environment in his 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,” he said.

Henry, who graduated in French and Business Management, said he hopes to stay with the South Wales Chamber of Commerce because he enjoys the work and likes the place he works.

“I’d love to one day work for the Civil Service, possibly in the Department of International Trade in London,” he added.

His experience with the Cardiff Capital Region Graduate Scheme, through which he found his job, had been very positive, he said.

“ 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!” he added.

Like many other organisations, the South Wales Chamber 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.

Jo Price, Director of International at South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said:

“We had started preparing for lockdown well in advance of March 23 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 two in the office, one at home rota until we were all confidently able to access everything we needed to be able to work remotely effectively.

With demand for hand sanitisers surging overnight, the South Wales Chamber of Commerce found itself helping source 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,” Jo said.

She said the Chamber’s management team was committed to maintaining a high level of personal contact with its 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,” she added.