New figures from government data and the ONS show the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The data shows that out of a total 200,645 businesses in the UK, 140,050 of them are SEMs.

The hospitality industry has the highest proportion of SMEs out of any industry, something especially relevant to Cumbria and the Lake District, where there are many Michelin Star restaurants and popular hotels.

Suzanne Caldwell, managing director at Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “SMEs are a key element of the UK economy, not just in terms of their sheer numbers and the wealth of products and services they provide, but in also in the vibrancy, innovation and determination not to be beaten that they bring.

“That’s particularly so here in Cumbria, where 99.7 per cent of our businesses are SMEs – that’s businesses with not more than 250 employees.

"Indeed 98.3 per cent have less than 50 employees so are classified as small or micro.

“Here in Cumbria they’re a vital element  across the range of sectors.

“For example, while in manufacturing it may be the big names that spring to mind, there’s a host of SMEs too.

“Recent research by us in the county shows that the majority of businesses are able and willing to pay for the right training, although 25 per cent cited cost as an issue.

“And there’s a range of free and subsidised training and development available to them, whether through colleges and other training providers or through business support providers.

“That said there are concerns moving forward as some funding streams become more limited and as employers are forced to reduce budgets for things like training because of spiralling energy and other costs.

“Taking the time to really review training needs and plan that training is really helpful in making the most of any training budget, including drawing on what’s available for free, and looking at routes like apprenticeships (which are not just for young people and new employees).  

"It can also help to share training with other businesses.

“So Cumbria Business Growth Hub is about to start piloting a Workforce Development Service to help SMEs do just that.

“The bigger issue though is the availability of staff to train as most sectors continue to struggle to recruit and retain staff.

“If you can’t find the staff, you can’t train them!”