Welcome from WCC leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe

Hello and welcome to the February edition of Warwickshire Still Means Business.

It has been an incredibly tough year for everybody in the business world but, with a roadmap for leaving lockdown now in place and the vaccination programme in full flow, I think we can all start to look forward again with cautious optimism.

We are not out of the woods yet, of course, and all still need to be totally vigilant regarding the restrictions to deal with COVID, but there are many encouraging signs.

I am so proud of the strength, resolve and unity that the people and the business community of Warwickshire have shown during the pandemic. Those attributes can only leave us better placed to grow the county's economy again. This edition of Warwickshire Means Business highlights many of the very positive developments already this year. I can’t think that anywhere else in the UK has such a level of activity and investment in future technologies in the first two months of 2021. That there are so many significant investments in the county, like the Megalab which will bring 2,000 jobs to Leamington and the Gigafactory which will have the potential to bring 4,000 jobs to Coventry Airport, is a very positive endorsement of our local economy.

That said, we know that a lot of work remains ahead as we seek to bounce back from the pandemic. Small businesses have been particularly hard hit which is why we are pouring so much effort and funding into supporting them. We had an overwhelming response to the first round of our Adapt & Diversify business support grants which we opened for applications at 9.30am on 15 February 2021. We closed the application window at 6pm the same day after receiving 144 applications, totalling £1.8m. We are working hard to process all the applications received to help Warwickshire businesses adapt and diversify their service offer to support recovery and future growth.

More information on the Adapt & Diversify grants, along with our other business support grants, can be found here. In the coming weeks we will announce details of a £140million Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund, subject to approval of the council's business plan following the election, which will further underline our commitment to supporting local business.

That commitment is ongoing, as is clear from this edition of Warwickshire Means Business. You can read about our new Warwickshire Apprenticeship Progression programme which I am delighted to say has started very strongly. It is heartwarming to read how our Future Careers funding enabled Harris School to deliver a full careers programme to their students even in lockdown.

We have supported Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust with another £500,000 to support small businesses. Campbell Marsh are looking ahead with renewed confidence following support from our Survive, Sustain & Grow programme while Nuneaton and Bedworth town centre have been given a boost by our Town Centres Tech Challenge fund,

Thank you for reading this edition of Warwickshire Still Means Business. Hits on last month's edition were exceptionally high so it so great to know that this information is appreciated and getting out there widely. We just want everyone in the county's business world to know about all the support that is out there for them...so please do spread the word and invite people you know to sign up for WMB.


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Thousands of new jobs to be created as Warwickshire looks ahead to a tech-led sustainable future

“The news that there are so many significant investments in the county and surrounding region are very positive endorsements of our local economy. It’s hard to imagine that anywhere else in the UK has seen this level of activity and investment in future technologies, in the first two months of 2021."

Warwickshire County Council’s Leader and Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, has spoken of areas of growth that have blossomed in Warwickshire despite the economic downturn felt across the world as a consequence of the Covid pandemic with thousands of new jobs being created in and around the county across a range of sectors.

Warwickshire has had a high amount of positive activity and investment in the early stages of the year as Warwickshire, with large numbers of new jobs being created across the entire county.

Pointing out the numbers of new jobs in the automotive and future mobility, manufacturing and high-tech development sectors, as well as Warwickshire continuing to cement a growing reputation as a hub of the gaming industry, Cllr Seccombe has highlighted growing reason for optimism.

This is rooted not only in the numbers of jobs created but also their sustainability, with much of the development that is happening in Warwickshire being around green technologies.

Cllr Seccombe said: “The news that there are so many significant investments in the county and surrounding region are very positive endorsements of our local economy. It’s hard to imagine that anywhere else in the UK has seen this level of activity and investment in future technologies, in the first two months of 2021.

“This has not come about by coincidence. For years, the county council and our local partners have been working to create the best possible infrastructure and talent for the local economy to flourish. We have worked to make sites and premises available and accessible to businesses. We have forged strong links between companies and the local universities to establish a talent pipeline.

“We have invested heavily in high tech, low carbon industries locally and have fully supported the move in the automotive industry towards electric vehicles.

“We have talked about bouncing back stronger after the pandemic. Clearly there is a huge amount of work that remains to be done and we know that many small businesses have been hit particularly hard. The county has been helping them throughout with access to grants, digital training, encouraging local custom, business support specialists and a host of other activities. We will be announcing details of our plans for a £140m Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund in the coming weeks which vividly shows our commitment to supporting local business.

“But for now, the news coming out of the high-tech sector is very encouraging. We will continue to work hard, with all our partners, to build on this and cement Warwickshire’s growing reputation as the place to do high tech, low carbon business. That has given us a very strong foundation on which to launch the county’s economic recovery.”

Further £500,000 from WCC will power more support for small businesses

The funding secured through the CWRT has been a lifeline to our business."

Warwickshire County Council continues to lead the way with its support for small businesses through the pandemic after approving the loan of a further £500,000 to Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT).

The new funding will support CWRT's extension of the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The £500,000 follows an initial £1million loaned by the Council to CWRT last May to support the CBILS in Warwickshire. That was followed by support from four other local authorities and the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership. In November, the Council entered into a second loan agreement with CWRT for £1 million of CWLEP funding.

As a result, under the CBILS scheme so far, £2.7 million has been lent by CWRT to 25 businesses in Warwickshire, safeguarding 248 jobs with over 150 new jobs expected to be created.

Significant demand remains for the CBIL scheme and the further £500,000 loan from the Council will allow CWRT to support a further seven businesses in Warwickshire, safeguarding another 70 jobs.

CBILS loans are there to support otherwise viable small businesses who have been unable to secure sufficient (or any) finance from their bank or other mainstream lenders. The CRWT has long supported small businesses and individuals looking to start up, but the pressures caused by the pandemic caused a surged in demand from businesses having cash flow problems.

Demand would have far exceeded available lending capacity without additional financial backing, so Warwickshire County Council continues to take proactive and decisive action to support small businesses and safeguard jobs.

Among the businesses to have benefited from the CBILS funding is Stratford upon Avon-based Shakespuss & Co Ltd.

Melissa Mailer-Yates, owner of Shakespuss & Co Ltd, explains: “The pandemic has had a major impact on our book sales as many outlets were forced to close. In addition, we were on the verge of launching our concepts to broadcasters, film makers and other content providers, however, we have experienced significant delays in rolling this out due to a variety of issues caused by COVID.

“The funding secured through the CWRT has been a lifeline to our business. It has enabled us to meet our cash flow obligations, continue with our concept development and retain staff, not only internal staff, but we utilise the services of many freelance, local consultants and this funding has helped to safeguard their future too.”

Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said: “Small businesses and the employment opportunities they offer locally are the lifeblood of our economy and we will do everything we can to support them through the pandemic.

"The loans provided by the CWRT will help small businesses stay solvent and enable them to remain part of the foundation for our economic recovery in the months and years ahead. We are very pleased to support the CRWT with further working capital so that it can provide financial assistance to as many businesses as possible.”

"This latest funding follows other significant WCC financial support measures for the local economy during the pandemic, including the Small Capital Grants scheme, Adapt & Diversify Grants scheme and our Survive, Sustain and Grow programme."

Sheridan Sulskis, Executive Director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust, said: “Warwickshire County Council, together with CWRT, has responded to the needs of small business owners in the local area quickly which has had a direct, positive impact for companies in the area.

“Many businesses are facing a bleak future through no fault of their own, but by making this funding available, our collaborative interventions during these unprecedented times, have facilitated the survival of local businesses, protected local jobs and created new employment opportunities within Warwickshire.

“Together we are helping to create an environment for individuals and businesses to better position themselves to generate opportunities and withstand the impact of economic shocks by becoming more economically resilient.”

Louise Bennett, Chief Executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The support for businesses throughout the crisis has been crucial to their survival and we are delighted to see further money being made available in this way.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel for businesses because of the roll out of the vaccine but it’s still vitally important that the support continues to ensure as many viable businesses as possible can come through the crisis.”

Further details of the CBIL scheme are available at www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme. Or at www.cwrt.uk.com/cbils

Inclusive Apprenticeships scheme opens up untapped source of skills

"The Inclusive Apprenticeships scheme is a win-win. At a time when businesses in a number of sectors are affected by serious skills shortages, this is a great opportunity for them to recruit young people with the potential and passion to learn." 

Employers are being urged to take advantage of a talent pool largely untapped by getting involved with a groundbreaking new scheme from Warwickshire County Council. 

The county council has added another strand to its ongoing support for people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities with the introduction of the Inclusive Apprenticeship programme.

The programme, which is specifically designed to offer flexibility in the access of the Apprenticeship, means training and qualification opportunities for young people with SEND become much broader and unlock new employment and career paths which may not have been accessible before.

The pilot scheme will initially support cohorts of young people into customer service apprenticeship roles as soon as June, but employers are asked now to consider how a talented person with SEND could enhance their business. 

The County Council is working with MENCAP and DFN Project Search - a transition-to-work programme, committed to transforming the lives of young people with learning and disabilities and autism.  

MENCAP has a dedicated employer engagement team to assist employers with any queries they may have around taking on talented young people with SEND. The programme also offers a dedicated job coach to work alongside each apprentice, supporting them to establish in their role until they are confident to work independently.  

The Inclusive Apprenticeships scheme adds to the work already ongoing locally to support young people with SEND. In 2019, the Supportive Employer forum was created by Warwickshire County Council and the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC) to providing internships and work experience with businesses for learners at Warwickshire’s special schools and colleges. 

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council and portfolio holder for economic development, said: "The Inclusive Apprenticeships scheme is a win-win. At a time when businesses in a number of sectors are affected by serious skills shortages, this is a great opportunity for them to recruit young people with the potential and passion to learn. 

"For the apprentices, this scheme will open the door to careers which enables them to fulfil their potential and contribute greatly to businesses as much-valued employees. I would encourage all employers to think about how a talented young person with SEND could benefit their business." 

For businesses wanting to explore Inclusive Apprenticeships, the Warwickshire Skills Hub and Education team is hosting a virtual event on Wednesday 3rd March from 12 noon to 1pm. During the event, business leaders will hear how Inclusive Apprenticeships could benefit their business and how to get involved.

Places can be booked via the eventbrite link or by contacting the Warwickshire Skills Hub Team on skillshub@warwickshire.gov.uk to discuss further.

Future Careers grant "invaluable" as school delivers full progamme in lockdown

"The grant was absolutely invaluable...it meant we could deliver everything we wanted to deliver for students and parents and we also have a lot of things ahead in the pipeline."

A secondary school in Rugby has adapted to deliver its entire careers programme successfully online through the pandemic with the support of a grant from Warwickshire County Council.

Harris Church of England Academy, in Rugby, was one of 32 schools across the county which took up a Future Careers grant from the council's Warwickshire Skills Hub.

Secondary schools have faced significant challenges caused by the pandemic, and lockdowns in particular, in terms of equipping students with careers information and advice they need at such a vital time in their education.

However, supported by the £2,000 grant, and with enthusiastic backing from a broad range of local businesses, Harris CofE Academy has continued to engage fully with students and parents.

Andrea O'Brien, Careers Advisor at Harris CofE Academy, said: "It was a lot harder with all the restrictions, so the grant was absolutely invaluable. It meant we could deliver everything we wanted to deliver for students and parents and we also have a lot of things ahead in the pipeline.

"We used the grant in two ways. Part of it went towards funding my work for an extra two and a half hours a week. That really took the pressure off and enabled me to arrange things that I would have struggled to fit in alongside my other duties.

"The biggest thing was the mock interviews which we always do on site, but this year, of course, we had to go virtual first time. That took some organising but we had brilliant support from businesses - about 20 employers, both locally and some nationally, volunteered to support us.

"Some were from or existing contacts, some came from a shout out from the Careers Hub and some from our alumni and social media. We had a great range, from small, independent businesses to big businesses in all sorts of sectors, and the University of Warwick, which was brilliant.

 "We interviewed 119 Year 11 students over two days and it was fantastic. Without the grant, it would have been pretty much impossible to arrange. Those extra hours made all the difference.

"The other part of the funding went on SchoolCloud, a software system which we used to hold a series of five parents' evenings, one for each year group, online. They were really successful in allowing us to talk to parents individually and we couldn't have done that without the grant."

Emma Neale, Schools and careers co-ordinator at Warwickshire Skills Hub, said: "The Harris CoE Academy has a really positive and proactive approach to careers strategy and I am delighted that the Future Careers grant has proved so beneficial to them. It is wonderful to hear about the great support they have received from local employers.

"This has been such a difficult time for careers leaders but, across the county, our schools have risen to the challenge and we will continue to do all we can to support them."

* For more information on Future Careers and all the other support available to schools and colleges from Warwickshire Skills Hub, please visit https://skillshub.warwickshire.gov.uk/

£1,000 incentive for employers to invest in apprenticeships

“A strong economy needs a skilled workforce so I am delighted the Warwickshire Apprenticeship Progression programme is now available to SMEs wanting to upskill their staff. We hope as many micro businesses and SMEs as possible will apply."

Warwickshire County Council is offering Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) a £1,000 incentive, plus fully funded apprenticeship training to help businesses reshape their workforce to meet the demands presented by Covid-19.

The County Council’s Apprenticeship Progression programme has been designed to support Warwickshire businesses to progress apprentices onto a second qualification, one that must support both the needs of the business and the employee in their progression.

As a result of the pandemic, SMEs in particular, have reported they need to significantly develop and adapt the skills of their staff to cope with changing operational needs, and also to respond to emerging opportunities for future growth. They have had to introduce new products and processes; adopt new digital technologies and find new strategies to meet customer demand and pivot to new business models. As a result, current staff do not always have the skills needed.

The new Warwickshire Apprenticeship Progression programme - delivered via the Warwickshire Skills Hub and the Coventry and Warwickshire Apprenticeship Provider Network - gives micro businesses and SMEs the support they need to find the right apprenticeships to upskill their workforce.

Through the programme, businesses can progress apprentices by building upon a previous qualification ensuring the skill sets within their business continues to be relevant in a post-pandemic world. The programme offers a £1000 incentive per apprentice – maximum five apprentices per business.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council and portfolio holder for economic development, said: “A strong economy needs a skilled workforce so I am delighted the Warwickshire Apprenticeship Progression programme is now available to SMEs wanting to upskill their staff. We hope as many micro businesses and SMEs as possible will apply.

"This project is part of a broader range of financial support to assist Warwickshire businesses adapt to the rapidly changing economic climate. The proposed Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund is a package of support aimed at revitalising and repurposing Warwickshire’s economy over the next five years.”

This initiative sits alongside other schemes designed to boost Apprenticeships and work placements for young people such as the Government’s national Kickstart Scheme which provides funding to employers to create new job placements for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. For more information about Kickstart please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme

For further information or to discuss making an apprenticeship application, please contact the Warwickshire Skills Hub Team at skillshub@warwickshire.gov.uk 

CeraCon's offer captured perfectly on film by Digital Market Place scheme

"The filming was not disruptive to the business at all and the two films they made for are excellent."

A small engineering firm in Leamington Spa has captured its offer to talented potential recruits perfectly on film thanks to Warwickshire County Council's Future Careers Digital Market Place project.

CeraCon UK, based in Berrington Road, is looking to grow post-pandemic after a management buy-out at the foam sealing company safeguarded the future of its 20 staff.

Like all businesses, large and small, CeraCon is keen to attract the best possible young people into its workforce. So they engaged with the Future Careers project, through Warwickshire Skills Hub, and the result is two polished videos which showcase the firm's current and future employment and career pathways.

The four-hour slot produced two short films – one aimed at young people, particularly those still at schools or due to finish this year, and one aimed at those seeking employment or a career change.

For a small business, the films are a huge and much-appreciated boost in profile, said CeraCon's business administrator Megan Handler

"We were really pleased with the whole process," said Megan. "The finished product is brilliant. Niki and Josh who came and did the filming were so nice and so professional. Josh is clearly a very talented film-maker. The filming was not disruptive to the business at all and the two films they made for are excellent.

"One of them featured our apprentice, Jordan. We only have one apprentice at the moment, because we are a small business, but Jordan brings so much to the business. Because we are small, he is involved in a wide range of roles, and we are so lucky to have him.

"It is great to have these really well-made films of what we do and what we can offer young people. The films are on our website but, most importantly, they are also shared in education and careers settings. As a student you don't know about everything that is going on and all the options ahead for you, so this is a great way for us to get or name out there and raise our profile."

The Warwickshire Skills team are still on the lookout for more businesses, especially in the retail, IT and finance sectors, to get involved. If you are interested or would like to find out more, please contact nikitatakhar@warwickshire.gov.uk

To keep right up to date with what the Skills team offers, please follow them on Twitter or connect with us at LinkedIn.

* For more details of the Future Careers Digital Market Place programme, or if you would like your business to join the programme, please visit here.

21in21 mentoring programme will nurture aspiring businesswomen

"Although some progress has been made, in the business world, just like elsewhere, women still encounter obstacles and challenges unique to them. It is important that we all share our knowledge and experience where it can help, even if it is sometimes as simple as assuring somebody, 'You can do this.'"

Aspiring businesswomen will benefit from the experience and expertise of 21 female leaders as part of a new programme from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber has opened applications for its 21in21 Women in Business Mentoring Programme that will pair successful female business leaders with women who can tap into their knowledge to help them move up the career ladder, grow their own business or more generally provide support with professional development.

The new initiative, which will begin in March, builds on the Chamber’s successful Women in Business network which has provided networking opportunities and inspirational role models for businesswomen across the region over many years.

Mentors have been selected from a range of sectors and backgrounds from across the region – including manufacturing and logistics through to hospitality and professional services.

They will provide their mentees with one-to-one support including advice, guidance and inspiration to help drive forward with their ambitions either within an existing business or with their own venture.

Among the mentors is Warwickshire County Council's Strategy and Commissioning Manager (Economy & Skills) Alison Robinson, who joined the council last year after 20 years in a range of roles in the Energy industry.

"I am delighted to be involved with this excellent programme," said Alison. "I very much look forward to working with the mentees and offering whatever help and support I can.

"Although progress has been made, in the business world, just like elsewhere, women still encounter obstacles and challenges unique to them. It is important that we all share our knowledge and experience where it can help, even if it is sometimes as simple as assuring somebody, 'You can do this.'"

The initiative, which will launch on International Women’s Day on March 8, will also host additional events and workshops and will culminate in a celebration in March 2022. The new programme is being sponsored by the West Midland Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (WM RFCA).

Applications are now open and Keely Hancox, Operations Manager of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Programme Lead for 21in21, said it is an incredible opportunity of aspiring businesswomen.

She said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be moving forward with our Women in Business network into a new kind of initiative that will make a massive difference to those who take part.

“Our 21in21 Women in Business Mentoring Programme has drawn some truly incredible women who will give their time as mentors to help guide and inspire others – whether they are looking to move into management, advance their own career or grow their own business.

“One of the key messages that we’ve heard time and time and again through our network over the past few years is how a lack of confidence or lack of role models can hold women back in their careers.

“We are, therefore, delighted to be able to support 21 women with this amazing opportunity to learn from some very experienced and knowledgeable leaders from across the region.”

Siamha Butt, Head of Engagement at the West Midland Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, said: “21in21 is a fantastic initiative to share experience and develop the skills of mentees, whilst enhancing the potential of the future stars in our region. The WM RFCA is looking forward to engaging with business leaders and working with both the Mentors and Mentees.”

Full details and a link to an online application form for the programme can be found at https://cw-chamber.co.uk/membership/21in21/

Call to businesses to donate old laptops and tablets

As part of Coventry and Warwickshire’s Wellbeing for Life campaign, Warwickshire County Council is putting out a call to businesses asking for donations of old laptops or tablets which can be repurposed and delivered to vulnerable residents across Warwickshire. 

The internet is being used increasingly across all areas of life and yet there is a growing digital divide, leaving many households and individuals unable to access education services and support.   

The offering of digital equipment and support will: 

  • contribute towards reducing social isolation, for example, those with mental health needs who require access to therapy 
  • increase accessibility to education platforms for the many children and families without access to a device or connectivity at home 
  • lower the risk of COVID-19 by offering other ways to interact aside from face-to-face. 

To be donated, equipment must be in working order and able to run Windows 10. In order to repurpose the equipment for use in the home, Coventry & Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency will be supporting the initiative by installing a new hard drive and basic operating system. Onward support will also be offered to help residents get used to their new devices and access services online.

For more information about the initiative or details on how to donate the equipment, please contact Alistair Rigby at alistairrigby@warwickshire.gov.uk  

Refocused IT will drive Campbell Marsh forward after SSG support

“The investment is helping us to replace work that disappeared, grow into new areas and take on additional staff.”

A Leamington-based public relations agency is looking ahead to the post-COVID landscape with a slicker and more focused IT operation, and is looking to recruit, following support from Warwickshire County Council's Survive, Sustain & Grow programme.

Since 2001, Campbell Marsh has created brands, designed websites and produced Google-friendly web content and videos to showcase organisations and social media campaigns. Its clients have included PLCs, SMEs, start-ups, government agencies, local authorities and not-for-profit organisations.

In early March 2020, communications director Natasha Marsh, was sitting in a hotel alongside St Pancras International Station in London, agreeing a contract to provide marketing services for a leading cyber security event in Europe. Within weeks, that event and others the team was working on were either postponed or cancelled as national governments introduced stringent lockdown measures.

Campbell Marsh joined the shift to working from home and, faced with the need to adapt quickly, began to support clients with the rapid adoption of digital technology to keep in touch and instil some normality in the new normal.

The firm then benefited from a Survive, Sustain and Grow grant to strengthen its IT connectivity and deliver seamless client communication, online conferencing and a new website.

“The most profound change of the Covid-19 months has been the way that businesses and local communities have grasped new technology to replace old fashioned ways of communicating," said Natasha. "For us to compete more effectively, we had to beef up our IT infrastructure.

"We got involved with the Survive, Sustain and Grow scheme which had the added bonus of coming with a specialist business adviser. Listening to a different voice helped us refocus, harness our core strengths, and move forward to take advantage of opportunities in a post-Covid-19 world, with more robust IT connectivity and improved capacity, all of which is thanks to SSG.

“The investment is helping us to replace work that disappeared, grow into new areas and take on additional staff.”

SSG advisor Anita Dinnes explained: “The pandemic has dramatically changed the way businesses work and interact with each other. I found engaging with Campbell Marsh Communications to be very rewarding and am delighted that the SSG intervention has enabled them to upgrade their IT infrastructure so they are now able to compete more effectively.”

Jagdish Soor, WCC Lead Consultant said: “The combination of focused business support and subsequent grant award has allowed Campbell Marsh to make an investment that has enabled them to diversify and continue trading through the pandemic. This has resulted in the safeguarding of its existing but are now seeking to take on additional staff.”

Online presence advice scheme extended to businesses in more sectors

“The feedback from our previous digital skills programmes has been incredible with so many businesses developing the way they market themselves online, which has helped them to not only survive but, in many cases, thrive."

More Warwickshire businesses are set to get help with improving their online presence after a successful scheme was extended and is now being offered to more sectors.

The advice and training is offered as part of a package of support from Warwickshire County Council to support economic recovery within the county. This includes the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme and Adapt and Diversify Grants as well as the business start-up programme.

Independent businesses in retail, hospitality and tourism can benefit from the new programme of workshops and one-to-one support delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the County Council through the Warwickshire Towns Network programme.

The Chamber is working with Stories Marketing to deliver the programme which includes a taster session, two three-hour workshops and one-to-one help. Previous programmes run in 2020 were aimed at independent retailers but, such was their success, they have been extended to incorporate hospitality and tourism which has been so badly hit during the Coronavirus crisis.

The taster session will give businesses an overview of what to expect, top tips and practical advice followed by the first workshop that will focus on the power of social media marketing to help businesses create an online community and connect with customers. The second workshop will focus on how to utilise online tools to blend with a ‘bricks and mortar’ business and drive customer footfall when they are able to reopen. The first taster session was held on February 23 with further workshops to follow throughout 2021.

Warwickshire County Council leader, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, stressed the importance of continuing to safely support local businesses across the county during the extended lockdown and then into 2021 as life can return to some sense of normal.  

“We are continuing to see real success stories through the pandemic lockdown," she said. "These successes have been attributed to the increase in digital skills and innovation from Warwickshire businesses. In this climate of uncertainty, it’s wonderful to see small retailers and high street businesses embracing social media, changing the way they interact with customers and gaining new customers as they do so. 

“Clearly as we emerge from the pandemic, we will be looking at our town centres and making sure that they provide safe, interesting, social and unique experiences for locals and visitors.  But until then, and indeed after, it’s vital that our businesses embrace the possibilities that digital marketing offers to reach new markets and respond to consumers’ rapidly changing habits. 

“We’re delighted to support with this. I would urge retailers to sign up for the workshops, to help improve their business resilience, as well as their town and trading environment.” 

Keely Hancox, operations manager of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are delighted to be working with Warwickshire Towns Network and Stories Marketing to deliver a new phase of digital skills support for businesses. And that we are now able to extend that support to hospitality and tourism, sectors that have been one of the worst affected by the crisis.

“It includes businesses based in rural areas, such as farm shops or tourist attractions. This is very much about supporting businesses to develop their online presence but also driving footfall when they can open up again.

“The feedback from our previous digital skills programmes has been incredible with so many businesses developing the way they market themselves online, which has helped them to not only survive but, in many cases, thrive.

“So, we are very much looking forward to helping more businesses tap into the expertise and knowledge of Stories Marketing to help them now and also be in a much stronger place as the economy starts to reopen.”

To book your place on the digital taster session or a workshop go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/digital-town-centres-27905402961
More information on business support from Warwickshire County Council is available here: https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/information-coronavirus/coronavirus-wcc-economic-recovery-programmes/1

Year-long Transport Innovation Showcase will celebrate the region's offer

Coventry City Council and its strategic partners are inviting regional transport innovators to take part in a year-long programme of activities designed to showcase the latest developments in transport and technology the city and region has to offer.

Coventry City Council has partnered with Coventry City of Culture Trust, Culture Coventry, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Coventry University, Moto Fest, Transport for West Midlands, Warwickshire County Council and WMG at the University of Warwick to invite local organisations to take part in the programme which is being called the Transport Innovation Showcase.

The showcase will feature a wide range of activities throughout its run from targeted demonstrations of technology at key locations across our city and region to digital presentations that will be available worldwide. At the heart of the programme will be a dynamic and interactive exhibition that depicts the future of transport innovation and technology in the region.

The programme of activities, which will run from the middle of 2021 to the middle of 2022, will be an opportunity for the region’s transport innovators to take advantage of the increased attention that UK City of Culture 2021 and 2022 Commonwealth Games will bring to the region and to introduce their products to a global audience.

The showcase will enhance Coventry and Warwickshire’s increasing reputation as the heart of the UK’s green transport sector and will show how many of the city’s renowned manufacturers are shaping the sector’s future. In the spirit of shaping the sector’s future, the Council and its partners will be working with the businesses involved in the programme to develop opportunities for children and young people within the region.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration and CWLEP Board Member, said: “Here in Coventry and Warwickshire we have long been at the heart of the UK’s transport industry and currently we’re leading the charge in the green transport industry too, with pioneering projects such as Coventry Very Light Rail being built here.

“With our year as City of Culture in 2021 and the Commonwealth Games in 2022 bringing more attention to our region, it’s only right that we use the opportunity to show the tremendous talent we have here. We know many of our local businesses and manufacturers are at the cutting edge of their fields but it’s time to make sure the rest of the world knows too.

“We also want to inspire the next generation of school children and young people to believe that they could have an exciting future in this growing sector so we will focus on schools too.

“We are leading the green industrial revolution here in Coventry and Warwickshire so, I encourage any local business to get in touch with us so we can help promote the fantastic work you’re doing. We ask any local companies who are interested in this opportunity to contact us and we will discuss how best to feature your products and businesses in the showcase."

For further details, please email Helene.Toogood@Coventry.gov.uk

Tech Challenge supports town centre businesses in North Warwickshire

"We have a wealth of creative digital know-how and expertise in our region, which we can harness to support of our brilliant independent businesses. I’m delighted to see projects like Maybe* Loyalty Rewards carving the way forward.”

A project helping to revive town centres in Nuneaton and Bedworth has been given a boost by Warwickshire County Council’s £80k Town Centres Tech Challenge fund - part of the Council’s rapid response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Tech Challenge fund, launched by the County Council in November 2020, is supporting three digital initiatives (two in south Warwickshire, one in North Warwickshire) which boost support for town centre businesses.

The initiative is part of a broader range of financial support for business to stimulate economic recovery.

The project in the North of the county to receive funding is Maybe* - a social media management platform which uses town guides to promote local towns and their businesses.

Maybe* has created virtual High Street Guides for both Nuneaton and Bedworth. It showcases live content from local businesses. The Nuneaton and Bedworth Town Guides make it super simple to support local businesses.

For businesses that need help to increase their digital activity, Maybe* provides a huge resource bank of tools and training to support them. For those that are already good at social media, Maybe* helps them to improve their results.

Maybe* Loyalty Rewards, allows shoppers in Nuneaton and Bedworth to build loyalty points for purchases based on their credit, or debit card transactions in participating stores. Once, non-essential businesses have reopened, they will also allow businesses to connect with shoppers when they are nearby. Every purchase by a registered shopper in participating businesses reveals other nearby businesses. It does not require any apps to be downloaded and is completely free for shoppers to access.

Jonathan White, Manager of Nuneaton and Bedworth Town Centres says: “We are delighted to have been awarded funding from the Warwickshire County Council Tech Challenge to enable us to deliver the Maybe* Social Media Management Platform, Maybe* Town Guides and Maybe* Local Rewards to the Borough of Nuneaton and Bedworth to help with recovery, following the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council and portfolio holder for economic development, said: “Businesses in our town centres were already facing difficulties before the pandemic, but now those difficulties have dramatically increased. We need creative solutions to help invigorate our town centres when it’s safe for people to return, and to encourage online support during lockdown and beyond. The good news is, we have a wealth of creative digital know-how and expertise in our region, which we can harness to support of our brilliant independent businesses. I’m delighted to see projects like Maybe* Loyalty Rewards carving the way forward.”

The Town Centres Tech Challenge fund was set-up after a business survey undertaken by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) identified the need for digital products which help support and promote town centres, engage existing and new customers and improve consumer confidence in returning following the end of the current national lockdown.

Assistance is also being given to South Warwickshire businesses to enhance their social media presence. The projects supported in the south of the county are LYT (Local Young Talent) and Myndy (My Independent).


Major strides already in 2021 for Transforming Nuneaton

The Transforming Nuneaton programme has hit 2021 running with major strides forward already this year.

Warwickshire County Council and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council are working together on Transforming Nuneaton, a programme which will deliver the transformation of the town centre by implementing mixed-use regeneration to boost economic growth.

Already this year, significant advances have been made. January saw the formal submission of a planning application to regenerate the Abbey Street development sit, which includes living accommodation, foodhall, leisure facilities, cinema and car parking. This was followed by exciting news which saw leading global hospitality company, Hilton, commit to opening a 145-room hotel on the complex with construction expected to start late summer.

Meanwhile, in a move set to spark conversations with potential developers and key stakeholders, a masterplan for the Vicarage Street development site in Nuneaton has been unveiled. This plan details exciting possibilities for a comprehensive redevelopment, and sets out a range of innovative, potential new uses for the site which will help create jobs and boost economic development within the town.

In addition to the above, renovation of the former coop Art Deco building in Queens Road is progressing well with repairs to the exterior and interior refurbishment work commencing on the upper floors. This work will create brand new character office/workspace to accommodate new businesses in the town centre.

There is also an ongoing programme of work entitled ‘Transforming Bedworth’ which is looking into the potential for drawing greater inward investment to Bedworth town centre.

Further reading:

Abbey Street Planning Application

Vicarage Street Masterplan

Co-op Transformation

Special Feature

Accelerate and the forgotten jobseekers of COVID-19

The Accelerate project, funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, supported by Warwickshire County Council, is a partnership of local organisations run by Coventry and Warwickshire CDA who are a not-for-profit organisation providing a range of enterprise, employability and financial inclusion services.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the need for support and help amongst the unemployed of Coventry and Warwickshire has grown and changed. Coventry and Warwickshire CDA's Opportunity Connector Kate Henderson outlines their evolving mission to support 'the forgotten jobseekers of COVID-19' - and how you can help.


Before the pandemic, Accelerate was working face to face mainly with job seekers who were looking to move back into employment, however in the last 12 months we have seen a difference in the needs of our participants.

Our participants are coming to us with more mental health problems, more stress, worry and fear for the future. We are providing confidence and motivational support as well as encouraging resilience in these unusual times.

Historically, Accelerate has focused on the ‘personal touch’ by meeting most of our participants face to face and building a connection with them which has always been really successful. We have had to readdress how to keep that connection using telephone contact and Zoom calls.

Many people are considering their future and are looking for opportunities to learn new skills. Accelerate has updated its offer and added new online courses and activities. We have a suite of iHASCO courses that have certificates valid for three years which we can support participants with e.g. COSHH, Food Safety & Hygiene, Manual Handling and have sourced various online certificated ‘taster’ courses that our participants can use to decide if they would like to pursue a career in more areas e.g. Customer Service, Pet grooming, Photography, Digital Skills, Hairdressing and Fitness Instructor training.

In addition, we are training people to use the Internet, send emails, apply for jobs and research other support for themselves.

For more information on what we offer, please go to our website www.accelerate.org.uk

This brings us to the biggest obstacle we have encountered so far - lack of technology for our participants.

We can offer as many courses and as much support as required (and we do!) but without the means to access all this, our participants are at a serious disadvantage. Many people have either no laptop, computer or tablet, or have one they have to share with family and don’t get to use it much if at all. Libraries and Job Centres have traditionally been the places to access free computer usage but

COVID-19 means they are offering limited services leaving thousands of people with absolutely no way of getting online.

We can still offer support by phone but without the internet access our participants need, they can’t complete courses that would help them find work, apply for jobs online, practice remote interviews, interact with our mental health support in group settings or access online coffee mornings, all of which help to combat loneliness – the list is endless. Lack of access to technology is effectively excluding the poorest and neediest of all.

To help combat this technology gap, Coventry and Warwickshire CDA are starting to run a recycled computer project, where the computers donated will be refurbished and given to those from communities encountering health issues, deprivation, loneliness or who are struggling to access the job market.

If you have a laptop or tablet that you could donate to be recycled for this project, please contact Mandy Bygrave on m.bygrave@cwcda.co.uk

No longer are we in a time when you could knock on the door of a factory and ask for work, circle the job ads in the local paper, or send a handwritten CV in the post. In the modern digital age with such a huge focus on remote access and inclusion for all, don’t we all have some responsibility to make sure the people that need us the most don’t become the forgotten jobseekers of COVID-19?

* Accelerate offers free employment support and is a Building Better Opportunities project funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, managed by Coventry and Warwickshire CDA and delivered in conjunction with a partnership of local organisations. For more information, please visit www.accelerate.org.uk/

Guest column

Careers strategy delivered in full thanks to brilliant collective effort

Everyone's lives have been affected by the pandemic and, in these strange times and the midst of the another lockdown, a generation of students still faces decisions which will shape their lives. With most students kept at home, Careers Leaders in schools and colleges have had to be creative and harness support where they can.

This has led to some real success stories. Andrea O'Brien, Careers Advisor at Harris Church of England Academy, in Rugby, explains how brilliant support from the business community has featured in a heartwarming collective effort which ensured that students have all the information they need to choose the right way forward.


With the growing emphasis on careers education in schools and colleges, more than ever it is an important part of the curriculum.

With that in minds, it has never been as important for educational establishments and employers to work together to ensure that we continue to deliver a high level careers service to our students during these unprecedented times.

With the ongoing pandemic, some of the Gatsby Benchmarks (the eight established benchmarks of Good Career Guidance) may seem almost impossible to achieve...but there is always a way!

As the Careers Advisor at Harris Church of England Academy in Rugby, I can honestly say that when we went into another national lockdown in January, my heart sank. I initially thought, how on earth could our students fully benefit from good careers education after missing out on so much last academic year?!

However as adults, it is our role to support and motivate our students. Therefore, we had to remain positive, be resilient and patient and adapt to the ever-changing and uncertain situation by being proactive. This time round, we were certainly more prepared to deal with lockdown and make a positive impact.

We had no choice but to go back to virtual learning, but with wonderful support from a range of sources listed below, including an invaluable Future Careers grant from Warwickshire County Council, we have engaged fully with students and parents.

Here are a few examples of what we have done at Harris:

*  Virtual Mock Interviews – we had a fantastic response from employers and 29 volunteers supported us over a two-day period to interview 119 year 11 students via a variety of virtual platforms. The volunteers were from numerous companies and educational establishments such as Barclays, GE, DWP, Siemens, University of Warwick and Severn Trent Water.

*  Virtual Presentations – some of these were through Speakers for Schools where they have many professional speakers talking about their career journey to inspire and motivate young people. We also put a shout out to our network base to see if anyone could do pre-recorded videos for our year 11 students to advise them on next steps and post 16 options. Year 11 were lucky enough to have numerous virtual assemblies. This was with the support of local sixth forms, colleges and businesses.

*  One-to-One Careers Meetings – each Year 10 student must have a careers meeting by the end of the academic year and these have continued via Google Meet with students whilst they are in the comfort of their own home. This has also been the case for some year 11 students who also need support with the transition from school to further education.

And there’s more! More activities are on the agenda for National Careers Week. We are already planning virtual fairs, competitions, live Q&A sessions with local educational establishments, motivational quote of the day and we are getting ready for the possibility of virtual work experience placements in the summer term.

All of this helps us to not only work towards achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks, but also to give our students the careers advice, support and guidance they need to help them make well informed decisions for their future study and careers.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the continuous support of our wonderful network base including;

* Local and national employers

* Local sixth forms, The Warwickshire College Group, Coventry University and the University of Warwick.

* Our Alumni of ex students and parents

* The Coventry & Warwickshire Careers Hub who are working closely with us in all areas.

* The Warwickshire Skills Hub for the grant which has helped towards technology and staff resources.

* Harris staff – who have ensured that careers education is still communicated within the curriculum and have continued to support their students

* Parents by encouraging their children to participate whilst at home

* And of course, the students themselves for staying motivated and pushing themselves to participate in events, even when some are after school!

These are challenging times, but our experience from the last year is proof that with supportive networks, hard work and determination, the careers provisions can continue to thrive. Personally, I can’t wait to see people face to face again and attend those busy careers fairs, but who knows, perhaps some of the virtual aspects will remain in the future. Only time will tell!


Events - whats on

2021.02.25 CW First - First Talk: Q&A with Ian Harrabin MBE, Managing Director, Complex Development Projects 4pm-5pm Online
2021.02.25 Stay Connected: Rail Business 2021 10am-11am Online
2021.02.26 Mental health webinar for workplaces, employers and other establishments Recording Online
2021.03.02 Export Innovation: Accessing the Region’s R&D Resources 10am-11.30am Online
2021.03.03 Coventry & Warwickshire Virtual Career Show
(Hosted by the CW Careers Hub)
1pm-7pm Online
2021.03.03 Cyber Aware with NCSC
by National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)
11am-12pm Online
2021.03.04 WMCA Thrive at Work Team: webinar on suicide prevention 10am-11.30am Online
2021.03.04 Raising Finance for SMEs Webinar with Business Ready 9.30am-11am Online
2021.03.05 Digital Manufacturing 101 4 SMEs
by The Precision Manufacturing Centre at The Institute for Advanced Manufactur...
10am-4pm Online
2021.03.09 Electricity Networks and Charging 10am-11.30am Online
2021.03.09 Health, well-being and sustainable communities 11am-12pm Online
2021.03.09 Low Carbon Agriculture Show 2021 9-10 March All Day Online
2021.03.11 Rugby Business Buzz - 10am-12pm 10am-12pm Online
2021.03.11 The Future of Innovation in Coventry & Warwickshire 9.30-10.30 Online
2021.03.15 West Midlands: Taking action on employment and skills with The Prince's Responsble Business Network 2pm-4pm Online
2021.03.16 MANUFACTURING SUMMIT 2021 with The MTC - 16th-17th March All Day Online
2021.03.17 DIT: Customs Data, Procedures, Check and Financial Audits 1pm-4pm Online
2021.03.18 Warwick Business Buzz - 10am-12pm 10am-12pm Online
2021.03.25 FREE Cash Flow Forecasting Virtual Workshop
by Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust
10am-1pm Online
2021.05.25 Leadership Awards - West Midlands 12:00 - 3:00pm Botanical Gardens
2021.05.26 FPC2021 - Future Powertrain Conference 2021 8.30am-6pm National Motorcycle Museum
2021,05.26 Invest Midlands tbc Online
2021.06.16 Rail Live 2021 - 16th-17th June All Day QRTC
2021.07.07 Vehicle Electrification Expo 2021 - 7th - 8th July - LIVE EVENT All Day NEC
2021.10.26 Battery Technology Show - Oct 26th-27th 2021 All Day Ricoh Arena
2021.11.01 COP26 12 days Various
2022.01.13 Autosport 3 Days NEC

News in Brief

Latest News-in-Brief from around Warwickshire...

UK companies report strongest employment intentions since onset of pandemic

UK employers are reporting their strongest employment intentions in a year, the latest CIPD/Adecco Labour Market Outlook shows. The survey’s net employment intentions figure, which measures the difference between the proportion of employers expecting to add jobs and those planning to cut positions, rose to +11 this quarter - its highest in a year. This compares to –1 in the previous quarter. https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/210221companies-report-strongest-employment-intentions#gref

Jaguar Land Rover makes major strategic announcement

An all electric Jaguar range and hydrogen propulsion technologies for Land Rover were among changes announced by JLR CEO Thierry Bolloré this month as he outlined the new ‘Reimagine’ Strategy. The company has committed to all of its core global R&D and manufacturing sites, including Gaydon, to where the senior team will relocate to going forwards, although 2,000 jobs will be shed worldwide. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56072019

Takeover creates Midlands games development tech Unicorn

Southam-based video games developer Codemasters has been taken over California studio Electronic Arts, valuing the business at £1.2bn. It follows a bidding war between rival US studios EA and Take-Two Interactive Software. The pandemic has seen strong growth among games developers, as more people turn to video games for entertainment during the global lockdown. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/ea-completes-1-2-billion-takeover-of-leamington-spas-codemasters/

Coventry ‘Gigafactory’ details revealed

Warwickshire County Council and its partners at West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Coventry & Warwickshire LEP and Warwick District Council have endorsed a joint venture between the Coventry City Council and the Coventry Airport Ltd to bring forward a new Gigafactory on the site of the airport. The plans could create a facility of up to 4.5m sqft representing a £2bn investment and 4000 new jobs. The UK government has set aside £500m to invest in a gigafactory, which the Coventry project will be bidding for “in due course”. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/technology-news/coventry-gigafactory-plans-revealed

20 years and 12 product lines milestone at BMW Hams Hall

Congratulations to BMW Hams Hall, Warwickshire and Coventry’s largest manufacturing facility. The company is celebrating 20 years at their Coleshill site, where they have produced five million engines and 12 different product lines. The company marked the occasion with its latest apprenticeship drive, announced during National Apprenticeship Week. https://www.press.bmwgroup.com/united-kingdom/article/detail/T0325634EN_GB/bmw-group-uk-engine-plant-marks-20-year-milestone

Israeli company sets up at Nuneaton tech park

REE Automotive UK (REE), a leader in e-Mobility, has announced the establishment of a new £66m state-of-the-art Engineering Centre of Excellence. The new Engineering Centre will expedite REE’s strategic plans to meet anticipated global demand for its breakthrough REEcorner and Electric Vehicle (EV) platform technology. REE will have access to world-class test facilities and a proving ground for physical testing and validation of the REEcorner and EV platform at the MIRA Technology Park, on the outskirts of Nuneaton, and has promised to create 200 new jobs. https://ree.auto/press-release/ree-automotive-opens-new-engineering-center-of-excellence/

Warwickshire green mobility business to create clean transport eco-system

Warwickshire firm Ox (Global Vehicle Solutions) has secured £1.2m of funding to develop technologies to electrify its light truck and create a sustainable clean transport eco-system, aimed at the developing world. OX will work on projects with local auto tech firms Penso Consulting and Potenza CNH. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/warwickshire-clean-transport-start-up-secures-1-2-million-funding/

Under-25s hit worst as unemployment rises again

The unemployment rate has risen to its highest level in almost five years, with younger workers bearing the brunt of the job losses, official figures show. The UK's jobless rate rose to 5.1% in the three months to December, with the number of people on company payrolls down 726,000 on pre-pandemic levels. Almost three-fifths of these were younger than 25 years. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56165929

Electric urban airport lands in Coventry

Urban Air Port has partnered with Hyundai Motor Group, and Coventry City Council to launch the world’s first site – Air One – in Coventry to demonstrate the potential of urban air mobility for the UK and worldwide. The programme is funded by £125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and is expected to be matched by up to £175 million from industry. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/world-first-electric-urban-air-port-in-coventry-secures-government-backing/

Royal Mail takes 840,000sqft for automated distribution facility near Rugby

Royal Mail has confirmed that it is building a second parcel hub Prologis’ DIRFT III scheme on the outskirts of Rugby. Once built, the planned 840,000 sq ft Midlands parcel hub will become Royal Mail’s largest parcel hub. The building will have the capacity to process over 1m parcels per day. It is scheduled to be fully operational in 2023. https://www.logisticsmanager.com/49608-2/

Warwickshire law firm celebrates 175 years with offer to fund local student

A chance for a disadvantaged young person to have their undergraduate law degree’s tuition fees fully funded is among various initiatives that have been unveiled to celebrate the anniversary of one of the Midlands’ leading law firms. Wright Hassall – which is based on Olympus Avenue in Leamington Spa - turns 175 years old this year, and to mark this major milestone, the law firm has launched a series of competitions and challenges centred on the number 175. https://www.wrighthassall.co.uk/knowledge-base/free-law-degree-tuition-on-offer-from-midlands-law-firm

New event to promote investment opportunities in the Midlands

Hot on the heels of the inaugural Midlands Forum for Growth last year, a new online conference and exhibition is to take place on 26 May known as Invest Midlands, which will focus on driving sustainable economic growth and delivering transformational place-making in the wake of the COVID pandemic. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2048958-major-new-event-to-set-the-agenda-for-what-comes-next-in-the-midlands-2-2

CWLEP announces new chair

An entrepreneur and digital transformation expert will take over as the new chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) in April to help lead the area’s recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. Sarah Windrum is the founder and a director of the Leamington-based technology company The Emerald Group. She joined the CWLEP as a board director in 2016 and is the chair of its Digital and Creative Business Group. She will succeed Nick Abell as chair when his term of office comes to an end in April. https://www.cwlep.com/news/cwlep-announces-new-chair-0

People Profile

Alice hits the ground running as Employment & Skills Project Officer

"This is such an exciting role for me because I can really use my experience to help Warwickshire businesses"

Alice Edwards has a passion for helping people and loves getting her teeth into new projects - two attributes ideally suited to her role in Warwickshire County Council's Economy & Skills team.

As Employment & Skills Project Officer, Alice is deeply involved in a number of programmes.

Alice has plenty on her plate, with multiple projects to oversee such as the Coventry and Warwickshire Redundancy Service and Warwickshire’s Apprenticeship offer to businesses. From the moment she landed in her new team there has been loads to do - but that’s just how she likes it.

Although new to the E&S team, Alice is not new to the council, having moved across from the Health, Safety & Wellbeing team where she was Senior Wellbeing Officer. That means she arrived in her new role armed with considerable sector knowledge and experience from within the council where she has long impressed with her ability to think quickly, generate ideas and put them into practice.

Given first sight of a new project, Alice's eagerness to get involved and make a difference shines out.

"This is such an exciting role for me because I can really use my experience to help Warwickshire businesses," she said.

 "There is so much great support available to businesses and education providers, both from the council and our partner organisations, So it’s a case of shouting about what we do and sharing information about our support and projects we are launching.

"I started off in the admin team in Public Health where I worked on many different projects, so that was great experience. There was lots of juggling and prioritising, so that gave me a really broad understanding of how the council worked, both internally and with different partners externally."

Among Alice's strengths is her background in wellbeing which could not be more valuable as the Warwickshire businesses face the sustained pressures of the pandemic and another lockdown. The protection of mental health, of both employers and employees, has never been more important, so Alice is a very timely addition to the Employability & Skills team.

Since her student days as a voluntary wellbeing champion at the University of Cardiff, her passion has been to protect and support others.

"Some of my friends have small businesses and seeing the stress they are under in lockdown has been a real eye-opener," she said. "It made me think how many businesses are in that situation and I am really excited to now have a role where I can do something to help and support them.

"When I became Senior Wellbeing Officer, it was perfect for me because I was always really passionate about mental health. People need to know that it is completely normal to struggle sometimes. At any one time, one in six workers has a mental health problem. You go to the doctor to talk about your physical health but people aren't so open to talk about their mental health."

"A lot of businesses know they need to do something around mental health but don't know where to start, which creates a skills gap that myself and the Employability and Skills team can work to support on. A blend of signposting to Warwickshire’s existing services, along with new services and workshops linking to our colleagues in Public Health and the Wellbeing team, means that we can respond really quickly to business needs which is going to play such an important role as lockdown lifts."

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