Welcome from chief exective Monica Fogarty

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

As another lockdown deepens, I would like to start by expressing my huge pride and admiration for how the people and the businesses community of Warwickshire continue to face up to the challenges of the pandemic.

Another lockdown period is difficult for everyone in many different ways and the strength and generosity of spirit that is shown on a daily basis by so many people is truly awe-inspiring.

At Warwickshire County Council, we are here to offer all the support that we can in as many ways that we can. The importance of us all protecting our mental health at this time cannot be over-stated, so in this edition of WSMB, we feature our Employee Assistance Programme. It is an excellent programme offering tailored support which is now available to all small and micro businesses. Please do have a read and see if it could be of use to you - and if so, do click on the link. We are here to help.

We also have some big news with approval this week for the launch of a new stream of WCC businesses support funding. We have allocated £1.5million for the Adapt & Diversify grant scheme for those small businesses most adversely affected by the pandemic - initially those in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors. Again, please contact us if this support could benefit your business.

This year is expected to see many people, their circumstances having changed, consider starting up their own businesses. In another article, we outline the wide range of support available around start-ups, while we also reveal how business support has helped Gallery Photiq in a way that will benefit the wider local business community and economy.

As we all look ahead and try to plan, it is vital that we do not take our eye off the ball right now in terms of tackling the virus. So please continue to do the right thing, keep following all the Government guidelines and if you run a business, where appropriate, ensure that your employees are tested regularly.

I am so immensely proud of the way that Warwickshire has dealt with all that has been thrown at us in this last difficult year. I am equally certain that the resilience of this brilliant county will not buckle. The strength that you are all showing now leaves us well-placed to move forward again in the months and years ahead.

Look after you and yours and stay safe.


Featured News

New £1.5million grant scheme will help businesses Adapt & Diversify

"We have said to businesses from the outset that we are in this together and I trust that this latest package of support will be of real value, not just in their immediate survival but in their plans for the future."

Warwickshire County Council is inviting small businesses in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors and their supply chains to apply for a range of grants from its new Adapt and Diversify grant scheme.

Just as businesses need to adapt to the restrictions and challenges of the pandemic, so the council its adapting its support for them through this difficult period. This new fund is designed to support those small businesses most adversely affected - those in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors and their supply chains.

Grants ranging from £2,500 to £5,000 are to be made available towards the costs of specialist advice – for example, accountants, legal advice, digital specialists – or up to £20,000 for accessing specialist expertise and purchasing equipment or refurbishing property that will help the business to diversify their offer and safeguard their immediate future and the jobs of their workforce.

The county is making £1.5m available to businesses from the scheme, which draws on funding made available through the Local Restrictions Tier status, and is looking to allocate the grants in two rounds.

£1 million will be available in the first round on a first come, first served basis and the scheme will remain open until the available funding has been allocated. A second round will be held later in the year.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Warwickshire County Council’s Leader and portfolio holder for Economic Development, said: "We have said to businesses from the outset that we are in this together and I trust that this latest package of support will be of real value, not just in their immediate survival but in their plans for the future.

“Small businesses are absolutely critical to the future of the county and it is vital that we support them to be sustained and then to recover and grow. We will give every bit of support that we have at our disposal.

"We will work quickly to make sure that applications are processed and the money allocated as soon as possible to give our local businesses the financial support they need."

Warwickshire County Council has played a major role in supporting local businesses through loans and grants since the start of the pandemic. It is currently delivering two major grant schemes through its Capital Investment Fund to complement Government support.

· Small Capital Grants: up to £35,000 towards the costs of capital investments.

· Survive, Sustain and Grow: new grants of up to £10,000 towards the costs of capital investments to help business recovery plans. These grants are only available as part of the Survive, Sustain and Grow business support programme.

The Adapt and Diversify grant scheme will be launched on 1st February when advance information will be made available including details of how to apply and the documentation required. The scheme will then open to applications on 15th February and close as soon as the funding has been allocated.

Information about the grants will be available on the County Council’s Covid-19 support pages

Grant support for Gallery Photiq will benefit the business community

"To have the support of such a forward-thinking council as Warwickshire County Council, which truly supports the business community, is amazing. It has made a real difference."

A small business in Leamington is keen to spread the benefit among the local community after receiving "amazing" support from Warwickshire County Council.

Gallery Photiq, specialists in fine art photography in Leamington Spa, applied for support under the council's Retail and Hospitality Grant scheme.

The scheme is part of an initial £8 million package of funding earmarked by Warwickshire County Council to support the immediate economic recovery in the county. The rapid release of funding has made grants of between £2,000 and £7,500 available to provide long-lasting benefits for the businesses, their local communities and the local economy.

Gallery Photiq received a grant towards a specialist camera which will transform their ability to provide virtual experiences. These will include exhibitions at their own gallery in Park Street, but also the production of virtual tours for other businesses, an increasingly important marketing tool at a time when many retail and leisure outlets cannot be visited in person.

Directors Nat and Ruth Coalson believe the new camera provides great new opportunities for their business and those around them. They are eager to assist other local businesses to repay them for the incredibly warm welcome received since opening in Leamington in 2019.

"When we came to Leamington we knew it was a special town in a lovely county, and we were confident in the local customer base," said Nat. "What we couldn't know was what sort of reception we would get from other businesses and the local council. In both cases the welcome has just been overwhelming.

"To have the support of such a forward-thinking council as Warwickshire County Council, which truly supports the business community, is amazing. It has made a real difference. We have also been so fortunate to have such support from the business community; people have been so kind and helpful. In Park Street and the streets around us there are so many wonderful independent businesses that have made us welcome.

"This is a really tough time for us all, and people have supported us, so as soon as we received this grant we began thinking of ways to help the local business community.

"This new camera is a game-changer. It has six lenses to capture images in all directions at once, a huge time-saver, and the images are of the highest quality. The resulting virtual tours are posted online, allowing people to virtually visit spaces, especially those that are currently closed, and explore them in great detail. The virtual tours also provide unlimited functionality for interactive elements, such as embedded video, animations and e-commerce links.

"In terms of our gallery, we can scan the showroom space then superimpose on it all the virtual art exhibitions we wish. We also aim to roll this out so that it benefits our neighbours, with plans to give free demos and discounted rates to local businesses. We have received fantastic support and want to give something back."

Warwickshire County Council leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: "It is great news that this Retail & Hospitality Grant is so appreciated and will be of such value to both Gallery Photiq itself and the business community around them.

"It is also very heartwarming to hear of the warm welcome that Nat and Ruth have received from the county council and businesses in Warwickshire at a time when all of us are facing such challenges. Just one more reason to be so proud of our wonderful county!"

Apprenticeships integral to mission to Build the Future

Warwickshire County Council's Economy & Skills team has pulled together a pack of resources to support secondary schools across the county in their preparation for National Apprenticeship Week (February 8-14).

The comprehensive pack highlights all the key information that pupils and parents may need when looking at apprenticeships and underlines the Council's longstanding commitment to apprenticeships.

The theme for Apprenticeship Week this year is 'Build the Future' - and the county council and its partners regard apprenticeships as an integral part of the future for the region's economy as businesses consider how to consolidate and grow post-pandemic.

The 'Your Future Career in Apprenticeships’ pack covers key aspects of apprenticeships – from what they are, to local training providers to films showing apprentices talking about their experiences. They show how apprenticeships can form the perfect bridge between talented young people and the businesses who need them.

The pack includes:

• A Guide to Apprenticeships with information on what an apprenticeship is and the different levels of apprenticeship, where to find further info and useful websites

• A list of training providers and a small selection of businesses who have taken part in Future Careers Filming: Digital Marketplace offering apprenticeships in Warwickshire

• Your Future Careers in Apprenticeship films (from WCC's Future Careers Filming: Digital Marketplace project)

• A list of Apprenticeship Week activities taking place virtually across training providers and local businesses

• An Amazing Apprenticeships Resource pack

• A National Apprenticeship Week interactive student guide

• An Apprenticeship Directory showing apprenticeships offered across Warwickshire’s training providers

Due to lockdown, all activities during this year's National Apprenticeship Week are virtual but there is still plenty happening in Warwickshire online.
Scheduled events include online chats about apprenticeships in engineering, technology, the motor industry, construction, agriculture and horticulture.

Niki Takhar, Employability & Skills Project Officer, at Warwickshire County Council, said: "With lockdown in place, our National Apprenticeship Week events will be very different this year, but there is still loads going on and we thank very much all the businesses and training providers who will deliver events.

"This is a very difficult time for businesses but, among all the uncertainty, some things will remain the same and one of those is the high value of apprenticeship, both to young people embarking on their careers and to employers looking to recruit and train talented school-leavers."

To find out more or promote any apprenticeship activities you are running please visit Warwickshire Skills Hub social media – https://www.linkedin.com/company/warwickshire-skills-hub


To see the full range of support availale from Warwickshire Skills Hub, please visit here.

Range of support available for people considering starting their own business.

"Many people are sure to consider starting their own business this year...our support is designed to help them create new small businesses that thrive and benefit the communities and economy beyond the pandemic and far into the future."

A broad range of expert support and advice is available to the expected surge of people considering starting up their own business in 2021.

It is predicted that this year will see many individuals, in the wake of redundancy or continuing uncertainty in various sectors, decide to start up on their own.

Whatever the nature or sector of the planned business, bespoke expert guidance is available from Warwickshire County Council and its partners. They have long delivered a broad range of support to help people take that first step and are ready to help with the predicted rush of interest this year in every way they can.

Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce delivers a Start Up programme which supports both to those planning to start a business and those who have already taken the plunge and are in the very early days.  Support is available on a 1-2-1 mentoring basis and also in the form of workshops.  These include a regular Thinking of Starting a Business workshop - a three-hour zoom session to help think ideas through and consider the practical next steps.

The programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Warwickshire County Council and the five District and Borough Councils in the county. For more information, please visit here.

Starting up on your own is a huge step and there is much to think about before making that step. Those who are at this very early stage, just 'thinking about it', can benefit from the Jumpstart programme.

Funded by Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust and Warwickshire County Council, Jumpstart runs a series of workshops (virtually, during lockdown) which explores all aspects of starting up - planning, cashflow, social media etc - to help individuals thoroughly think through their business idea. For more information on Jumpstart, please visit here

Warwickshire County Council's Business Growth & Support Programme Manager, Gillian Dale, said: "This is a difficult and challenging time for so many people as their circumstances change, but WCC and our partners are here to support the businesses community every step of the way.

"Many people are sure to consider starting their own business this year so, in that way, this could also be time of a great opportunity. Our support is designed to help them seize that opportunity to create new small businesses that thrive and benefit the communities and economy beyond the pandemic and far into the future."

Residents within the Stratford District Council area can also access support from a free one-week Popup Business School from 15-19 February (a five-day online course, 10am-3pm).

The council's Venture House Business Centre has invited the PopUp Business School to run a Start and & Build a Business training event. The Popup specialises in helping people who are at a disadvantage or new to starting a business.

 Anne Solomon, Stratford District Council's Business Enterprise & Tourism Co-ordinator, said: "With so many of our residents currently considering new career paths, it stands to reason that a significant number will be considering self-employment.

"With our current business support programmes proving well subscribed and highly successful, we felt there was a need for additional and alternative support at this time…this is where the PopUp comes in. People are welcome to attend all or part of the event and may want to take a look at the daily schedule." For more information, please visit here.

Interactive Futures festival goes virtual but will be as vibrant as ever

"This year’s Interactive Futures will speak directly to the next generation, encouraging the development and aspirations of children and young people when it comes to a career in games.”

The world-renowned Leamington Spa games hub will open its virtual doors in February to showcase the talent and creativity of video games studios in the region.

Interactive Futures 2021 will provide exclusive insights into the many career options available within the games industry – along with practical advice and guidance to students, young people and children on how to navigate their own pathways.

The event will also speak to parents to show how a career in games is a valid, valuable and well-rewarded one – and one that exists right on their doorsteps in Leamington Spa and the wider Coventry and Warwickshire region.

The week will kick off with an industry-focused day on Tuesday February 16. This will showcase the talent in the region and look at why so many of the Best Places To Work winners are located in Leamington Spa, as well as providing practical advice to the myriad indie studios in the area.

From Wednesday February 17th to Saturday February 20, a series of dedicated conference sessions will be hosted for primary school children, secondary school children and young people and Further Education and Higher Education students. Interactive sessions will be featured, courtesy of Digital Schoolhouse, while one-to-one Portfolio Reviews and Advice Clinics will run throughout the four days.

Taking place during the half-term holiday, the Interactive Futures conference programme has been extended for 2021. Delegates can dip in and out of the event to view the content relevant to them. In addition, sessions designed for parents will take place on the Saturday.

The event will culminate in the Big Games Night In which will encourage the public to spend the evening of Saturday February 20 playing locally-created games with prizes to be won.

The video games sector anchored in Leamington Spa region is the second largest in the UK outside London and Slough & Heathrow and is home to some of the most respected studios in the world, including Codemasters, Mediatonic, Ubisoft, Playground Games, SEGA Hardlight, Sumo Digital and more, plus a huge number of indie studios.

Interactive Futures is hosted by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Warwickshire County Council and Warwick District Council.

Sarah Windrum, board director and chair of the Digital and Creative Business Group at the CWLEP, said: “Interactive Futures continues to be a great success and we hope that the new virtual format will provide a platform for the festival to reach an even wider audience. The video game industry is a key component to the successful future of the region and is a sector that the CWLEP is proud to support. We know that we have some of the very best video games talent and we’re honoured that we continue to attract more to the region.

“As well as highlighting this talent, this year’s Interactive Futures will speak directly to the next generation, encouraging the development and aspirations of children and young people when it comes to a career in games.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council and portfolio holder for economic development, said: “I am so pleased to see that the Interactive Futures conference will go ahead despite the restrictions that the pandemic has imposed on us. For me, that absolutely embodies what I have seen in Warwickshire throughout the last nine months; people embracing technology to work around a problem, finding the solution and carrying on with what we need to do to make Warwickshire the best it can be.

“It is vital that we carry on and build on what has been achieved in creating the gaming cluster of businesses in Leamington Spa. It is a source of employment for young people and has really put the region on the map internationally. I would like to thank all involved in organising this year's conference for working so hard, and with such innovation, to make sure that we do not lose that momentum.”

Tickets to attend Interactive Futures are free of charge. To find out more, visit www.interactive-futures.com.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Interactive Futures programme, please contact Lisa Carter on 07970 164201 or at lisa.carter@mimrammedia.com. If you would like more information on becoming an Interactive Futures Partner, please contact Darrell Carter on 07967 947076  or at Darrell.carter@mimrammedia.com

'Shop Local' social media campaign reaches 175,000 people

"The stats from our #Warksmas campaign are really amazing; to reach 175,000 people is testament to the power of social media"

A ‘shop local’ message sent out across social media as part of a campaign to promote independent businesses in Warwickshire has reached 175,000 people.

Between 20 November and 15 December, the Facebook and Twitter pages of the Warwickshire Towns’ Network’s (WTN) worked their way through the alphabet in an A to Z of local businesses, products and services. The idea was to create the perfect Christmas gift list from independent retailers across the region.

The posts were all tagged with #Warksmas and the relevant town name, and also included a series of written and video interviews with business owners from all areas of the county.

During the campaign, a combined 350 posts went out across both channels, reaching 175,000 people, with 5,300 likes, comments or shares, 3,000 video views, and a combined 100 new followers to the WTN’s social media accounts.

The scheme was designed to celebrate businesses across the county and encourage residents to seek out services and products from their local retailers following the lifting of the second national lockdown and in the lead up to Christmas.

It follows the successful #BuyEatLocal campaign which ran earlier this year.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “We know that social media is becoming an essential marketplace for all businesses and as a result the digital profile of a retailer is more important now than ever before, particularly during the COVID-19 restrictions when click and collect services have become the norm.

“The stats from our #Warksmas campaign are really amazing; to reach 175,000 people is testament to the power of social media.

“If everyone who this campaign reached went out to their local high street and spent just £10 at one of the independent businesses on high streets across Warwickshire that alone would amount to a £1.75million boost to the economy - what an amazing Christmas present that would have been for them.

“This campaign has been a lot of fun, and is one of the many ways in which the Council is supporting local businesses, and for those on the high street we hope it led to more customers going through their physical doors and that they enjoyed a fruitful end to what was a difficult year.”

Follow @WarksTN on Twitter or like Warwickshire Towns Network on Facebook to take a look back at the A to Z. The business profiles are also available on the campaign web page: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/buyeatlocal

Centenary Business Centre provides the "perfect base" for PFTP to grow

"The Centenary Business Centre is a godsend for us...the people who run it are so helpful and friendly and there is such a great community feel to the centre."

It is very easy to underestimate what a huge impact a small business can have.

Nuneaton-based Profit From Training Partnership is a classic example. The impact they have had on keeping motorists safe over the last 25 years is immense.

Not that PFTP directors Alison and David Higginson look at it in those terms. They just keep on doing what they do; provide the motor vehicle training which has equipped thousands of young men and women with the expertise to make and keep vehicles safe on the road.

Ever needed roadside rescue? Your rescuer might well have been trained by Alison, David, or supported by the third member of their small but incredibly productive team, Sharon Burbidge.

It is a small business which, from its base at the Centenary Business Centre, has a massive influence and it continues to prosper having adapted adroitly to these very difficult times. As PFTP celebrates its 25th birthday, it continues to go from strength to strength at the Warwickshire County Council-run centre which has provided home to its office for the last 22 of those years.

"The Centenary Business Centre is a godsend for us," said Alison. "The people who run it are so helpful and friendly and there is such a great community feel to the centre. We may not see each other daily whilst we are working, but it's great to see familiar faces around.

"With the current restrictions, we can only have one person in the office, so more than ever it's nice to know that whoever is in the office is not isolated. It is the perfect base."

The intimacy of the Centenary BC suits PFTP perfectly as intimacy and informality is at the core of their business model. Their reputation has been built on respectful values which resonate more than ever during the challenges of the pandemic.

"We have always trained in small groups, never more than six and now, amid the current restrictions, just three," said Alison. "We decided that was best from the start because many people respond much better to being in small groups.

"People can be intimidated by larger groups and get left behind. Some didn't enjoy school and don't enjoy classroom situations, so we do as much training as possible in the workshop and not in the classroom.

"We set up the business in 1996 when the company we worked for decided not to offer this training anymore, but we felt it was important. In those days people were sometimes embarrassed about fitting tyres for a living, but we helped them to recognise the value of the job”.

"Things have changed now. People really understand how important vehicle safety is."

Like any successful business, PFTP, which trains around 200 people a year, has evolved with passing years. As much as ever in the last year, in the light of the lockdown, tailoring the training and tweaking the business in ways which fits the current restrictions but will also have lasting benefits.

"We used the first lockdown to do a lot of development work on the business, like the online training courses, website and logo," said Alison. "We still have in-house training, in groups of three in line with restrictions, but now also have more blended learning, with more online options.

"2020 presented its challenges to us, as it has for every business, but it also enabled us plan the focus for the next five years, so it was not all bad!"

PFTP will move to new, bigger training premises early in 2021, but freely admit that Centenary BC has been the perfect base.

WCC Business Centres operations manager Lisa Smullen said: "PFTP is a great small business which, over many years, has shown the skills, resilience and enterprise necessary to succeed. I am delighted that they regard the Centenary Business Centre with such warmth and would like to wish them every success for the future and their move into larger premises."

Jewellery business looks ahead with new mindset after SSG advice

A jewellery business is looking to the future with greater clarity and confidence following specialist advice from Warwickshire County Council's Survive, Sustain and Grow programme.

The SSG programme was launched by the council in October to help businesses assess the impact of the pandemic and identify areas of growth and opportunity.

Camilla Jones Jewellery engaged with the programme's consultants after the restrictions of the first lockdown left the business unable to meet the high demand for their product.

At their elegant Victorian shop and workshop in Alcester, Camilla and Ben Jones sell UK-designed jewellery, curated antiques and handmade pieces created on site. They buy and recycle precious metals and gemstones and turn them into bespoke pieces created by their inhouse team.

During the first lockdown they found that requests for bespoke jewellery exceeded capacity when their design/makers team had to be furloughed due to the inability to socially distance. The business was in the hugely frustrating position of being overwhelmed by customer demand with no way of meeting it.

There were also longer-term concerns. The owners plan to expand the business, including creating of an own-brand jewellery range and delivering training to provide a pipeline of skilled silversmiths into the industry. But none of this seemed achievable as Camilla and Ben were too involved with day-to-day tasks.

SSG's consultants got to work to reorder and refocus the business. Their recommendations included: creation of job descriptions for each role within the business; assessment of all tasks to give an understanding of who is best placed to complete them; ascertaining whether training is required.

By identifying tasks which others could take over from Camilla and Ben, time was created for the owners to spend the time necessary for their strategic growth plans.

To have such plans in place has never been more important as businesses grapple with the challenges of the pandemic now and prepare for life post-COVID.

 “The Survive, Sustain and Grow program was excellent and very welcome in the current climate," said Camilla. "The in-depth support allowed us to evaluate different options on how best to develop the business going forward.

"It instilled in us a mindset of being able to remove emotion from commercial decisions which is so important to do. ”

Alice Stanek, WCC Retail Consultant said:  “The Retail sector has been the worst hit through the pandemic crisis and Camilla Jones has been no exception. During these times, all businesses need access to up-to-the-minute proactive advice and solutions to enable them to thrive. It has been pleasing to engage and provide such support to the client through the County Council’s SSG programme.”  

SSG Lead Consultant Jagdish Soor added: "The retail sector has been going through tremendous changes since March 2020 and Warwickshire County Council will continue to do all it can to support retailers and all businesses.

"The Survive, Sustain and Grow program is an important strand of that support with its in-depth, bespoke guidance for each individual business. It is very pleasing that it is has been instrumental in helping retailers like Camilla Jones to continue trading through these unprecedented times and plan for the future.”

New website explains the business landscape following EU exit

Businesses in Warwickshire can access free advice about changes to the business landscape post-EU exit from a new bespoke website.

Growth Hubs throughout the West Midlands are working together to encourage all business to 'Check, Change and Go' following the end of the transition period and the UK’s exit from the EU.

A new website has been launched to provide impartial information to help businesses stay informed about the changes that affect them and take advantage of new opportunities arising from the new rules which came into force from January 1.

The website - www.wmgrowthhubs-eusupport.co.uk - provides information on the local and national business support that is available for SMEs to find the help they need. It gives details of events and workshops to be held to guide businesses through the maze of changes and maximise the new opportunities.

There is also the opportunity to complete an EU Transition Support Questionnaire to request specialist support needed by your business.

Craig Humphrey, managing director of the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP Growth Hub, is encouraging businesses to keep up to speed with the new rules to ensure their operations are uninterrupted.

He said: “The UK’s exit from the EU Customs Union and Single Market means we now have zero tariffs and quotas with the EU.

“The decisions which businesses make are crucial to their long-term success as the UK moves forward to being an independent trading nation.

“Businesses need help with resources which are relevant to them and staff at the Growth Hubs throughout the West Midlands will be able to point them in the right direction to access the help they need.

“The Growth Hubs have appointed sector specialists in a wide range of industries from automotive to transport and logistics, to employment law and importing and exporting.

“This website will help businesses navigate the changes and understand the new rules which affect them on a daily basis. We hope this will prove to be a valuable resource to help businesses whatever sector they are in, and all the expert advice via the Growth Hubs across the region is free and impartial.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This invaluable resource will act a single point of information for businesses across the West Midlands, giving crucial advice on how to adapt to the new rules. Every business will need to explore how they can benefit from the new arrangements but also understand what changes they’ll need to make to continue trading successfully with businesses in the EU.”

Businesses urged to get their staff tested regularly.

Warwickshire businesses are being urged to get their staff tested regularly using one of six centres in the county for those without symptoms of COVID-19.

The test centres, in Bedworth, Nuneaton, Leamington, Rugby, Stratford and Water Orton, are being run by Warwickshire County Council in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, District and Borough Councils and community partners.

Each centre is set up to undertake around 2,000 tests per week and uses lateral flow testing. Lateral flow antigen tests are a new kind of technology used to test a higher proportion of people without symptoms of Covid-19, better enabling us to identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading the virus and break the chains of transmission. 

WCC is urging key workers with no symptoms, especially those whose roles require them to work outside their homes, who come into contact with others and who can’t get a test through a different channel, to book a test immediately. These tests are not for people who have been identified as a close contact of a case and asked to self-isolate, in this instance please call 119 or visit nhs.uk/coronavirus if you develop symptoms, you can then book for a drive through or home test kit.

Employment sectors include, but are not limited to: 

  • Essential shops, supermarkets, financial services 
  • Food production, processing 
  • Warehousing, packing, distribution 
  • Transportation 
  • Essential public sector services including waste services, security, and blue light services etc 
  • Construction, utilities, communications 
  • Agency workers 
  • Health, social care, education and early years staff 
  • Manufacturing

Director of Public Health Warwickshire, Dr Shade Agboola said: “It has never been more important to tackle the transmission of COVID-19 than it is now, with high case numbers and hospitals facing growing pressures. Lateral flow - or rapid result - testing is just one way we can help limit the movement of the virus amongst people with no symptoms, and it is available now - free - in Warwickshire. These tests provide results in around an hour and can be taken weekly at one of six test sites.

“If you employ fewer than 250 people, I encourage you to promote these tests to your staff and support them to get tested weekly. We would advise that your staff book their tests online at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/covidcommunitytesting to ensure they get a place.” 

Dr Shade Agboola continued: “It is important to recognise that ‘Hands – Face – Space’ must continue to be a central element in your efforts to promote  COVID-security in your work settings.  

“It is also important to recognise that a negative test does not mean people can relax their COVID-safety behaviours. We should all behave as though we have the virus and do everything, we can to protect ourselves and others from catching it.” 

Tests are available for booking between 8.15am and 8pm, Monday to Friday and 10.15am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Please do not visit the test centre if you have symptoms of COVID-19, that is a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a change to their sense of taste or smell or if you have been advised to self-isolate. If you have symptoms, please self-isolate immediately and book a test via https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling 119."

To ensure the safety of all those visiting the test centre, we would urge residents to book online at https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/covidcommunitytesting to help to reduce queue’s outside test centres.

CSW Superfast Broadband making strong progress despite pandemic

“It is great news to see that many more homes and businesses have been connected across the Warwickshire and Solihull region this year and we look forward to seeing this continue.

An initiative to connect homes and businesses across Warwickshire and Solihull to superfast broadband has continued to forge ahead despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

The total number of houses in the region completed and connected last year by the CSW Broadband project stands at 7,698 and the number of commercial premises with 30mpbs broadband access is now 898.

The CSW Broadband project is bringing improved broadband speeds across Solihull and Warwickshire with the aim of achieving 98 per cent of coverage at superfast speeds – a minimum of 30mbps.

It has been funded by Government and local authorities – Warwickshire County Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, Rugby Borough Council, Warwick District Council and Stratford-on-Avon District Council - and the European Regional Development Fund.

The scheme was also allocated £1 million from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) through the Local Growth Fund.

Sarah Windrum, board director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), said: “Despite the difficulties of 2020, especially two national lockdowns, it is fantastic to see that this project is still pushing forward with its aim of connecting everyone to superfast broadband.

“In this day and age, when more and more people are working from home because of the Coronavirus crisis, broadband speeds and capacity are extremely important so the work that the team is doing is vital.

“It is great news to see that many more homes and businesses have been connected across the Warwickshire and Solihull region this year and we look forward to seeing this continue.”

Despite the current Covid-19 crisis, the Government continues to press for broadband infrastructure delivery to remain a high priority during what is a challenging period.

Discussions have been held with suppliers at both local and national levels to assess the impact of the virus on the industry and a plan of action produced to continue project delivery.

The Government body, Building Digital UK (BDUK), has extended delivery of Superfast programmes past March 2021 with a new deadline of March 2022.

The new build forecast produced by Openreach for the CSW Broadband Project has been planned for completion in line with the Government’s approved deadline of March 2022 with project outputs remaining unchanged for LEP homes and businesses.

For further information about CSW Broadband and its work visit www.cswbroadband.org.uk

Business input welcome on Local Transport Plan

Businesses are urged to have their say in Warwickshire County Council’s consultation to help refresh their Local Transport Plan.

The current Local Transport Plan, scheduled to last until 2026, is now felt to be outdated due to a number of factors, notably the shift in attitudes towards fighting climate change and the response to Covid-19.

The initial consultation will be categorised into four themes on which residents and businesses are invited to give their views.

These are:

  • Environment: How the refreshed plan can encourage and promote sustainable travel
  • Economy: How it will provide the infrastructure to attract and retain investment into the county
  • Place: How it will help top create an attractive place
  • Wellbeing: How the stress of being on the transport network can be alleviated

Following the consultation and analysis of its findings, Cabinet will be asked to approve the drafting of a revised plan which will also go to consultation before going to the County Council for approval prior to being published in 2022.

Cllr Jeff Clarke, portfolio holder for transport and planning, said: “It’s vitally important that we get residents and businesses’ views on their transport priorities. Although the current Local Transport Plan’s life is until 2026, it is rapidly becoming outdated as attitudes shift towards the part that transport can play in addressing the climate change emergency and as we seek to address the changing priorities that Covid-19 has brought.

“We want people to tell us what they want us to look at in their areas and let us know what is important to them, so that we can refresh the plan. This will enable us to use any influence we have, regionally or nationally, to ensure that Warwickshire’s residents and businesses have the transport plan that best fits their needs for the coming years.”

The consultation can be found here.

Visit Warwickshire campaign keeping the county in the public eye during lockdown

Lockdown has not prevented the Visit Warwickshire campaign from looking ahead to the happy day when our beautiful part of England can again welcome tourists from around the UK and the world. Warwickshire County Council's Visitor Economy Officer, Alex Holmes, gives an update...


We may be in national lockdown but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan for the day when people can once again visit our fine county. That’s why work is continuing apace on our Visit Warwickshire marketing campaign.

This month we have created a week-long itinerary of things to do across the county for families with younger children in our Fun Days Out for the Little Ones article. Or, if cars are your passion, our Motoring Might article gives a dozen ways to experience the area’s pioneering heritage in the motor industry.

Despite the snow on the ground, we are looking ahead to spring when hopefully people may be able to travel again. Our spring campaign themes will include ways to experience Warwickshire from its canals and waterways as well as building on our Literary Links content.

If you have any plans or ideas to feed into these themes, please do let us know. Perhaps you know of a particularly beautiful spot along your canal for a picnic or maybe your business or property inspired a popular piece of fiction?

Whatever it may be, if it’s of interest to people who might be planning to visit the county, please email laura.wakelin@bluesail.com with a brief overview (and a couple of high quality images if you have them). In the meantime, do keep checking in on the Visit Warwickshire website for new ways to explore the county and please help us promote it via your own marketing channels if you can using the hashtag #visitwarwickshire.

* The Visit Warwickshire marketing campaign is being delivered by destination consultancy Blue Sail and aims to help the recovery of the county’s tourism sector between now and August 2021 with a legacy to sustain business development and growth in the longer term.

850 jobs available at new Megalab in Leamington Spa

Around 850 jobs are now available at a state-of-the-art laboratory in Leamington as part of the UK’s NHS Test and Trace programme.

Laboratory support technicians are needed at the high output diagnostics laboratory which will be processing Covid-19 tests.

The technicians will provide support with testing the coronavirus samples when they arrive through to processing and storage, and will work closely with junior and senior laboratory technicians, and biomedical scientists.

Details of the fixed-term contracts, starting in March, have been posted on the free Coventry and Warwickshire Employment Solutions website which connects job seekers and employers with a range of services including current vacancies and access to advice and support.

The portal has been funded by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) in partnership with the CWLEP Growth Hub, Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the District and Borough Councils, Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and the FSB.

The CWLEP Growth Hub is also working with the CWLEP’s Careers Hubs in Coventry and Warwickshire to contact colleges particularly in Leamington, Kenilworth, Warwick and Coventry to attract students who may be finishing their courses and have the skills needed.

Craig Humphrey, managing director at the CWLEP Growth Hub, said these jobs offered an excellent way to learn new skills in a fast-changing sector.

He said: “As well as playing a vital role in supporting society’s return to a more normal way of life by helping to break the chains of the Covid-19 transmission, the laboratory support technicians will gain invaluable experience and exposure to some of the country’s most highly skilled individuals in the scientific community.

“These roles represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go above and beyond to support public health. Successful candidates will be offered the opportunity to be trained on new processes and develop a wide set of laboratory skills.

“The laboratory is looking for staff who are able to learn new skills, work as part of a team, have excellent attention to detail and are able to follow health and safety standards.

“They initially want 850 staff to join which will rise to 2,000 jobs eventually and all the details to apply are on the CW Employment Solutions website.”

Marion Plant, vice-chair of the CWLEP and chair of its Productivity and Skills Business Group, said these posts were ideal for college leavers or those considering a change in career.

“Our Careers Hubs in Coventry and Warwickshire have built excellent links with secondary schools and colleges throughout the area and to have a state-of-the-art diagnostic testing

laboratory like this set up in Leamington means a wide range of roles will be created,” she said.

“We will be getting in touch with colleges to highlight the job opportunities available so that they can make their past and present students aware.

“GCSE in maths and English at level four or five is required and successful candidates will be provided with training and accreditation for all of the roles and processes they are required to undertake as well as having the opportunity to learn and develop new skillsets.”

For further information, please visit www.cwemploymentsolutions.co.uk

Special Feature

WCC programme offers specialist mental health support for small businesses

The pandemic, and another lockdown, has brought unprecedented pressures for small businesses and for employers and employees alike. At such a time, the protection of mental health has never been more important.

Amid such pressure it can be difficult to accept the need for mental health support, or to identify where that support might be found. But for small businesses, local expert advice is easily accessible though Warwickshire County Council's Employee Assistance Programme, as Employment & Skills Project Officer Alice Edwards explains.


The spotlight has been placed more than ever on mental health and wellbeing since the first national lockdown last March.

There are so many resources of support out there for businesses and their employees, that sometimes it can be overwhelming and very difficult to find exactly what you need. But for small businesses in Warwickshire, there is a simple and very effective option close to hand in the form of Warwickshire County Council's Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

For quick and easy support, the County Council has extended its EAP offer to the employees and owners of all micro and small businesses, employing 50 or less, and any business employing up to 100 in the hospitality sector, who operate in Warwickshire and may need some support to stay well and working. The service had previously been open only to businesses in town centres employing 10 or less.

The service offered by EAP provider, Vita Health Group, is completely confidential - even if your business has just two employees, total confidentiality will be maintained. They offer a range of services which covers both personal home life issues as well as problems at work.

Whatever your issue or concern, the EAP will be able to offer some support, whether it be debt advice, probate queries, or issues with landlords, to just having someone to chat and offload to after a difficult day. The programme will offer structured mental health support if it is needed.

It is very important to be proactive when it comes to your mental health and wellbeing. Prevention is often quicker and easier than finding a cure and needing time to recover if you become unwell. This is a difficult time for everyone but taking care of your wellbeing and reaching out for support may make it a little bit easier.

How it works: Eligible businesses can register their interest in this free service with no obligation to actually use the programme, via the link here.

The business will receive an confirmation and information email. Employees can then make staff aware of the support by email for those working at home, or posters in the workplace, which detail how to access the website and the 24/7, 365 days a year helpline. The service can be accessed directly and confidentially without further manager involvement.

This initiative is just one of a package of measures to support local businesses recover from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The County Council has developed an economic recovery plan and allocated a budget of £8 million to support the immediate recovery of the local economy. This plan is supporting a number of new, or extended, activities to support businesses.

To find out more about the County Council’s business support schemes please visit: Warwickshire County Council Business Support

Guest column

Employers need to embrace change to recruit the best people

Leamington Spa-based Fuel Recruitment, which delivers technical talent in IT, Telecoms and Engineering to the public and private sectors, recently won The Staffing Industry Analysts Award for Best Companies to work for in the UK and Ireland.

At this most challenging time for businesses, Mark Esom, managing director and founder of the company, offers some guidance on recruitment.

The impact of the pandemic on the job market cannot be underestimated. Those who work in hospitality and the traditional retail sectors have been hardest hit but there is also the knock-on effect to other businesses which has left the UK in uncertain times.

As a recruitment business finding technical talent for IT, Telecoms and Engineering, we have found these areas have been affected the least. In fact, they have grown across both the public and private sectors, which means we can always find work for people with the right skills and the right attitude. But what does the future hold here in Warwickshire and across the UK for jobseekers and the organisations which need them?

The long term future of jobs is more difficult to predict but, in the medium and short term, I expect that vacancies will be sector specific rather than jobs being available across the board. For example, we believe there will be a continuation and growth of roles for specific skill-sets in IT, engineering and telecoms.

The new diagnostic facility - the Megalab - being built in Leamington is a good example of the sort of skills businesses and the government are looking for. It has 2,500 roles to fill and Fuel Recruitment is among a small number of agencies who have been asked to help provide the right staff for those jobs.

So what is important when you come to recruit?

Location, location, location

In the past, when we were looking for candidates for roles, we would be asked where the job was based. This current crisis has proved that remote working means you can recruit from anywhere - UK or even Europe. Now we suggest organisations broaden their horizons and not worry about the location or they risk missing out on the best talent.


Money is usually in the top three considerations for candidates, but it isn’t always the first or the only consideration. No one who is talented at their job will stay just for the money. What they look for is interesting work with a company which is going somewhere, looks after its staff and does business in an ethical fashion.

The type of work that individuals carry out is also very important. In technology, workers want to be at the forefront of the latest innovations. When we work with clients to find new talent we also provide consultancy to help companies be attractive to talented employees. Your brand, and the perception of your brand, counts.

DIY recruitment

For some jobs you can place an advert on one of the many job sites and it will work for you. However, good people tend to stay in work so they are unlikely to go trawling for vacancies. For less skilled roles, direct advertising will probably work, but if you are looking for more specialised, skilled or technical people it is better to use a professional recruitment business who can find them for you. Recruiters have a vast network and database of highly skilled individuals so this will save you money in the long run.

Embrace the change

Employers need to think differently about where and how people are prepared to work in the future. Businesses have had to be flexible during this crisis and remote working has, in the main, worked. It’s going to be difficult for you to offer roles which don’t allow this flexibility to continue. Most likely, unless the role is customer facing, staff will expect the role to be split between days in the office and days at home.

Keeping staff on board

Finally, once you have good staff you will want to keep them on board, so getting the right people in the first place is important. When you take on new people (though this applies to current staff as well) consider how to keep them motivated and engaged in the new remote working or half in/half out environment. We are social creatures and thrive off interaction. If you want to keep good people be mindful of your staff’s welfare. It’s not just about their performance!



Events - what's on

2021.01.27 DIT: Brexit - Planning Overview 09:00 - 16:00 Online
2021.01.27 The FSE Group+ BBB: Alone Together Entrepreneurship and Diversity in the UK 10:00 - 11:00am Online
2021.01.28 Venturefest West Midlands 2021 8:45 - 1.15pm Online
2021.01.28 Staying Visible in an Online World 10:00 - 11:00 Online
2021.02.02 Small Business Leadership Programme 9am Online
2021.02.03 Future Proof Your Business in the Digital Age - Session 1 Your Plan 10am-11.30am Online
2021.02.04 Transport Energy Network Conference 10am-12.30pm Online
2021.02.04 Coventry 2021 Business Event 12-1pm Various
2021.02.04 DIT: Customs Declaration Training 10am-3pm Online
2021.02.10 LinkedIn for Business Webinar 1.30 - 3pm Online
2021.02.11 Rugby Business Buzz - 10am-12pm 10am-12pm Online
2021.02.11 Driving the Electric Revolution: Funding Competition Preview 3pm-4.30pm Online
2021.02.11 Aerospace Unlocking Potential - Supply Chain Funding Event 10.30am-12.30am Online
2021.02.15 Stratford-on-Avon District Pop up Online Business Course - February 2021 10am 4 days
2021.02.16 Interactive Futures 2021 - 16th-20th February 2021 5 Days Online
2021.02.17 Building your Strategy – Vision, Mission & Values Webinar 1:30 - 3:00pm Online
2021.02.18 Social media platforms for marketing webinar 1:30 - 3:00pm Online
2021.02.18 Warwick Business Buzz - 10am-12pm 10am-12pm Online
2021.02.23 Micromobility 10am-11.30am Online
2021.02.24 Keeping CAV Technology Free of 'Red Tape' seminar 10am-11am Online
2021.02.25 Agriculture: Brexit and the impacts on farmers and land owners 9.30am-10.15am Online
2021.02.25 Stay Connected: Rail Business 2021 10am-11am Online
2021.03.09 Low Carbon Agriculture Show 2021 9-10 March All Day Online
2021.03.09 Electricity Networks and Charging 10am-11.30am 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
2021.06.16 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 business News-in-Brief around Warwickshire...

600 jobs on the way to North Warwickshire

Global logistics solutions and supply chain management company DB Schenker is set to create 100 jobs with plans to expand its current premises at Centurion Park on the Dordon/ Tamworth border, taking a seven-year lease on a 153,064sqft unit. Meanwhile, on the other side of the M42 at J10, an as yet unnamed investor will create 500 jobs at St Modwen Park, taking on TF321, the newly built 321,000sqft unit speculatively completed last year. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2048103-global-logistics-company-to-create-100-jobs-in-site-expansion?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WestMidlands_26th_Jan_2021_Daily

West Midlands tech sector grows during pandemic

Tech startups and scaleups in the West Midlands raised a record £390m in funding in 2020, almost three times more than 2019’s previous record of £132m. Across the region, tech companies are showing positive signs of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, there are 5,099 open tech roles in the West Midlands, at companies including BT, Premier IT, Balfour Beatty and Aldi. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2048137-investment-into-west-midlands-tech-sector-triples-in-2020

Start-up growth during pandemic

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s start-up team helped more than 300 new businesses since April 2020 and is expecting another influx as 2021 begins. New businesses started during the pandemic included everything from an interiors business through to a company delivering nature boxes for children. Many were started because of either redundancy or uncertainty around employment due to Covid-19. https://www.cwlep.com/news/covid-crisis-led-jump-start-businesses-more-come

JP Morgan Chase increases stake in Codemasters

Interest in Southam-based Codemasters continues with JP Morgan Chase further increasing its investment in the business, one of the oldest names in Britain's video game industry. It is currently a target of a takeover attempt from Electronics Arts (EA) which submitted a bid valuing the listed company at £945m. The firm now has a 8.12 per cent stake in Codemasters, up from 7.51 per cent. https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/jp-morgan-further-ups-codemasters-stake

Growing interest in engineering careers

MTC Apprenticeships, part of the Ansty-based Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), has seen a surge in applications from prospective apprentices, with more than 700 young people looking to join the award-winning programme. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/manufacturing-technology-apprenticeship-applications-hit-record-high/

Automotive firm brought out of administration

A deal has been struck to secure a multi-million-pound acquisition and working capital funding package for Evtec Automotive from BREAL Zeta Commercial Finance, saving 110 jobs and creating 50 new ones. Headquartered in Coventry, Evtec Automotive, formerly known as Arlington Engineered Systems and part of the Arlington Automotive group (in administration), specialises in manual assembly for the automotive sector. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2047790-110-jobs-saved-after-multimillion-pound-rescue-deal

Warwick Medtech firm secures investment

A Warwickshire-based manufacturer of fertility monitoring products has secured a £250,000 boost. Fertility Focus has received the loan from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) through a £250,000 loan enabling it to invest in its staff, continue research and development, while safeguarding against the impact of Covid-19. https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/fertility-monitoring-products-maker-secures-250k-boost

Medtech business acquires Nuneaton’s Intaforensics

An Oxfordshire-based company which provides forensic science services to the criminal justice system has acquired a Warwickshire business. Forensic Access has snapped up IntaForensics for an undisclosed sum. https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/forensic-science-company-makes-acquisition

Aldi reports best ever Christmas trading results

Atherstone-based discount supermarket giant Aldi has posted its best ever Christmas sales, driven by strong growth in its online wine and special buy products. The company confirmed that, in the four weeks to 24 December, sales rose by 10.6 per cent compared with the same trading period a year ago. https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/record-christmas-sales-for-aldi

High Street retail hit by Debenhams and Arcadia closures

Debenhams stores are set to close after the failure of last-ditch efforts to rescue the ailing store chain. It means all 12,000 employees are likely to lose their jobs when the chain's 124 shops cease trading. This includes the Nuneaton, Rugby and Coventry branches. The online fashion retailer Asos is, meanwhile, in exclusive talks to buy Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and the athleisure label HIIT from Arcadia, Sir Phillip Green’s former retail empire, which collapsed into administration last year and employs 13,000 people. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jan/25/debenhams-deal-and-topshop-talks-put-more-than-20000-jobs-at-risk

New industrial units in Exhall

The Red Kangaroo Trampoline Park is set to re-open this year after the company signed a 15-year lease on a purpose-built unit on the same site as its previous home that was destroyed by fire in 2018. An additional new light industrial space has been created next door known as Exhall 3. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2048068-trampoline-operator-jumps-into-new-premises

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