Kam keen to get to grips with new challenge
Cllr Kam Kaur has taken over as Warwickshire County Council's Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place. This role places her at the heart of the council's strategy for continuing to support businesses of all sizes and sectors as they move forward from the challenges of the last year. Warwickshire Means Business caught up with Kam, who represents the Bilton & Hillside division (Rugby) on the county council, to introduce her to our readers...
Kam, how do you feel to have taken on this brand new portfolio?
I am absolutely thrilled. It is a new challenge for me and I just want to do all I can to help businesses and education-providers get to grips with the new challenges facing them post-COVID. I'm really looking forward to it.
Give us your life-story so far...
I was a born-and-bred Coventry girl before moving to Rugby. I was married in 1990 and have three children, aged between 21 and 29. I became a Rugby borough councillor in 2002, am a former Mayor of Rugby and also joined the county council in 2013. I have been solely a county councillor since 2014 when I first became a cabinet member, serving as the Portfolio Holder for Customers, a portfolio to which was later added Transformation.
Describe yourself in three words...
Ambitious. Creative. Forceful.
Economy & Place is a different brief from before for you, but you are familiar with many of the issues it entails as you have a business background...
Yes, I was pretty much born into business, courtesy of my parents who were drapers and market traders with their own businesses in Coventry. I then also married into business - my husband and I have several businesses in Rugby, ranging from estate agents and property to hoteliers.
This means that I can absolutely identify with the challenges that business have faced in the last year because we faced them too. We have had to furlough staff and make redundancies and face up to a lot of really tough decisions, so I have an understanding of how businesses across the sectors have suffered and continue to struggle, especially amid the uncertainty of stop-start coming from the Government. That doesn't help at all, particularly for the hospitality sector.
Throughout the pandemic, WCC's Economy & Skills team, along with its partners, has adapted its business support to the evolving needs of businesses. Adaptability is so important in these difficult times...
Absolutely...and the business community of Warwickshire has been incredibly agile. Businesses and employers have been challenged like never before and they have pivoted incredibly well, and the same applies to our Economy & Skills team. They have devised and delivered brand new projects to get much-needed support out to businesses as quickly as possible. It is heart-warming to read regularly in Warwickshire Means Business so many lovely comments from small businesses about the support they have received.
There is no doubt that, from the county council and its partners across the region, that support will keep coming in the months and years ahead. So, as new portfolio holder, what will you be trying to add into the mix?
Our small businesses have been amazing and although it has been a very difficult time, there is so much to be positive about. What we need to do now, to build on that, is to work collaboratively - local authorities, universities, colleges and businesses - to absolutely understand what the future is going to look like. We know the business landscape is not going to be the same in terms of skills required, so we need to change the way we educate children. Education and technology are big passions of mine so this will be an area of focus for me.
The to-do list is massive. The pandemic has shown that teaching methodology has to change and the curriculum has to change to become more futuristic. Technology is evolving at a great pace but that is not reflected in education through school system. Schools and the curriculum need to look forwards, not backwards. Yes, we need to understand history but we don't need to repeat it.
You're in for a busy time...just the way you like it. So finally, Warwickshire is a wonderful place to live isn't it...other than home, what's your favourite place in the county? Where do you go to chill out?
Burton Dassett - such a wonderful place to walk and clear the head!
Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund takes another step towards launch…
The Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund, an important strand of Warwickshire County Council's support for the local economy post-COVID, has taken a big step forward. WCC's Strategy and Commissioning Manager (Economy & Skills) Alison Robinson explains...
Back in the March edition of Warwickshire Means Business, we announced the launch the Warwickshire Recovery & Investment Fund (WRIF). We said we would keep you up to date on progress and are now delighted to announce that the WRIF gained cabinet approval on June 17th, taking us one step nearer to launch in July.
To recap, the WRIF is a significant new access-to-finance initiative that Warwickshire County Council is launching to support the economic recovery and future growth of the county. Over a five-year period, the council is planning to invest £140m to provide new and additional finance options for businesses looking to invest and grow in the county.
The fund has been designed to drive the future growth of Warwickshire, with a particular interest in businesses that will help support our journey to a net-zero carbon emission economy, and investments that will deliver wider social value along with economic growth.
A key priority for the county council is to support Warwickshire’s economy to ensure it remains vibrant and is supported by the right jobs, training, skills and infrastructure. We recognise that many businesses will have had to invest significantly to adapt and survive through the post-pandemic period and may struggle to access the finance they need to fully recover and prosper in the post-pandemic economy. The WRIF will therefore look to fill an identified gap in the availability of finance to businesses looking to invest in the county.
As a local authority, we have a wider interest than just economic growth, and therefore are keen to utilise the WRIF as an opportunity to promote and lever wider social value from our investments. These could include, for example, provision of apprenticeship opportunities, helping tackle inequality and poverty, supporting vulnerable groups, or enabling environment improvements.
As the WRIF is an investment fund, Warwickshire County Council will be looking for a full return on the totality of its investment and will therefore be predominantly looking at debt finance through secured loans for suitable businesses and investment opportunities.
We now await final approval following the next full Council meeting on 1st July after which we will release full details on eligibility for the different strands of the fund and how you can register an interest.
We’ll also keep you up to date with further information in Warwickshire Means Business over the coming months.
500 apprenticeship vacancies available now
“Employers from a wide range of industries are looking to recruit, and apprenticeships are a fantastic route into diverse and highly-skilled sectors which perhaps may not have been considered before Covid-19 or it was more difficult to access them."
Parents are being urged to encourage their teenage children leaving school or college to look at the apprenticeship vacancies available in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Currently, there are over 500 vacancies within a 15-mile radius across the area as employers add staff to their workforce to re-build their businesses in a post-pandemic world with nearly 100 pledging to be Disability Confident which supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to the workplace.
School and college leavers can apply now to search for an apprenticeship in a wide range of sectors from digital to dentistry and logistics to manufacturing by logging on to https://www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch
Sarah Windrum, Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) who has recruited three apprentices at Leamington-based The Emerald Group where she is a director, said feedback from businesses was that the volume of applications for apprenticeships is quite low at the moment in Coventry and Warwickshire.
“We want to encourage parents to promote the apprenticeship opportunities which are available for their teenage children because businesses need young people right now,” she said.
“Employers from a wide range of industries are looking to recruit, and apprenticeships are a fantastic route into diverse and highly-skilled sectors which perhaps may not have been considered before Covid-19 or it was more difficult to access them.
“Apprentices working for working for small to medium sized businesses can make a real difference to the businesses they join and as well as receiving training in the workplace and at college, it is an opportunity for young people to earn while they learn.
“Since there has only been virtual work experience for the last 15 months, there are fewer preconceived ideas about the world of work and the information on the National Careers Service website gives inspiration to young people who maybe unsure of their next step after completing their education at school or college.
“New vacancies are being posted all the time as more and more businesses are re-opening or winning new orders and needing new staff of all ages and experience, so they are recruiting apprentices throughout the year instead of during the traditional month of September in pre-Covid times.
“It is great to see such a positive uplift because this is the largest number of vacancies for apprentices we have seen in Coventry and Warwickshire since Covid-19 began which reflects the resilience of the local economy.”
Cllr Kam Kaur, Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place at Warwickshire County Council, added: “It is very encouraging to see that there are such a high volume of apprenticeships available for young people who have seen their employment opportunities hit hardest by the pandemic. This high number is a sign that we are bouncing back.
“I’m particularly thrilled that 100 of the schemes are disability confident. The County Council is currently undertaking the SEND and Inclusion change programme which will transform education for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. One of the outcomes that we are seeking for this cohort of pupils is a pathway to rewarding employment.
“This is wonderful news that so many opportunities are coming on stream locally which will enable so many young people who are at a disadvantage in terms of gaining employment to make a contribution to their communities and to the wider economy.”
The National Careers Service website is at https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/careers-advice/cv-sections
Warwickshire employers wanted to offer an apprenticeship can visit https://skillshub.warwickshire.gov.uk/ or contact the Warwickshire Skills Hub team on email@example.com
Adapt & Diversify scheme pumps another £884,709 into Warwickshire businesses
The second round of a grants scheme created by Warwickshire County Council to support businesses adversely affected by Covid-19 has awarded a further £884,709 to another 67 businesses.
This follows the award of £594,389 to 51 businesses in the first round of the Adapt and Diversify grants scheme earlier in the year.
This means that, through the two rounds of the scheme and a further £500,000 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme loan, the council has pumped £2 million into the local economy.
The Adapt & Diversify scheme attracted a huge volume of applications, so staff in the council's Economy & Skills team and other departments of the council attached the highest priority to the programme and to processing application, so the funding could be made available as quickly as possible. The first payments from round two are now being made.
Applicants had to be able to demonstrate that they have been negatively affected by Covid-19, and that they have clear plans to adapt and diversify their business.
The scheme was set up to complement the various Government grants available via the district and borough councils. It provided grants of £5,000 towards the costs of accessing specialist external advice or up to £20,000 for projects which involve specialist advice and/or the purchase of equipment or the refurbishment of property.
It was open to all retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses and certain identified businesses in their supply chains that have also been affected by Covid-19.
Both rounds of the scheme were overwhelmed with applications, the second round attracting 211 applications worth over £2.7 million, and the round had to be closed on the day it opened.
The Adapt & Diversify grants scheme followed on from WCC’s successful Retail & Hospitality grant scheme which awarded £222,378 to 40 businesses in the summer of 2020.
126 paintbrushes, 36 Mannequins and an anvil...
"This is a perfect example of collaborative working which will give the RSC the opportunity to train the next generation of costume makers as well as encouraging more people to visit Stratford-upon-Avon.”
The restoration of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Costume Workshop in Stratford-upon-Avon has been completed thanks to support from across the world - and locally a £1million grant from The Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
The RSC has long been a key driver of Warwickshire's vibrant tourism sector and is strongly placed to remain so after the pandemic following the redevelopment of its historic costume workshop.
The Centre boasts the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre and the future of costume-making on the historical site has now been secured through a mix of public and private support.
Over 30,000 people from around the world supported the Stitch In Time fundraising campaign, alongside funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Local Growth Fund. With gifts from other trusts, foundations, companies and individuals, £8.7 million was raised for the restoration and redevelopment.
The 30-strong team of costume makers has moved back into the new workshop which has more space and daylight and is now equipped to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities to retain the costume-making skills and crafts locally.
For the first time, the Costume Workshop will be open to visitors to witness the skills used every day to create RSC costumes and to see the restored Grade II listed buildings that now sit alongside newly created spaces. Guided tours are expected to start in 2022.
The restoration will help ensure that the RSC and surrounding local businesses, continue to benefit from many visitors.
Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director said: “Thank you to all who have supported the restoration and redevelopment of our Costume Workshop. The team creates amazing costumes every year but were doing so in conditions not fit for purpose.
"Costumes are integral to an actor’s performance and to them becoming the character they are to play. As Judi Dench said, ‘no matter how much rehearsal time you have, you cannot get fully into the part until you are in costume’.
“We make, repair and recycle hundreds of costume pieces each year, which are seen by audiences around the world. Costumes have been made on this site continuously since at least the 1940s, and the workshop now has the costume-making facilities to secure the legacy of our costume-making skills and the heritage buildings that house them.”
The Costume Workshop team had to relocate for two years whilst the restoration and redevelopment took place. This involved packing and moving a vast variety of stock including over 1,700 reels of thread, 3,500 pairs of shoes, 126 paintbrushes, 97 hat blocks, 36 Mannequins, 45 sewing machines, seven tailor's hams and an anvil.
All items are now in the new Costume Workshop which is home to many specialist skills, and crafts including men’s and women’s costume-making, millinery and jewellery, dyeing and costume painting, costume props and footwear.
The workshop sits opposite the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres on the site of the 1887 Memorial Theatre Scene Dock, which is now the new entrance to the building.
Helen Peters, Board Director and Chair of the CWLEP’s culture and tourism business group, added: “The £1 million awarded from the Local Growth Fund will enable the public to access the costume workshop for the first time which will be a major boost to tourism in the town as we all recover from the pandemic.
“The CWLEP Strategic Reset Framework is focused on encouraging enterprise and innovation to drive forward the economy and this is a perfect example of collaborative working which will give the RSC the opportunity to train the next generation of costume makers as well as encouraging more people to visit Stratford-upon-Avon.”
Atherstone Gallery looking ahead with confidence after grant funding
"With all the challenges of the last year, we would not have been able to fund these improvements ourselves so we are very grateful to the county council. The grant has been amazing for us."
A longstanding family business in Atherstone has been "future-proofed" by business support from Warwickshire County Council.
Atherstone Gallery, in Long Street, has been at the heart of the town's business community since 1980. The recently extended gallery offers a selection of artists and genres in addition to stocking a eclectic mix of design-led gifts and homeware.
Like all traders in the retail sector, the gallery was hit hard by the pandemic and its lockdowns. But it is now looking forward with confidence after upgrading vital equipment thanks to funding from the county council's Adapt & Diversify Grants Scheme.
The scheme was created by the council earlier this year in reaction to the pandemic and the adverse impact of the lockdowns on so many businesses. In its first round, it delivered over £600,000 of grant funding to 52 businesses and a second round is set to be similarly productive.
In the case of Atherstone Gallery, the funding enabled the purchase of three new machines which are critical to the everyday running of the business: a roller (to expertly flatten out items brought in for framing), a glass-cutter and an underpinner.
The acquisitions mean that the family firm enters its fifth decade well-equipped to cope with more and bigger orders from customers.
"This funding has future-proofed the business," said director Laura Thursfield. "I think you get to the stage where your equipment is just about doing the job and you sort of get used to getting by. We had reached that stage and the lockdowns gave us time to think and we realised it.
"The new equipment has transformed the business. Picture-framing is the main part of our business and these new machines mean that we can a take on jobs that are a lot bigger - jobs that we would previously have had to turn away.
"We also bought two new laptops and improved our website with the funding. With all the challenges of the last year, we would not have been able to fund these improvements ourselves so we are very grateful to the county council. The grant has been amazing for us."
Warwickshire County Council leader, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: "Small family businesses like Atherstone Gallery are integral to the health of the local economy and communities and I am delighted that this grant support will benefit the gallery not only in the immediate future, but far beyond.
"Throughout the last very challenging year, our Economy & Skills team has sought to ensure that the support they offer evolves to match the changing needs of businesses. The Adapt & Diversify grants scheme is a great example of that and it is very pleasing that so many businesses, like Atherstone Gallery, have been strengthened by it."
King Edward VI students gain valuable work experience thanks to Future Careers Fund
"The Future Careers grant has been so useful in getting this pilot project off the ground."
A college in Nuneaton has created a brand new work experience programme for its students with funding from Warwickshire County Council.
King Edward VI College received £2,000 from the Future Careers Fund, which was designed by the council to assist schools in adapting their careers provision post COVID-19.
Run by the council's Skills For Employment programme, the Future Careers Fund 2020 was made available to applications from all secondary schools and colleges in the county. Thirty-four of them accessed the support.
At King Edward VI College, the funding enabled payment for two employees to work an additional four hours per week, to create a pilot work experience programme. A new careers logo for the college was also created, along with a new student guide, logbook and posters. In addition, this freed up time for careers leader Rachael Talbot to concentrate on the college's Quality in Careers Award.
Work experience is an integral element of careers options for young people. It enables them to expand their awareness of the world of work, build confidence, increase economic understanding from outside the classroom and relate their studies to work and training.
The new programme at King Edward has proved an immediate success with 31 students having signed up. Employers including Willmott Dixon, Caviar & Chips and Severn Trent have opened their doors to students for work experience placements.
The placements, to take place in Work Experience Week, starting 5th July 2021, are a mix of HR, business events and marketing.
Sujata Smith, director of progress and inclusion at King Edward VI College, said: "The Future Careers grant has been so useful in getting this pilot project off the ground. It has given us the capacity to put in place the systems needed for both the pilot and then for rolling this out across the wider student cohort next year. Achieving Gatsby benchmark 6 is a challenge with over 1,200 students, but this project will allow us to trial this process and make progress in meeting this benchmark."
WCC's Schools and Careers Coordinator Emma Neale said: "It is great to see King Edwards College use the Future Careers funding in such a creative and excellent way.
"The pandemic and its restrictions caused huge challenges for our schools and colleges in delivering their careers provision and it has been inspiring to see how risen to and adapted to those challenges and overcome them.
"I am delighted that the Future Careers Fund has proved so valuable and that so many students at Kings Edward College will get work experience that could launch them on their chosen career."
Small business encouraged to apply for Creative Futures support
Small businesses in the creative sector are being encouraged to apply for support as part of the third cohort of the Creative Futures Incubator, run by the University of Warwick.
As part of the Incubator, businesses will receive seven months of tailored business support, coaching and desk space at 1 Mill Street, a new co-working space in Leamington Spa.
Creative Futures has been devised and delivered to form a gateway between the University and the region's creative industries. It offers an opportunity for early stage businesses to benefit from support for seven months, starting online in August 2021, and then at 1 Mill Street from September 2021 to February 2022.
All those selected will join a community of 10 businesses who have already benefited directly from the programme and are part of the incubator. Any entrepreneur which feels ready to fast-track their start-up or creative business can find out more and apply here; Creative Futures Incubator | Warwick Innovation District
Creative Futures Incubator is supported by the University of Warwick, 1 Mill Street, BT and Warwickshire County Council who are working together helping to educate and incubate start-up businesses in a bid to support the largest creative cluster outside of Greater London, based in Leamington.
By becoming part of the Creative Futures Incubator, businesses will benefit from desk space at 1 Mill Street which offers, state-of-the-art meeting rooms, world-class events space, a video and sound studio and great food and coffee.
Applications must be submitted by 12th July. More information can be found at Creative Futures Incubator | Warwick Innovation District
New Esports Centre at University of Warwick will be "great asset" to the region
"We are really excited to see this investment being made by the University of Warwick. The facility will be a great asset in the region and provide a really innovative approach to engage with young people about the opportunities and future careers that Esports can provide.
The University of Warwick has announced that it will invest £275,000 of its own earned income into establishing a new flexible esports centre to be located at the heart of Warwick campus.
This announcement follows the news that the university has retained its title as UK Esports University of the Year, winning the award for a third successive year.
The new centre will builds on that success. It will provide a facility that can help in training and research into esports and also provide a medium-sized esports competition venue, especially configured to enable the equipment to be easily relocated to a larger venue on campus or elsewhere for grander scale events.
The investment in the new centre has been warmly welcomed by Warwickshire County Council which works closely with the university to support students and businesses and help them attain the skills they need.
Warwickshire County Council digital creative lead Stacy O'Connor said: "We are really excited to see this investment being made by the University of Warwick. The facility will be a great asset in the region and provide a really innovative approach to engage with young people about the opportunities and future careers that Esports can provide.
"The growth of Esports has been phenomenal over recent years, and the careers involved aren't just about playing games. It provides a doorway to many creative careers such as event management, coaching, broadcasting as well as introducing careers in building the games themselves.
"We look forward to seeing this project get underway and working with the university and this emerging sector to benefit local businesses and young people."
The University’s investment will provide all the initial physical infrastructure and equipment for the new centre making it the equal of any other such facility in the UK and the first at a Russell Group university. However, the University wants the facility to achieve maximum benefit for both its campus and local community, so is also seeking sponsorship to provide the centre with bespoke coaching, training and development activities that will be accessible to the wider community.
Esports is a competitive team-play environment, watched by millions every day. A recent world esports final of League of Legends garnered 3.8 million concurrent viewers.
Clare Green, a Women in Games Ambassador and Creative & Digital Communities Manager at University of Warwick said: “The 2020/21 lockdowns saw several sectors like video games and esports expand, seize opportunities and boom amidst the crisis. More people turned to gaming and esports as an alternative to the gym and leisure activities that the pandemic forced to close.
"Video games allowed people to relax and escape from the daily stresses, managing anxiety levels. However, esports was already huge with large-scale national and international events. Esports was already one of the global screen industry’s most innovative and fast-growing areas, generating an estimated 1,214 FTEs of total employment and £111.5m in GVA for the UK economy in 2019.”
Warwickshire’s Silicon Spa is already an internationally recognised games cluster generating some of the best-known games titles and brands. The centre will seek to work closely with regional and national partners including CWLEP, Create Central, and the West Midlands Combined Authority to lead on esports.
Jack Fenton, a consultant on the esports centre project and a past president and co-founder of the University of Warwick Esports Society said: “Considering the multi-disciplinary nature of esports, a vast range of external stakeholders have been identified that we are seeking to partner with. These represent external bodies that include corporate organisations, those committed to equality and diversity, national organisations that promote esports, regional & national skills councils, local schools and charities.
"The University of Warwick Esports Society itself has already raised thousands of pounds for the charity Special Effect, which work to adapt gaming materials to suit people with disabilities. Using these great foundations, we want to continue to foster relationships that help promote diversity and inclusion in esports.
“We look forward to working closely with many of these organisations but key to doing so will be raising financial support to enable us to offer tangible benefits around coaching, skills development, job opportunities and establishing a scholarship scheme focused on diversity and inclusion.”
Two new visitor websites launched in Warwickshire towns
"Warwickshire has so much to offer beyond its more famous attractions. It’s fantastic to see local communities use these free county council supported online assets"
Two new visitor websites have been launched to help attract visitors back to Warwickshire as the county's tourist sector starts to recover from the devastating impact of COVID.
The new websites celebrate all that’s best about Atherstone and Kenilworth and are a direct result of Warwickshire County Council’s ‘Visit Local’ project which aims to help some of the county’s smaller towns to realise their untapped visitor potential.
These days, everyone has have the ability to use hashtags on social media like #staycation and #discoveryourdoorstep and these new local visitor websites give residents and visitors a way to find out what gems are hidden in our local market towns. Over the last year, an updated online toolkit and web template have been made available to help communities create their own websites and get themselves on the tourism map.
Cllr Kam Kaur Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for Economy and Place said: "Warwickshire has so much to offer beyond its more famous attractions. It’s fantastic to see local communities use these free county council supported online assets. The Visit Local project and the resulting destination template has provided the tools for our communities across the County to create their own bespoke online portal for residents and visitors and use that local intelligence to best promote their unique visitor offers.
"Tourism has previously been such an integral part of the county’s economy, prior to the pandemic. With the domestic ‘staycation’ market looking to take advantage of people taking breaks in this country, it’s good to see that Warwickshire is getting its message out there to attract visitors to all corners of the county.”
In Kenilworth, a partnership of local businesses, community members and local organisations has worked together to engage, promote and improve the local area. Using the WCC template, with financial support from the HS2 Business and Local Economy Fund, they have created an informative, attractive new destination website for the town: https://visit.kenilworthweb.co.uk/
The partnership has also just launched three new nature and heritage trails in print and online. The website also offers a themed business and services directory so visitors can search for the things that inspire them, or that they just want to explore.
“We have our historic castle in England, with links to King Henry V and Queen Elizabeth 1st, and site of the longest siege in English history - and there is much more to explore,” said Cllr James Kennedy, Leader of the Kenilworth Town Council. “There so many beautiful green spaces from the huge Abbey Fields park in the centre to ancient woodlands and wildflower meadows, and you can trace the history of the town from mediaeval times to the Second World War. Then sample the great variety of excellent cafes, restaurants and pubs.”
It’s a similar story in Atherstone where https://visitatherstone.com/ presents new ways for visitors to explore all that’s best about this picturesque town. It aims to raise awareness not just among visitors but also local people of what they have on their doorstep.
The site is still in development and local businesses are urged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to secure their free business listing.
Stuart Jones, secretary for Atherstone Partnership, said: “Famous for hat making and also for contributing to several historic battles, namely The Roman Battle of Watling Street and The Battle of Bosworth, Atherstone is well known for its popular community events such as the Annual Ball Game, Dickens Day, Charity Beer Festival, Atherstone in Bloom. All of these events happen by engaging with the many independent retail shops around the town.
"The town has its own YouTube Video channel called ‘The Stone Channel’ https://m.youtube.com/channel/UC4-hQJUYU382oxGsj4hXh6A, where we post local information and a weekly 90 second update.
The Atherstone Partnership is very grateful for the help and support Warwickshire County Council and North Warwickshire Borough Council has given us in developing the project. “
These new sites follow hard on the heels of www.visitpolesworth.co.uk which launched last year, again using the WCC template and best practice guide.
Further local town visitor sites are in the pipeline so if you want to know more about how your town or village can get involved then explore the template and guide at https://www.destinationtemplate.co.uk/ or please contact email@example.com.
Business Ready support leave Governance360 well-placed to help others
"After meeting with Business Ready, we saw we could pivot towards companies by developing our toolkit further, and it’s already gaining really good traction."
A Warwickshire entrepreneur is helping start-up and scale-up businesses to grow after receiving support to get his own idea off the ground.
Warwick-based Clive Bawden developed Governance360, a digital toolkit that helps leaders in small companies and charities ensure they have the necessary processes in place to secure growth, mitigate risks and run their boards effectively.
The company has already landed projects with 10x10 – a leading business accelerator programme, Loughborough University and Leicester Start-ups Festival assisting with potentially high-growth, start-up businesses. Governance360 was also the only West Midlands based business to reach the 2021 finals of TechNation’s Rising Stars awards.
The Governance360 platform started life as a portal product called BoardSecure which focused principally on charities and their trustees. But, after receiving advice and support from the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme during the pandemic, Clive developed the business further to offer a fully digital platform, which enables businesses, from pre-start to scale-up, to learn, manage and embed strong processes, gain confidence in their governance and form good habits.
The platform includes everything from training directors and trustees through to ensuring key business information is shared safely and securely through a board portal.
As well as receiving direct mentoring from Business Ready’s Luke Pulford, the business recently closed a small private funding round and secured significant grant funding.
Business Ready is a programme that delivers support to expanding businesses which is managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
Clive said: “With the uncertainty that Covid caused within our initial target market, charities, we needed to re-consider our initial strategy last summer and consider a pivot. After meeting with Business Ready, we saw we could pivot towards companies by developing our toolkit further, and it’s already gaining really good traction.
“We’ve already landed our first contracts and to have been a regional finalist in the TechNation Awards is very prestigious and a real feather in the cap for Governance360.
“Ultimately, we are here as a service to businesses and charities that are just too small to have strong governance processes in place, which could really hamper their opportunities to grow.
“I’ve seen throughout my career that without strong processes in place, the opportunity to grow a business can be hampered, and in the worse cases as families or directors fall-out or fail to comply with basic legislation, businesses fail entirely. Board meetings, board
processes and compliance can be dull – but they need to be more effective, efficient and impactful for a business to grow properly and that is the pain we aim to address.
“Our platform is easy to use and helps leaders to concentrate on doing what they do best – growing their business, knowing that Governance360 has got their back.”
Matthew Lawrence, of Business Ready, said: “The global pandemic has affected businesses in a myriad of ways and, in many cases, they’ve had to completely changed focus. It’s been great to work with Clive to support that pivot towards Governance360 and it is already seeing success.
“As an organisation that helps so many businesses through the start-up and scale-up phases, we know the exact market that Clive is aiming for because we have seen in real life the very problems this platform can solve.”
* For more information on the Business Ready programme, please visit here.
Region ready to capitalise on big rise in engineering jobs
A major rise in engineering employment in Coventry and Warwickshire could be triggered by a raft of new green measures and the region's rise as a centre of excellence in next generation travel technology.
The area’s pedigree in engineering, combined with industrial research and new region-wide initiatives, look set to be one of the main drivers for the area’s economy in the next five years.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s current SmartRegion report has highlighted how a string of new projects, combined with Government pressure to reduce carbon emissions, leaves the regions well-placed to move forward from the pandemic.
The development of the new Very Light Rail (a battery driven system which has attracted £16.5 million of backing), the proposal to create the UK’s first Gigafactory on the site of Coventry Airport and the development of the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre are directly linked to Coventry and Warwickshire.
It has been estimated that more than 90,000 jobs will be created in the West Midlands over the next two decades, and Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, believes Coventry and Warwickshire is well placed to capitalise.
He said: “The decision by Government to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 has certainly focussed minds and there is an awareness at the top levels of Government that the UK needs to develop the technologies to ensure we do not miss out to other markets.
“With our leading-edge research, which lies not only within our companies but also our two universities, that makes us very well placed to capitalise economically.
“But that will not happen on its own, and – just as we did with UKBIC – the fact the joint venture behind the Gigafactory project is pressing ahead with planning shows our ambition and intent.
“Then, when you consider the development of VLR, which is backed by the LEP and is making a lot of people sit up and take notice, and the advent of West Midlands Combined Authority initiatives around public transport and digital connectivity, means we are very well placed to take advantage.”
The industry growth area features heavily in the CWLEP’s Reset Framework which has been drawn up in recent months and is designed to reset the local economy and drive a return to growth in the wake of the Covid crisis.
Humphrey added: “Two of the six pillars of the framework – Leading Innovation and Green Sustainable Future – are at the core of this type of industry and success will also help others concerned with creating good employment opportunities.
“With exciting projects underway, others in their infancy, and a strong sense of direction of travel from the public and private sectors, it is clear this is a major opportunity for employment and growth in the short, medium and long terms.”
Protect your employees with the COVID-19 vaccine
"Allowing staff time off for appointments, and for recovery if they experience side effects, may present a short-term inconvenience to your business but the benefits of having a protected workforce will far outweigh this in the longer-term"
The COVID-19 vaccination is important to protect against the virus. The vaccines are highly effective and have been shown to substantially reduce the risk of death, severe disease and transmission of infection. The NHS is progressing well through its vaccination programme and now anyone aged 25 and over will be invited to come forward and attend their appointment.
As a local employer your staff will either have been invited for their vaccine or are due to be invited. To help protect our communities from COVID-19, it’s important that you allow your employees time to access their appointment, and this may mean during their working day.
Many local businesses are working hard and taking steps to protect their staff and customers. Supporting staff to access appointments is vital part of our collective efforts to end the Pandemic. Some staff may experience side effects after their jab but these subside within one to two days. Most people experience a sore arm, a few will also experience fatigue and flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours.
Allowing staff time off for appointments, and for recovery if they experience side effects, may present a short-term inconvenience to your business but the benefits of having a protected workforce will far outweigh this in the longer-term. To find out more about the vaccination programme, please click here.
Please also note there has been a change in guidance for Close Contacts. Anyone deemed to be a Close Contact of someone with a positive COVID-19 test result should themselves access a PCR test. These tests are more reliable at picking up the virus than the rapid tests, they also allow for samples to be genetically sequenced so variants can be identified. This is important for on-going control of the virus and to ensure vaccines remain effective against any new variants which may emerge.
These tests should be access a few days after the date of contact and the full 10-day self-isolation period for Close Contacts still needs to be completed even if a negative test result is received. PCR Tests can be booked via nhs.uk/coronavirus.
If you’d like to speak to someone about your role in helping to protect our communities, please contact the Warwickshire Public Health team at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/coronavirus
Warwickshire welcomes one of first major trade shows after lockdown
Long Marston played host to several thousand guests and exhibitors as the rail technology show Rail Live 2021 returned after a year's absence.
This year the event took place entirely outside and organisers Bauer Media had put in train a well thought out ‘Attend with Confidence’ COVID 19 secure regime. Guidance and FAQs were clearly laid out on the website for those attending, and hand sanitiser was available on arrival and distancing encouraged throughout.
The final figures are yet to be announced, but the event was well supported, with more than 2,000 visitors registered before the event opened and over 170 exhibitors registered. In a normal year, the event would attract 6,000 to this unique site, the Quinton Rail Technology Centre (QRTC), a few miles outside the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, a former military storage base which is now home to a rail storage, test and development site.
Invest in Coventry & Warwickshire joined up with the Department for International Trade to exhibit at the event as ‘Invest in Midlands Rail'. They provided information to businesses looking to find out more about setting up in Warwickshire and the wider Midlands, and signposted them to relevant business support for export, skills, rail networks and programmes and access to finance where appropriate.
This event marks the end of the tenure of the current management of the site under Motorail. Later this month the lease will pass to rail technology company Porterbrook, who have taken a 15 year lease and plan to build on the work over the years of Motorail to retain and develop the site for rail uses, Rail Live being a very good example of this. The event has grown over the years to become for rail what the Farnborough Airshow is for aerospace.
Another organisation to develop out of QRTC and the team at Motorail is the Rail Alliance, a b2b networking organisation for rail businesses. Rail Alliance is now part of University of Birmingham BCRRE (Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education), the largest rail department of any university in Europe.
If you are an SME and are either in the rail industry, or would like to get into the rail supply chain, support is available for Coventry & Warwickshire businesses from the Rail Alliance business support programme known as Digi-Rail. Support can include access to world-class technical expertise, demonstration infrastructure, seminars and workshops, access to technology providers and rail industry buyers, bespoke/1:1 consultations and diagnostic activities. Support given on DIGI-RAIL is a minimum of two days and will be at no cost to the company. For more details, please visit https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/partners/sme-support/business-support-programmes/digi-rail/index.aspx
Rail Live returns in June 2022 at Long Marston, and those wishing to take part can register their interest online at https://www.raillive.org.uk/
Students gain valuable insights from Virtual Careers Event
Nearly 3,000 students in Coventry and Warwickshire took part in a virtual careers event this week to give them a taste of life post-education.
The Coventry & Warwickshire Careers Hub, which was launched by the Careers & Enterprise Company and brought to the region by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), held a Virtual Work Experience Day on Wednesday June 23, with a live session taking place between 11am and noon.
Employers including Severn Trent Water, Farrans Construction, Ubisoft, Willmott Dixon, GreenSquareAccord and Think Higher (which is part of the University of Warwick Connect programme), were involved in the event which was aimed at year 10 and 11 pupils.
Enterprise co-ordinator Emma Culey from Coventry & Warwickshire Careers Hub, who is part-funded by Think Higher Coventry and Warwickshire which is based at the University of Warwick, said: “We ran the live Q&A between 11am and noon and we had a really good turnout from students and they were particularly interested in talking to two apprentices from Severn Trent.
“Employers developed a number of activities – some were individual student tasks, others were group tasks and another was to design a game.
“Think Higher also put together a session about preparing themselves for the workforce. This covered carrying out research before work placements, asking ‘what is a code of conduct?’, thinking about how students should behave in the workplace, and assessing their transferrable skills and how to build on those."
Marion Plant, board director and chair of the CWLEP Reset Taskforce and the Productivity and Skills Business Group, said: “Supporting the development of skills and promoting career opportunities in Coventry and Warwickshire is one of the key action points of the CWLEP’s Strategic Reset Taskforce.
“It is vital we provide highly-skilled jobs to encourage young people to train and stay in the area and promote the skills which are needed in specific sectors such as electrification, health and social care, and logistics to boost the economy in the long-term.”
Peer Networks programme to be extended
“It is completely free of charge and we’re urging business Leaders from across Coventry and Warwickshire to get in touch to benefit from this worthwhile programme.”
A programme that is helping to develop a new generation of professionals in Coventry and Warwickshire has been expanded to offer peer-to-peer support to experienced business leaders across the region.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce was one of the delivery partners for the Peer Networks programme which is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and managed regionally by the CWLEP Growth Hub.
The Chamber is now opening up the programme to business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire with two new cohorts, the first covering all sectors and the second focused on business owners in the professional services sector.
The sessions are led by the participants, with support from a facilitator, giving them a space to explore, discuss and solve challenges. They aim to encourage participants to collaborate, work through common business issues and strengthen business performance. In a safe and trusted environment, participants will be able to share ideas with fellow business leaders, as well as receive practical advice from a trained facilitator, thereby improving critical thinking, helping productivity and creative thinking.
Peer Networks enables connections, and fosters relations that go far beyond networking but there will also be time to develop key relationships with fellow business leaders, creating opportunities to work together.
Harry Hanson, a surveyor at Holt Commercial, was one of the members of the first cohort of Peer Networks delivered by the Chamber. He joined the firm seven months ago and says the sessions have given a boost to his professional development and equipped him with key networking skills.
“I have recently started at the firm and this was a great way to meet new professionals across a range of industries,” said Harry. “The sessions gave me a great confidence boost and a provided a space for us to discuss issues in our careers, and I can definitely see how this could be of benefit for business owners, particularly as we emerge from the pandemic.
“We discussed networking skills and how we can improve that skillset ahead of physical networking events restarting. The one-to-one sessions gave me time to consider my goals and aspirations and I have been able to go away and work towards those in the workplace.
“The insight, advice and guidance I received has been valuable over the sessions, and it has taught me a great deal about myself personally and professionally.”
The new cohorts will begin in September 2021 and includes group sessions and one-to-one business coaching from Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber Training (CWCT).
Keely Hancox, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It has been a challenging year, for all businesses. We have all had to adapt, work differently all in the context of the pandemic. As we are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel, we know businesses are keen to capitalise on opportunities, come together to do business, whilst some still face significant challenges.
“Having a Peer Network, and a trusted network of fellow business leaders is invaluable. Evidence has shown that working in this way can really help productivity and business growth. We are excited that we can support Coventry and Warwickshire businesses.
“The first cohorts we ran was hugely successful, with some great feedback. The action learning framework allows individuals to share challenges and opportunities, while being guided by a facilitator in a group setting to come to a solution. This is then followed up with one-to-one support from one of our expert business coaches.
“It is completely free of charge and we’re urging business Leaders from across Coventry and Warwickshire to get in touch to benefit from this worthwhile programme.”
For more information on the programme, go to https://cw-chamber.co.uk/business-support/peer-networks/