Colors: Purple Color

To mark this year’s International Women in Engineering Day (June 23rd), Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, is calling on young women across the Midlands to join its diverse and talented intake of apprentices, to meet the on-going challenges that both the sector and UK now face.

The proportion of women in the UK joining the sector as apprentices is 7.5%1; at Make UK, however, women accounted for almost 10% of the 2019/20 intake at its Technology Hub in Aston, Birmingham.

Dame Judith commented: “2020 has demonstrated to us all, more than ever before, the need for talented people to address the challenges we face in engineering, manufacturing and in every aspect of how we live our lives. 
 
“Solutions to some of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced require diverse and inclusive teams – women and men from all backgrounds. Young people who really want to make a difference in the world choose engineering. Make UK’s centre at Aston is a shining example of diverse and inclusive groups working together to shape the future. More than ever before your talent and your passion is needed in manufacturing.”

Vicky Stanislavska, an apprentice with Alcon, added: “I decided to go into engineering because I believe that there are so many opportunities in this field, because of my interest in cars, and I wanted an opportunity to work in the automotive industry. I also had a passion for art, so design engineering was a logical solution to combine both interests. Places will always need engineers and there are so many jobs which women would enjoy.”

Evie Hammond, who is in her third year as a Severn Trent engineering apprentice, spent her first year of studies at Make UK’s Technology Hub. She commented: “Not only have I gained on-the-job experience, but I have also gained the same academic achievements of someone that went to university to do a similar course. I definitely made the right decision!”

Now in its seventh year, ‘​International Women in Engineering Day’ is an international awareness campaign which raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in the industry. The theme of this year’s campaign is #ShapeTheWorld.

 

A new business hub is offering a fully funded programme of support focusing on preparing local companies for the problems they may face following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Delivered through the University of Wolverhampton in Stafford, the Stafford Business Hub programme is providing over £500 worth of support for business start-ups, re-launches or up scales through a structured and dedicated service based in Stafford.

The project is funded through Stafford Borough Council’s Economic Growth programme and is available for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) of Stafford Borough to support their business growth plan.

UwiS Centre Co-ordinator, Trevor Humphreys, said: “In addition to giving access to a wide range of training courses and qualifications which we provide at the Centre, Stafford Business Hub provides businesses with expert support to identify ways in upscaling their business or setting up a new venture.

“The free training will pinpoint ways in which they can facilitate their growth plans as well as improving their ability to adapt to the evolving business environment in Stafford Borough.”

The full programme is based on attendance at four key phases and the business must be based within Stafford Borough.

Phase 1 focuses on starting or growing a business and is designed for those responsible for growth or business development.  It will focus on the basic principles of running a small business with basic marketing techniques, opportunities and pitfalls as well as business planning.

The second phase of the programme is a 2-day more intensive look at the skills needed for start-ups and up-scaling, including in depth marketing of the business, networking and pitching to clients. 

Stafford Business Hub will also provide individual 1:1 support to help plan business development and growth.

Councillor Frances Beatty, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Planning at Stafford Borough Council, said:  “The Stafford Business Hub will complement the range of successful skills development programmes we already have up and running within the Borough. 

“Our strong partnership with the University of Wolverhampton in Stafford is built on a shared ambition to deliver our strategy for growth.”

Delivered by the University of Wolverhampton in Stafford, through local providers, the training is for business operating in Stafford Borough. 

The business programme will play an important role in supporting Tourism and Leisure businesses who have been most affected by the recent pandemic.

The courses are designed to support those who sell their services directly to the consumer, advising on planning ahead, cash flow, marketing support and digital development. 

The latest research by estate agent comparison site, GetAgent.co.uk, has highlighted the declining revenue of the average UK estate agent due to a reduction in transactions, largely driven by the industry-wide lockdown as a result of the coronavirus.

GetAgent looked at the average fee charged by estate agents and what the total potential value is when considering all residential transactions. GetAgent then compared this to market performance over the last year and five years to see how lucrative it is to be an estate agent in the current market climate. 

In the financial year of 2015-2016, the average estate agent charged a fee of 1.3%+VAT which equated to £2,622 on the average house price of £201,695; £3,146 when taking VAT into account.

Fast forward five years and this fee has dropped marginally to 1.25%+VAT, however, with house prices climbing to an average of £231,906 the average agent has seen income from each transaction climb by 10.6% to £2,899.
 
The difference? A -11.8% reduction in transactions, meaning that five years ago the 1,321,630 annual transactions within the resi market would have made the industry nearly £3.5bn in fees.

With the lockdown in March seeing agents restricted throughout April and transactions plummeting as a result, this total value has seen a notable decline, with £86,373,744 lost in fees.

Between 2018/2019 financial year and 2019/2020, the data also shows transactions have fallen by -1.9% meaning that while the average estate agents fee has still increased when compared to this time a year ago, the industry as a whole has seen revenues fall by nearly £25m where the fees secured on completed transactions are concerned.  

Founder and CEO of GetAgent.co.uk, Colby Short, commented: “The property industry has endured a tough couple of months and the Government’s lockdown of the market has had a notable impact on transactions and as a result, the revenue of many agents.

“This struggle is likely to continue over the coming months as we inevitably see a further reduction in transactions.

“The good news is not all agents are average and we’ve seen a monumental effort by many to adapt, evolve and in some cases, thrive in current market conditions. People still want to move and it will be those agents out on the front line helping them to do so that will remain relevant in an ever evolving industry. As ever these days, the best service will prevail and UK agents are really understanding that differentiator now.

“Many will have to knuckle down, manage overheads and potentially jettison branch offices.

“Some may also reconsider Rightmove as one of their biggest expenses. However, in recent years we’ve seen the industry survive the financial crash, pivot to fight against online agents and overcome months of Brexit uncertainty, and we’re confident we will see this resilience shine through once again.”
 

People are set to join Ushvani Spa, in collaboration with Shilpa Reddy Flower Design, for a special online ‘Garland Workshop’ – a beautiful afternoon of festival-style flower garland making using handcrafted sustainable paper flowers. Perfect for crafty adults and children alike - a brilliant activity to fill the long school summer holidays!
 
Shilpa, the creative director of fashion-forward flower brand ‘Shilpa Reddy Flower Design’ will demonstrate how to create a stunning floral lei in her signature style. Those joining will have the chance to make their very own lei alongside her that will include flowers such as the Hibiscus, the national flower of Malaysia in a nod to Ushvani’s roots.
 
At a cost of £25 per kit (and £15 per additional Garland), participants will also receive a complimentary Ushvani Balm (rrp £35) – to help with the inevitable headache that craft related activities with children might create! A blend of pure essential oils and camphor crystals designed to soothe both mind and body, the balm is based on a traditional Asian ‘cure all’ aromatherapeutic remedy, containing healing oils of rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus and soothing menthol.
 
The workshop, on Saturday August 1, at 2pm, will take place online via Zoom allowing those taking part the chance to interact and share their creations. All materials required will be posted out prior to the workshop and it will also be recorded so participants can access and replay the content when required.
 
Maximum 20 bookings per class and 1 Ushvani balm per booking.

The total amount of vital coronavirus business grants so far paid to City of Wolverhampton businesses is closing in on £40million.
 
Eligible city businesses who have yet to claim their coronavirus business support grants are also being urged to submit their online form.
 
More than 3,400 businesses have now received a share of £38.8million distributed by City of Wolverhampton Council from the Government’s Small Business Grant Fund and Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund, since April 6.
 
Over 94% of requests for funding have been paid and there are currently a further 162 city businesses at various stages in the process, working with the Council.
 
Eligible businesses have been contacted by letter and/or email and allocated a code, a Business Account reference number, and a link to a web form to capture the relevant business information. Businesses are encouraged to check their post and emails for correspondence from the Council.
 
Anyone with any business support queries should call 01902 290242 between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Thursday or from 9am to 4.30pm on Fridays. 
 
All forms submitted by businesses are subject to thorough eligibility checks, and to ensure that they meet the criteria of:

Being the ratepayer
In occupation of the business on 11 March 2020

The council is dealing with a high volume of calls to update records and is working as quickly as possible. Following this, businesses are contacted and invited to confirm their eligibility for a grant.
 
Further communication with businesses may be necessary if any of the required information is missing.
 
City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Harman Banger, said: “We are doing everything we can to support our small businesses to access this money including proactively contacting businesses who are eligible.
 
“We have staff on hand to support businesses who require help and advice with the online process, and I would urge eligible businesses to get in touch.
 
“If you’ve already filled in an online form but haven’t received your grant payment yet, please bear with us.
 
“We yesterday (Monday) also launched the Discretionary Grant Fund for small and micro-businesses who have been ineligible for other schemes.
 
“But I would urge businesses to first ensure they are not eligible for a grant from the Small Business Grant Fund or Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.
 
“Rest assured, we will make sure every business is supported in whichever way possible.”
 
The Government guidance on the size of the grants is as follows:

small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief, and have a rateable value of £15,000 or less; or
grant funding of £10,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value of £15,000 or below; or
grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,001 and £50,999

Full details of the latest government business support measures can be found at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support.

Change into Action, the alternative giving scheme, has raised more than £150,000 in donations to help support homeless people across the West Midlands.
 
The scheme, which supports local specialist charities and street teams working to change the circumstances of rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping, uses donations to pay for items such as clothing, travel to get to medical and other essential appointments, emergency accommodation, and rent deposits.
 
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, donations from generous residents and businesses have continued to come in, with the scheme now passing the £150,000 milestone. In Coventry alone, more than £12,000 has been donated during the lockdown period.
 
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and founder of the WMCA’s Homelessness Taskforce, said: “I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported our most vulnerable members of society across the region by donating to Change into Action.
 
“The Coronavirus pandemic has been extremely difficult for businesses and residents, but despite this people are still giving generously to Change into Action, which is incredibly heart-warming.
 
“Rough sleepers are at high risk from Covid-19, and it is therefore more important than ever we do everything we can to support them. Change into Action is a safe and easy way for residents and businesses to do that, with people having the confidence that the money they donate will go directly to helping people who are sleeping rough.
“For those wanting to donate to the scheme, the easiest and most direct way is through the Change into Action website at www.changeintoaction.org.uk “
 
Change into Action was initially launched as a pilot in Birmingham in 2017, as a partnership between the Mayor of the West Midlands, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and Birmingham City Council. The scheme now covers four West Midlands areas Birmingham​, Solihull, Coventry and Walsall, and Wolverhampton City council runs a similar scheme called Small Change for Big Change.
 
Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council and Chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group, Councillor Sharon Thompson, added: “This is wonderful news and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed. Homeless people are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, and in Birmingham alone, 267 people have received help through the scheme which is fantastic.

“Over the last decade, we’ve seen rough sleeping increase exponentially. While we’ve been working tirelessly to do all we can to support and prevent homelessness, the resources of local authorities across the country, and particularly in the West Midlands, have been limited. That’s why Change into Action is vital. It provides rough sleepers with the type of funding that can be seemingly small but in reality, is life changing.

“As a homeless teen myself, I know first-hand how tough it can be to change your life. Donations, like these, will make a huge difference and will put us one step closer to designing out homelessness in the West Midlands.”

The news comes as the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Homelessness Taskforce urges the Government to act now to prevent a post-COVID-19 surge in homelessness across the region.
 
The Taskforce has called on Government to introduce a range of new measures to support rough sleepers and people at risk of becoming homeless as the pandemic continues. More than 800 existing or potential rough sleepers have been housed by local authorities in the region throughout the crisis and now the Taskforce wants to use the lessons learned during the pandemic to ensure that those who have come in are able to stay in.
 
A West Midlands submission to the Government's homelessness Tsar, Dame Louise Casey, highlights growing concerns that the number of people presenting as homeless could rise due to the virus temporarily ‘bottling up’ demand. In particular, the Taskforce has highlighted rent arrears and wider debt accrued during the lockdown due to the reduction in people’s incomes as two key reasons why people will find themselves facing homelessness as the pandemic continues. The group has also raised the ‘significant risk’ of relationships breaking down during the lockdown phase as another factor leading to homelessness.