Colors: Purple Color

A leading industry figure has been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton for his contribution to building business links.

Chris Blythe, who has spent over 25 years working at all levels of vocational education and training, has been awarded a Doctor of Professional Practice in recognition of his business achievements.

After graduating from Wolverhampton Polytechnic in 1976, Chris trained as a management accountant and, after qualifying, held a number of financial positions with firms such as Dunlop, Birmid Qualcast, Mitel, W Canning, Corgi Toys and GKN Sankey.

In 1991, he joined the North & Mid Cheshire Training and Enterprise Council based in Warrington, an organisation delivering programmes to get young people and long-term unemployed adults into work and business development

Chris joined the Chartered Institute of Building in January 2000 as Chief Executive, a post he currently holds. He has recently led the Institute in tackling labour exploitation in the construction industry. In the Queen’s 2017 New Year’s Honours List, Chris received an OBE for services to the construction industry and government.

Chris said: “I am deeply honoured by the award especially as I am an alumnus of the university. Wolverhampton Polytechnic as it was gave me an opportunity which became the foundation for everything that has happened for me since. It is pleasing to see that the university is still providing opportunities and will create even more with the new Springfield campus.”

Honorary awards are presented by the University of Wolverhampton to people who have made a significant contribution to their field of expertise.

City of Wolverhampton Council’s Business Development Team is looking for 25 Wolverhampton-based companies to join the final phase of its fully-funded European business growth support project, AIM.


It is just one of the opportunities the Black Country Growth Hub will be showcasing to local businesses at the ‘Small Business, Big Impact’ on Monday, September 24.


The event is part of the city’s annual Business Programme and will take place at the Black Country Growth Hub’s HQ, at the Science Park, Glaisher Drive, WV10 9RT, between noon and 2pm. To book a place visit


By the end of 2018 the city council will have teamed up with 150 small businesses through the AIM programme to help identify and provide access to a bespoke business support package to help them grow.


Companies work alongside their own business growth specialist to tailor the support to ensure the business receives all the grants, specific guidance, marketing support and connections that lead to the expansion and sustainability of the business.


The programme is popular among businesses who are looking to grow, investigate new market places, move premises, take on staff or buy plant/equipment.


It has already attracted companies ranging from digital and media to advanced manufacturers supplying the automotive, rail and aerospace sectors. Many of these companies have a fantastic customer base – including the BBC, JLR, Aston Martin, UTC Aerospace and Bentley, and have supplied high-profile projects such as Heathrow Terminal 5 and the Piccadilly Extension Line.


The programme has also provided companies access to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Black Country Transformational GOLD grants, set up to support a variety of growth projects.


Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “There are thousands of small businesses in the city that employ less than 100 people.


“These businesses account for a staggering 97 per cent of our business base and are businesses that we are keen to support.


“The AIM programme funded through the EU, the city council, and other local partners including the University of Wolverhampton and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, is showing our commitment to this important group of businesses.”


Luke Plant, Director at Infinity Tubes based in Dixon Street, added: “The support received from the city council’s Business Development Team has been invaluable.


“It seems that you cannot ask them for the wrong thing, with advice and support for numerous matters being there when you need it.


“When you feel like the world is against you, things are stacking up and you don't know which way to turn, a quick conversation with one of the business advisors can lead to a world of opportunities - and it’s nice to know that help is out there.”


Adam Mercy at 22 is one of City of Wolverhampton’s youngest entrepreneurs – setting up his company Air Accounting at the city’s Chubb Building after just a couple of years working for a major accountancy firm.


A key focus of his business growth plan has been to develop apps with features that make accounting and tax easier, to help improve the service.


He said: “The AIM project has helped us to define a clear marketing plan to take our business to the next level.


“Our business advisor provided us with professional guidance and helped us to identify the support available that will assist our business in achieving growth.


“We were further helped to tailor the specifics of our digital marketing strategy to strengthen our understanding of our key target audience and locations.”

Investment in technology and machinery will be examined this week in the second part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) Invest to Grow campaign.

The campaign, launched last week, aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in innovation, research and development (R&D), technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity.

The two-part campaign includes a series of case studies, expert opinions, briefing information and research on innovation and R&D.

Part 2, launching today, explores investment in technology and machinery. It will examine topics such as making the move to digital, investing in automation and the emerging technologies that businesses need to be aware of. It is sponsored by MCS Corporate.

Ten organisations will be contributing case studies and comment pieces including; Fracino, SUEZ Recycling & Recovery UK, RSM and the GBS LEP Growth Hub.

Alongside this, the GBCC have published guidance on the support available for businesses looking to invest in this space and recommendations for stakeholders and businesses on overcoming barriers to investment.

Readers are encouraged to join the conversation on social media using #I2G18.

Henrietta Brealey (pictured), director of policy and strategic relationships at the GBCC, said: “British businesses are leaders in their field in many respects. However, there is one area where research shows we lag behind – the adoption of the latest technologies.

“The local businesses we are featuring in this campaign have already taken great strides to embrace investment in technology and machinery. While every business is different, we hope their example can demonstrate what’s possible while the expert comment pieces and information on business support available through this campaign provide the information businesses need to get started on their own journeys.

“We also recognise that businesses face very real barriers to investment. We will be exploring these, and making recommendations for stakeholders, later in this campaign.”

Rebecca Warwick, consultant, MCS Corporate said: “We are very excited to be part of this campaign to help boost the region.  Growth in R&D is critical to sustained competitiveness in a global economy, particularly with Brexit looming, and this campaign is designed to drive awareness of what is effectively the government underwriting elements of R&D risk for companies.”

You can find out more about the GBCC’s Invest to Grow campaign here.

Cost pressures are the biggest barrier to innovation, new research from the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and University of Birmingham City-REDI reveals.

The research, released as part of the Chambers’ Invest to Grow campaign, reveals that 65 per cent of local businesses identified cost pressures/high input cost as a barrier to innovation in their business.

The survey also highlights that too much competition in the market (64 per cent), lack of skilled employees within their enterprise (59 per cent) and lack of internal finance for innovation (49 per cent) as important barriers.

The results are based on a survey of over 200 local businesses taken earlier this year.

As a result, the Chambers are calling on the Government to reduce input costs for businesses arising from taxation.

Henrietta Brealey (pictured), director of policy and strategic relationships at GBCC, said: “We have seen a significant rise in costs for businesses coming from taxation and associated administration in recent years.

“When we surveyed businesses across the West Midlands region earlier this year we found that 76 per cent of firms had experienced an increase in the overall burden of tax admin and compliance compared to five years ago.

“And with the recent introduction of the apprenticeship levy, pension auto-enrolment and rising business rates for a significant number of firms, it’s no wonder why.

“The Government have made clear their intention to encourage firms to innovate and boost R&D spend through The Industrial Strategy.

“However, Ministers and officials need to bear in mind that businesses only have finite resources.

“If the Government could successfully overhaul the UK’s tax system to reduce its reliance on input taxes and streamline admin it would free up significant business resources for potential investment in innovation and R&D.

“We are also calling on the Government to clarify their long-term vision for innovation funding post-Brexit.”

The Invest to Grow campaign aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in research and development (R&D), innovation, technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity.

Part one of the campaign is sponsored by the University of Birmingham.

Professor Simon Collinson, deputy pro-vice-chancellor for Regional Economic Engagement and director of the City-Region Economic Development Institute (City-REDI), said: “Universities are key players in the city-region’s innovation system. Alongside our counterparts the University of Birmingham is working with local firms, large and small, to develop new technologies in life sciences, renewable energy systems, rail transport and advanced materials to drive competitiveness in global markets.

“But we are also helping policy makers develop a local industrial strategy focused on the unique strengths of our city-region. City-REDI’s work with the Chamber shows that the region is under-investing in skills, R&D and new technology. Firms are the driving force for regional growth and managers need the confidence to invest to compete more effectively, despite the current uncertainties.”

The Chambers are also encouraging local business leaders to embrace innovation and R&D in their organisations and tap in to the support available.

Henrietta Brealey said: “Investing in innovation and R&D is as much, if not more, about business culture and leadership as it is about financial investment.

“We are encouraging business leaders to create an environment that recognises, rewards and enables innovation.

“Every investment comes with a risk of failure. Luckily, there are a lot of support organisations, tax incentives, grants and potential partners out there that can help businesses reduce the risks associated with investing in R&D and innovation.

“Make sure your organisation is making the most of them. The resources available through our Invest to Grow campaign can help businesses get started.”

Andy Newnham, strategic business engagement partner at the University of Birmingham said: “Universities are hotbeds of innovation, full of the latest thought leadership, talent, and pioneering academics.

“By collaborating with universities, businesses can access the latest thinking on industry trends and avoid the large time and capital costs associated with R&D and innovation.

“At the University of Birmingham, we’re used to collaborating with all kinds of businesses, from regional SMEs, through to multinationals. By supporting vital campaigns like Invest to Grow we want to highlight to organisations the positive role we can play in their growth.”

One of the UK's leading distilleries has employed an industry pioneer to build upon its award-winning reputation and drive the business forward.

Sion Edwards joined the team at Union Distillers in Market Harborough as General Manager earlier this summer and has already introduced innovative practices to improve productivity and increase capacity to produce more spirits.

The Harper Adams graduate has also brought with him knowledge from his previous roles at Warner Edwards and Langley Distillery where he worked with brands such as Bacardi and Campari.

He said: “The first thing I looked at when I started was increasing productivity.

“Having worked in fresh produce, I have brought that production element into the business and am taking lots of little steps towards improving an already very successful business.”

One of the steps Sion has taken is buying a new bottling machine and larger stills.

Union Distillers, which was founded by Mark Gamble in 2013 develops, distils and bottles bespoke spirits on behalf of brands and independent retailers such as Fortnum & Mason.

While its signature brand, Two Birds Spirits, will still be distilled in small batches of 100 bottles, the larger stills have a capacity of up to 300 litres, more than trebling the current productivity rate. And it does not stop there.

“Every small distillery is making one-shot spirits and I think it's very easy to do,” Sion added.

“It's a far better and more traditional method to distil concentrate spirits and by doing so, you get a much more consistent flavour and that's something I'd like to explore further.”

And it is not just Union Distillers that is benefiting from Sion's new role. He was previously commuting to the other side of Birmingham every day and is already enjoying having more time to spend at home with his family in Leicestershire.

Sion said: “I spoke to Mark a lot as I've known him since the beginning of my career and saw Union Distillers were looking for someone to drive the business forward and we both have the same ambitions.

“I'm really enjoying it. It's very different to Langley and it's going to take me at least a year to learn everything there is to know about the business but we're already making progress.”

Mark added: “Sion has already been such an asset to Union Distillers and that is clear from the methods he has introduced and the productivity of the team.

“As a result of his work we have already employed additional staff to meet demand and it's only the start of better things to come.”

The finalists of the 2018 Black British Business Awards (BBBAwards) have been announced. This list recognises the trailblazers and rising stars who represent the very best of the UK's vibrant business sector.

The BBBAwards are the only premium awards programme to celebrate both the exceptional performance and outstanding achievements of black professionals and entrepreneurs in global, small and medium enterprises operating in Great Britain. The BBBAwards uncover inspirational role models; ambassadors who represent the very best talent across various sectors in the British economy. The BBBAwards are designed to transcend stereotypes and highlight the often-unsung contributions of black people to the British economy.

The winners will be announced during a special awards ceremony and evening gala at The Grange St Paul’s Hotel London on 4th October 2018. Endorsed by the Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Mayor or London and Secretary of State, the BBBAwards will celebrate its 5th anniversary with a once again, full-house of over 450 senior leaders, industry influencers and high-profile supporters; honouring the enormous success generated over the previous four years.

The BBBAwards is more than just a ceremony. Over the last five years, it has grown into a powerful change agent for the wider BAME talent agenda, creating a hub where businesses share ideas and take away concrete actions to create working environments for all talented

individuals to succeed. In addition, the BBBAwards have launched the following highly impactful initiatives:

  • The Middle Research Report in collaboration with EMpower and Bloomberg.
  • BAME in the Boardroom in collaboration with Deloitte.
  • The Talent Accelerator in collaboration with Virgin Money and hosted by Morgan Stanley.

These initiatives have cemented the BBBAwards position as a leader who is at the forefront of the diversity and inclusion conversation in the UK industry.

Melanie Eusebe, Chair and Co-founder of the Black British Business Awards commented:

“We are thrilled to be celebrating not only the breadth of talented business people as finalists for the 2018 awards, but also the Black British Business Awards 5th year anniversary. Over the last 5 years we have uncovered numerous role models, from creative entrepreneurs to seasoned bankers. These individuals are truly breaking down barriers and stereotypes whilst changing the game for the rest of the UK industry,”

The BBBAwards have also announced that The Telegraph will be their media partner. The main sponsors for the 2018 awards include Baker McKenzie, Barclays, Bloomberg, Cisco, Facebook, J.P. Morgan, MDC Group, PwC, Thomson Reuters and Virgin Money.

The BBBAwards and its finalists have been featured in several news publications and networks including the BBC, City A.M., Sky News, The Evening Standard, The Telegraph, The Times and The Voice.

The 2018 awards will distinguish outstanding black business professionals and entrepreneurs at the top of their game into six diverse industry categories, which celebrate both rising stars and senior leaders awards.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority participated in a conference call today with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to get an update on the aftermath of the storm system that brought unusually heavy rainfall to the state over the past week.

To recap, Hurricane Lane was approaching Hawaii last week until strong wind shear and trade winds steadily weakened it from a category 5 hurricane to a tropical storm over a three-day period before finally pushing it away from the islands last Friday.

Currently, Post-Tropical Cyclone Lane is continuing to move in a westward direction far away from the Hawaiian Islands and is no longer a threat to residents and visitors.

The remnants of the storm, however, brought excessive rainfall and flash flooding to localized areas around the state, most notably on the island of Hawaii and Kauai.

Assessments are ongoing on each island to determine any recovery efforts that are still needed to address the impacts of this rare and abnormal weather system.

But, to be clear, the State of Hawaii is fully open for business and travelers should not be dissuaded at all from making or planning trips to our beautiful island home.

All airports, resorts and hotels, activities, restaurants, retail operations, beaches and publicly accessible roadways are open, as well as most forest lands and state and county parks.

To prospective travelers and anyone interested in Hawaii, please know this. The weather is beautiful today, sunny, warm and inviting, exactly what everyone expects when being in the Hawaiian Islands.

The humble 1p coin could soon become a thing of the past as The Bank of England is considering its future.

The fate of the 1p lies with us and the way we use it as more than half in circulation are only used once.

The Bank's theory is that the rise of card payments makes the issue irrelevant - and far fewer items are now priced ending in 99p.

The value of the 1p coin has also been reduced by inflation so, in effect, the 1p coin is now worth less than the halfpenny when it was abolished in 1984.

Among many of those who support the continuing use of copper coins, the belief is that retailers would simply round up prices to the nearest 5p if copper coins were scrapped.

Many countries - including Canada, the home of Bank of England governor Mark Carney - have ditched their low denomination coins, as well as Australia, Brazil, and Sweden who are also doing so.

Studies from around the world have shown that removing low denomination coins would have little or no impact on prices.

The Bank of England economists said: "As inflation steadily erodes the purchasing power of low denomination coinage, the case for the removal of the 1p becomes stronger."


Businesses that want to learn about a range of basic export topics can now watch a series of video training masterclasses without leaving their desk.


Launched by West Midlands Chambers of Commerce and funded by the ERDF SME International Growth Project, the online resource offers six masterclasses covering: export documentation and administration; export pricing; intellectual property; international sales and marketing; market research and selection; and routes to market.


Each of the videos lasts for about 30 minutes and will take SMEs (small-to-medium-sized enterprises) step by step through the processes of selling overseas. Each session is designed to offer valuable advice and tips to new and/or inexperienced exporters, by providing a structure for how to trade globally.


Patrick McCarron, Business Development Manager of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Last year, we helped more than 300 businesses in the West Midlands region to start exporting for the first time.


“Selling products or services internationally is a potentially profitable part of any business plan, but there are many factors to consider when planning to trade overseas. We know that companies are keen to expand their export markets but it can sometimes be difficult to spare someone for a half day to attend a workshop or seminar.


“These online tools will allow businesses to access the relevant masterclasses at a time that is suitable for them and help them tackle the key stages in the export process.


“Of course, these can be followed up with meetings with our experienced international trade advisers, who can provide specialist help, guide companies through the exporting process, set up meetings and liaise with embassies and advisers in the target markets.”

Efforts to attract private inward investment to the Midlands’ infrastructure sector could be given a significant boost through the adoption of new global construction standards, according to RICS

RICS states that adopting ICMS (International Construction Measurement Standards) would make the Midlands even more attractive to international investors – providing greater transparency, consistency and certainty for them. ICMS is a collaborative international standard developed by 46 global construction professional bodies.

For the last seven years, workloads in Midlands’ infrastructure have grown consistently and strongly, with the main activity taking place in the road, rail and energy sectors, according to RICS Construction & Infrastructure Market Survey, which gathers the sentiments of RICS Chartered Quantity Surveyors working in the region.

Chartered Quantity Surveyors –  experts in the financial management of construction – commit to working to the best practice through RICS standards. Quantity Surveyors are fundamental to ensuring best value for money for the taxpayer.

Looking ahead, workloads in the Midlands are expected to rise quicker than the rest of the UK. Employment in Midlands’ construction is also expected to grow, at a rate 0.8% by 2022*. Not only is this above national expectations, but means the region’s current and planned projects will create around 17,000 new jobs in the sector.

Therefore, growth fuels the need for more trusted, skilled and regulated professionals and accurate reporting of costs in construction and infrastructure projects. This is critical not only in terms of attracting investors, but also for assessing the economic viability of projects and maximising their impact.

Alan Muse, RICS Global BEG Standards Director, commented:

“At present, there is a lack of uniformity in how construction projects and costs are measured and reported around the world, which can provide risks for investors.

“Chartered quantity surveyors ensure the economic optimisation of construction projects through a process of prediction, control and challenge. As construction becomes more global, both in terms of funding and implementation, international learning through common international standards becomes more important and ensures better information for investment decisions.

“Widespread adoption of ICMS in the construction market here could provide the Midlands with a real competitive advantage and signal to potential investors that this is a market that they should be active in.

“ICMS provides global consistency in reporting; the kind of consistency that inward investors increasingly demand, and government projects need. Our message is very clear to those working in the Midlands’ built environment, widespread adoption of ICMS provides the opportunity for significant competitive advantage.”

Malcolm Horner, Emeritus Professor of Engineering Management, University of Dundee and Chair of the ICMS Civil Engineering Stream, commented:

“The benefits of sharing useful, robust and consistent data are widely recognised, both to provide benchmarks and improve the quality of estimating and cost prediction.

“Data sharing would be helpful to governments and other organisations who need to demonstrate value for money. It would allow the efficiencies of different organisations to be compared and inefficiencies to be identified and targeted. It would also allow clients and consultants, particularly smaller ones, to better determine what a project should cost, what it will cost and what it did cost.”

International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) is a high-level international standard that aims to provide greater global consistency in the classification, definition, measurement, analysis and presentation of construction costs at a project, regional, state or national/ international level. The standard has already been adopted by Arup, Arcadis and Turner & Townsend.

Business across the West Midlands are being urged to apply for a specialist funding stream that aims to help them export for the first time or expand their overseas markets.

The West Midlands SME International Growth Project (SME IGP), funded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has approved 220 grants since January 2017, providing match-funded grants worth more than £500,000.

SMEs (small-medium sized enterprises) have just eight months left to apply for a grant, with the deadline set for applications on 31 March 2019.

Walsall-based Earthbound, a manufacturer and distributor of high-quality pet bedding, blankets, dog coats, toys and accessories, received £3,000 in match-funding to enable it to attend the major Zoomark trade fair in Bologna, Italy.

“You need to do a lot of business to cover the costs of any show so having the ERDF funding was a real help for a company of our size,” said David Higgins, UK sales manager.

“There are a lot of big players in this industry so we’re having to work hard to get our products and our name noticed. We wouldn’t have done Zoomark if it wasn’t for the ERDF funding.”

The fair was a huge success for the company, which picked up £47,000 worth of business from a customer in Ireland, as well as a further £30,000 orders from retailers in another Spain, France and Italy.

“Exporting is without doubt making us stronger as a business,” said David. “It would be more difficult for us to grow and thrive if we weren’t proactively looking to the export market. I’d urge any company thinking about exporting to contact its local DIT office and see what help it could get.”

The project is delivered by West Midlands Chambers of Commerce (WMCC) and funded as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014 – 2020.

Allen Matty, managing director of WMCC, said success such as that experienced by Earthbound is being replicated across the region, thanks to their applications for match-funded grants of between £1,000 and £3,000.

Funding has also provided businesses with the chance to access sector expert events, such as Meet the Buyer, invitations to market visits to investigate potential business openings, and trade shows.

“We’ve seen some extremely positive results and business wins from local companies that have been able to take advantage of this grant scheme,” he said.

“With just eight months left of the ERDF funding scheme, we’d encourage any SME in the area that wants to export or grow overseas to consider applying for it. It’s not just a cash boost, it’s also about and accessing the specialist support they need and minimising the risks in overseas markets.”

SME IGP aims to support 550 businesses in the West Midlands with business advice, support, grants, and with job creation.

Battling businesses across the whole West Midlands are showing a resilience that belies economic and political uncertainty across the UK.

This is the conclusion of business leaders across the region coupled with a warning that one of the biggest threats to their success is that companies, especially manufacturers, cannot find suitable staff.

These are among the findings for a West Midlands Quarterly Economic Snapshot for the second quarter of 2018 carried out by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), Black Country Chamber (BCC) and Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce (C&WCC).

The report, led by GBCC senior policy adviser Raj Kandola, revealed that 61 per cent of firms were expecting to increase their profits in the next 12 months.

However, the highest proportions of businesses expecting a fall in their profits were based in Greater Birmingham (26 per cent) while the great number of firms expecting an uplift were in the Black Country (59 per cent).

Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of the GBCC, said: “It’s pleasing to see firms across the region display a level of optimism that belies the economic and political uncertainty which has been emblematic of recent times.

“Over two thirds of firms across the region expect their profits to increase in the next 12 months – with businesses in the Black Country particularly confident on future revenue projections. A similar number of companies across the West Midlands as a whole also expect their turnover to increase in the same period.”

“On Brexit, our advice for businesses across the West Midlands is to ignore the political distractions and prepare for what you can control. Our Brexit toolkit gives local firms practical and clear advice on how to put sensible steps in place to ensure they are ready for whatever the next 12 months brings.”

Full details can be found on the GBCC website:

The report reveals a continuing trend of recruitment problems with 69 per cent of manufacturers unable to find suitable staff, a three per cent increase on the previous quarter.

Corin Crane, chief executive of the BCC, said: “With 53 per cent of West Midlands business reporting recruitment difficulties, an increase of three per cent, there is certainly cause for concern.

“The West Midlands is home to a world-class, vibrant manufacturing sector, so it is worrying that 69 per cent of manufacturers are reporting an inability to find suitable staff.

“We know that the average age of the manufacturing workforce in the region is too high and although sweeping changes to the apprenticeship system were targeted at increasing take up, the Government’s own figures point to a decrease in apprenticeship starts since the introduction of the Levy.

“More changes to the technical education landscape are on the horizon with the introduction of the T-Level, but these are long-term solutions for business at a point when the solution is needed now.

“Brexit of course, means that changes to the UK’s immigration system are inevitable. It is imperative that the Government listens to industry on this crucial issue. Foreign-born workers including the EU27 are employed at all levels across a range of sectors in our region.

“Drastic changes to immigration policy without due business consultation risks exacerbating these recruitment difficulties further. Although nurses and doctors are now exempt from the Tier 2 Visa Cap, if businesses across sectors continue to report recruitment difficulties at such elevated levels, the policy may also need a drastic overhaul.”

Exports were also holding up in the region with only nine per cent of firms reporting a decrease in overseas sales, down from 11 per cent in Q1.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of C&WCC, said: “Export is one of the success stories of the West Midlands and it is good to see that they are holding up in spite-of the political and economic uncertainty around Brexit.

“Exports are worth £8.8 billion to our regional economy and evidence suggests a strong correlation between growing and sustainable businesses and those businesses that trade globally.

“It is no surprise that our global outlook is being dampened slightly by the uncertainty around Brexit negotiations. However Chambers of Commerce continue to offer hundreds of thriving and exporting businesses solid and practical advice on how to export for the first time or, indeed, increase their exports in existing or new markets.”

Business communication and negotiation styles will be among the topics being discussed at a specialist masterclass on exporting to the USA and Canada next month (September).

Organised and delivered by the ERDF SME International Growth Project, the half-day workshop on Thursday, September 20, is open to small-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based across the West Midlands region, which also includes the counties of Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

Led by Allyson Stewart-Allen, founder of specialist marketing consultancy International Marketing Partners Ltd. and dual British and American citizen, the session will guide SMEs on the cultural Do’s and Don’ts of doing business for the first time in the US and Canada.

“It was George Bernard Shaw who is credited with the saying that the US and Great Britain are two countries divided by a common language, just as true today as it was in the early 1940’s,” she said.

“SMEs can come across many communication and cultural challenges when trying to export to the USA and some have found to their cost that mistakes can sometimes be irrecoverable.  While Canada is geographically connected to the USA, there are distinct cultural, communication and language differences.

“This masterclass will help businesses understand not only the different business cultures of these two bordering markets, it will give valuable tools and advice on how to avoid expensive pitfalls.”

The USA is the UK’s biggest trading partner, exporting almost £100 billion worth of goods and services in 2016, while the UK exported £8.2 billion of goods and services to Canada in the same year, making it the UK’s eighth biggest export market outside the EU.

The half-day training will also cover: business and economic environments; ease of doing business;

market entry; e-commerce in both markets; language differences.

Businesses across Birmingham and Solihull are being urged to join a unique programme that supports young people into employment, before applications close on September 10.

Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull is looking for employers to step forward and support some of the hardest to reach young people aged 18 to 24, currently not in education, employment or training. So far, the programme – which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund – has helped more than 771 long-term unemployed young people.

The programme works with each young person to provide bespoke wrap-around support based on their individual needs so they are ready for the workplace.

Businesses offering work experience, a work placement or paid work can be eligible to a wage subsidy, as well as in-work support for the business and the young person.

The Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull scheme is a five-year pre-employment programme, working with more than 821jobless young adults across Birmingham and Solihull to help them secure and sustain work.

Joseph Allen, programme coordinator at Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull, said: “We’ve been thrilled with the support of business leaders in Birmingham and Solihull. We’re now heading for the final push, so now is the time to get on board.

“We appreciate times are tough, but we know an investment in a young person, is an investment in your business and the future of Birmingham and Solihull. We need to appreciate the potential of our young people and how they can contribute to the growth, diversity and success of the region.

“Time is ticking and we want to get as many young people into employment as possible, so please do get in touch if you can support them.”

Handing your precious a child over to someone else to care for is one of the hardest things a parent can do.  After spending so much of your own time ensuring ‘little one’ is safe and well looked after, what should you then look for when investing in childcare?

Tracey Poulton, Founder of Natural Nurture, reveals the top line areas, and questions, that should be explored when making such a significant decision.


There is nothing more powerful than personal recommendations from those who have had first-hand experience of the setting you are interested in.  If you don’t know someone who has used that childcare provider, ask to see the references and whether you can follow any up by telephone.


The price of childcare varies greatly across the country.  Council run schemes are often the least expensive option, whereas ones hosted in independent school grounds tend to cost more money.  If a website doesn’t reveal their pricing structure openly, you can generally second-guess that they will be priced more towards the top end.

So what do you get for your money? Does paying more mean you get extra?  The answer is possibly no.

It depends to a great extent on the setting and the experiences they are able to offer the children in their care.  For establishments  that have little or no outdoor space, it is worth determining what they do to educate the children about nature and the world outdoors.

Facilities and play equipment are really important too.  Visit the nursery and establish how they teach through play and see the children doing so on a regular day, not just an open day which might not be truly representative.


An area that is often overlooked is how the nursery will engage with the family to ease the transition into childcare, and work collaboratively with them in the future.  It is worth asking whether they work with, or employ, professional independent child specialists outside of their qualified care staff.

Recording activity

Many establishments offer online journals so parents can see what their children have been doing.  These tools are great for parents and staff alike as it means that there can be correspondence on activity out of hours. Also check if your child will be allocated a key worker.  It is good to have one person that is dedicated to a child as they will build bonds together, and as a parent, you will be able to have a contact with whom you can raise any issues.

Independent assessments

To provide childcare for children under the age of eight, for more than two hours a day, the setting must be registered with Ofsted.  Ofsted regulates and inspects childcare establishments and provide reports outlining its findings.

Outside of the Ofsted ratings there are several regional and national awards that recognise the best settings in the country.  Most nurseries will shout about these on their websites or social media platforms so it is worth looking for this too.

Remember, the most important thing about childcare is that both parent and child are happy. Growth and development will follow if this cornerstone is set firmly in place.

Efforts must be made to ensure that today’s first increase in interest rates for only the second time in a decade to 0.75 per cent does not result in an unintended barrier for business.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of commerce (GBCC) said the increase, from 0.5 per cent, will test how robust consumer confidence is.

Paul Faulkner, the GBCC’s chief executive, said: ““This rise had been widely expected, as demonstrated by the limited market reaction to today’s announcement. CPI inflation was above the Bank of England’s two per cent target in June (at 2.4 per cent), the labour market continues to tighten and the unexpected slowdown in economic growth seen in Q1 is now seen as having been heavily influenced by the ‘Beast from the East’.

“However, it is notable in that it is only the second rise in the almost a decade since the Bank slashed rates following the financial crisis and, while improved, questions remain over how robust consumer confidence and spending will be moving forwards.

“There is still plenty of uncertainty out there and many expect the Bank to be cautious and limited in their intentions for future rates rises. We must ensure that Bank of England and other stakeholder policy supports and enables business investment and does not act as an unintended barrier.

“Locally, we continue to see positive trends in business confidence with our Q2 Quarterly Business Report indicating a strong outlook for Greater Birmingham’s businesses.

“Brexit-related change and uncertainty remains a key area of concern for businesses. We are continuing to encourage businesses to take steps to understand and prepare for Brexit-related risks as early as possible. The GBCC’s Brexit Toolkit is a comprehensive free resource that can help.”

“We will also shortly be launching the GBCC’s Invest to Grow campaign which aims to help businesses boost productivity through investment in innovation, R&D, tech and machinery.”