West of England Initiative Meeting – UWE Bristol 10th March
The latest West of England Initiative meeting at UWE Bristol was, quite literally, out of this world, as businesses got the chance to test out the latest in virtual reality.
Almost 100 attendees had the opportunity to test out new member IMD Group’s technology, entering simulations of a department store, an aeroplane and even a gravity-free environment.
Building a bigger, better Bristol
Back in the real world, President Professor Steve West kicked off proceedings with an update on the latest developments in the region, and a welcome for new members CH2M, Bristol Community Health, Savills, Latcham Direct and L3 Marine Systems
With a raft of new developments on the radar, such as the MetroBus and MetroWest, and a devolution deal for the West of England region edging closer, there are already plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future.
Looking forward, the West of England Initiative continues to drive to make our region a better place to live and work, and with two important political dates coming up in the Bristol Mayoral Election and the EU Referendum, it is vital to ensure that businesses have a say.
The picture also looks positive for UWE Bristol, as it ranks in the top 8 universities for student employment after graduating (94.4%), and is currently in the middle of a masterplanning and re-branding exercise to upgrade its already impressive offer.
Are apprentices part of your business plan?
The skills gap is one of the hurdles in the way of long term growth. There will by 95,000 new jobs created in the West of England by 2030, but replacement demand is six times greater than net job growth. Apprenticeships have proven to be an integral part of the solution, but 69% of businesses in our region said they don’t employ apprenticeships and 54% said they didn’t intend to.
As part of the government’s policy to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020, they have introduced the Apprenticeship Levy, which comes into effect in April next year. This will affect employers in all sectors with annual pay bills of over £3 million, who will be charged 0.5% of the bill (via PAYE) to fund this. For more information on the levy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The political date of the decade
Next on the agenda was the hot topic on everyone’s minds; the EU Referendum on 23rd June. Matt Griffith, Director of Policy at Business West, updated attendees on how businesses can get involved in the debate.
As the debate gathers momentum, Business West’s role will be to represent chamber and initiative member’s views in an impartial way to inform the debate. The policy team have already gathered a range of case studies from a variety of businesses with different stances and profiles, and have just closed a survey of over 1,000 local businesses on the topic.
Attendees then got the chance to quiz Matt, along with Professor Steve West and Mayor George Ferguson on the EU reforms, what a ‘Brexit’ might look like and what the debate means for Bristol.
Going forward, Business West are organising three informative events on the EU. The next one will be at @Bristol on 12th April as part of the Festival of Ideas.
Networking and food for thought
To close out an enjoyable evening, attendees got the chance to network over a buffet dinner, and the opportunity to find out a bit more about IMD Group’s virtual reality technology.
For more information on how to get involved with the West of England Initiative, contact Julie.email@example.com