All the latest news, advice and events for the Solihull business community

Contact: Lillian Elekan T: 0121 678 7488

In Brief

A Solihull College & University Centre student has achieved a first-class degree while pursuing an apprenticeship – and having a baby at the same time. Sophie Biddle was working on reception at

automotive interiors supplier IAC Group when she made the decision to apply for an apprenticeship. IAC Group has worked with Solihull College

for a number of years, and offered to help young people gain apprenticeships at their company. Sophie, 26, initially undertook a two-year

apprenticeship with the college, studying team leading. She said: “The different disciplines taught me confidence and the staff at the college and my apprenticeship mentor really supported and helped with my personal development. I learned to be so much more assertive on my apprenticeship.” Sophie’s journey has been all the more

impressive due to her becoming a mother – her son Noah was born in June 2017. “When I found out about Noah I knew I’d

want to spend a lot of time with him and I also knew I wanted to pursue my dream,” she said.

A Midlands soccer club is hoping that preserving its status in English football’s ‘fifth division’ will be a major boost to its home town of Solihull. Solihull Moors - founded 11 years ago - has

enjoyed a change on fortunes on the field since Christmas which has kept the club in the National League. The Moors believe that survival will help it

continue its efforts to establish itself as a community club. To achieve this, the club has launched a new

brand, ‘Moor than 11’, which has echoes of another community club, Barcelona, known for its famous ‘Més que un club’ (‘More than a club’) slogan. The club’s community involvement ranges

from working with schools, focusing on social inclusion and children with behavioural issues, to its ‘Moor Vitality’ project, which is aimed at educating young people about nutrition and healthy living. Another strand of ‘Moor than 11’ is inclusivity

– the club is a pioneer of disability football, and there are currently some 60 players, ranging from youth to adults, regularly taking part in the project.

A Solihull-based energy firm is giving a local charity a huge boost by paying its electricity bill for a year. UK Power Reserve is stepping in to help

youth homelessness charity St Basils, by covering the electricity bill for its Kingshurst, Solihull, base during 2018/19. The £9,300 donation will ensure the charity

can continue its work against what UK Power Reserve says is ‘a backdrop of government budget cuts to support services’. The company has laid down a challenge to

other energy companies to fund St Basils other West Midlands hub, in Birmingham city centre, and 33 shelters across England and Wales.


Touchwood welcomes new general manager

By Jessica Brookes

Shopping and entertainment complex Touchwood have announced the appointment of their new general manager, Tony Elvin. Having previously held the position of general manager at Birmingham-based boutique hotel, Hotel Du Vin & Bistro, Tony will be overseeing facilities management, commercialisation, marketing and retailer liaison functions in his new role. Tony brings with him 20 years of management

experience and knowledge from across the hospitality and leisure industry. He hopes to bring his ‘hospitality mindset’ to the role, focusing on creating experiences for customers in the face of a changing retail market. He said: “Industry statistics tell us that across

the UK, leisure dominated retail trips have increased by 28 per cent in the past two years, that shopping is often an incidental part of going to a high street or shopping centre and that four out of ten people go ‘shopping’ to eat and drink. “As we know, the face of retail has changed

forever. Online transactions are responsible for a huge share of the market and cannot be beaten for convenience but an online transaction cannot rival

New venture: Tony Elvin

the ‘experience’ a shopping centre can deliver and that is why we have remained successful.” Tony joins Touchwood at an exciting time for

Solihull. With plans for HS2 ramping up, Tony is prepared to get ‘hands on’ and capitalise on the number of opportunities the high speed rail line will bring to the region. He said: “With HS2 we have an exciting, once in

a lifetime opportunity to capitalise on. I’m looking forward to working with Solihull Council, the Chamber, BID, Tourism Forum and all local stakeholders to make this work for all of us.”

Moving up: Natasha Grice

Full steam ahead for Natasha

Major train operator Virgin Trains has appointed Natasha Grice as its new people executive director. She takes over from Patrick McGrath, who held the position for 18 years. Natasha, currently working as a general manager for the company’s Birmingham route, has held a number of high level positions at Virgin Trains, including duty manager, station manager and on-board manager. In total, she has been with Virgin Trains for 16

years after moving from Virgin Atlantic, where she served as cabin crew for the airline. Phil Whittingham, managing director of Virgin Trains on the west coast said: “We are proud to

announce Natasha’s appointment as our new people executive director and welcome her to the board. I’m delighted to have someone with Natasha’s experience and passion for Virgin Trains in such an important role in the business.” Natasha said: “I feel honoured to be moving

into the role of people executive director. I am passionate about Virgin Trains, our brand values and our people and it’s been a dream of mine to become people director. I love seeing people progress and identifying paths for them. We’ve no problem attracting people to the business and are very good at retaining them – there are plenty of opportunities for them to try different roles.”

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