Cardiff STEM leaders offer expert advice on tackling the skills gap

By Raspberry Jim,

Innovative thinking and dynamic partnerships between STEM leaders and educators are the key to reversing a “catastrophic” shortfall of over 200,000 scientific workers a year, according to Cardiff’s business leaders.

Experts from Sony UK Technology Centre, scientific educational charity Techniquest, and intellectual property firm Wynne Jones IP, are speaking out to mark British Science Week from March 8th to the 17th.

They are sharing their views after a report from Engineering UK showed that 203,000 people with higher engineering skills will be needed across the sector annually to meet demand until 2024.

In a bid to tackle this issue, the three Cardiff STEM leaders, whose businesses are at the forefront of driving innovation across the engineering, science, and technology sectors, are offering their advice to bridge the skills gap.

Sony UK TEC

Wales’s leading manufacturing facility Sony UK Technology Centre is considered a global innovator when it comes to engineering excellence.

With Sony UK TEC blending both practical and educational elements into its work with schools, Director of Professional Services Gerald Kelly believes that a combination of both is the solution to solving the growing skills shortfall.

The Pencoed facility, which produces high specification broadcast cameras for worldwide distribution, is renowned for being at the forefront of technological progression, and driving innovation across the manufacturing industry.

The Welsh site has not only developed a global reputation for producing leading technology such as the 4K camera, Nimway, and Raspberry Pi, but it is also renowned for ensuring digital literacy is widely accessible for a new generation of budding scientists.

As such, the facility runs an in-house Digital competency programme, which sees Sony UK TEC work with schools across Wales to provide access to media and broadcast technology.  It also runs a Learn2Code workshop, which encourages pupils to write their own code and learn about how technology is embedded into manufacturing.

With Sony UK TEC blending both practical and educational elements into its work with schools, Director of Professional Services Gerald Kelly believes that a combination of both is the solution to solving the growing skills shortfall.

He said: “Here at Sony UK TEC we firmly believe that it is not enough, or fair for industry to rely solely on education to deliver what is needed in terms of STEM.

“So we engage with schools and the Curriculum for Wales ourselves, and deliver bespoke programmes which are both fun, and inspire curiosity among pupils, while delivering vital technology knowledge.

“I think it’s this equal blend of the practical and the educational which will ultimately drive pupils to consider STEM careers and consequently tackle the much-publicised skills shortfall in the future.

“We believe that introducing STEM through a more interactive manner will undeniably encourage pupils to reconsider STEM roles, and explore the vast variety of careers available to them throughout the industry.

“It’s fundamental that manufacturers work with schools to expose children to rewarding and enriching roles as part of their curriculum, in order to peak their interest from a younger age.

“Most importantly we believe that it is vital that children are able to easily access and learn about coding, which is undeniably shaping the future of not just manufacturing, but the future of industries globally.”

Techniquest

As Wales’s leading science discovery centre, Techniquest has also seamlessly combined innovative STEM engagement with educational learning for over 30 years.

Techniquest’s Chief Executive Officer, Lesley Kirkpatrick, believes it is at a fundamental educational level that the nationwide STEM skills shortage can be curbed.

The popular centre, which is based in the bay, recognises the importance of promoting rewarding STEM careers and engagement through an interactive blend of unique scientific exhibits, shows and talks, along with educational outreach at hundreds of schools across Wales.

And Techniquest’s dedication to advancing STEM skills and making science more accessible, is set to get a significant boost after a £5.7 million expansion plan, which will see the centre increase in size by over 60% , was given the go ahead.

With this in mind, chief executive officer Lesley Kirkpatrick, believes it is at a fundamental educational level that the nationwide STEM skills shortage can be curbed.

She said: “As a charity which believes passionately in the ability of STEM skills to transform career potential, we have been heavily involved in discussions surrounding the predicted shortfall and how this can be reversed.

“It is incredibly concerning from a number of perspectives, as the STEM industry and its continued innovation plays such a vital role in the nation’s economic success. Equally, the lack of skilled workers could lead to declining levels of technological development across the UK in the coming years, and a lack of STEM uptake could see thousands of students miss out on their true professional potential.

“From our perspective it appears that the shortfall can be tackled at a fundamental educational level, by encouraging schools, universities, and science centres, such as ourselves, to work collaboratively to promote rewarding STEM careers and their diversity at all stages of learning.

“By forging dynamic working relationships, which highlight the significant benefits and exciting prospects afforded through STEM, we believe that we can embed scientific engagement into early learning and create a spark for STEM throughout Wales.

“To highlight this we have worked diligently with schools to develop and deliver an education programme that enhances and enriches the STEM curriculum and enthuses and excites pupils from Foundation phase to A level.

“We believe collaboration is key to not only curbing the shortage, but reinvigorating the sector in the years to come.”

Wynne Jones IP

Intellectual property may not be the first profession you consider when discussing STEM.

But with chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering graduates all choosing the industry, it’s evident that scientific skills are not just relevant, but essential to success in this profession.


Dr Nation believes that diversifying STEM career options and assessing business needs is crucial to attracting talent and tackling the STEM skills shortage.

Many STEM graduates may feel limited in their career options if the laboratory or research isn’t for them, however intellectual property gives them a chance to diversify and think outside the box to protect the trademarks, patents, and designs of products and companies worldwide.

Wynne Jones IP, which has offices in Cardiff, Cheltenham, London, and Telford, specialises in advising across all areas of intellectual property, with a particular focus on the STEM sector.

And when it comes to attracting STEM graduates and supporting them to achieve their potential, the firm is ahead of the curve.

It has established its own highly successful four-year training academy, which educates and shapes trainees into well-rounded, industry leading attorneys. This has seen success year on year, and commercial director Dr Jayne Nation believes it offers an exciting alternative for those looking to pursue STEM careers.

Dr Nation believes that diversifying STEM career options and assessing business needs is crucial to attracting talent and tackling the STEM skills shortage.

She said: “STEM careers not only allow you to achieve something truly worthwhile personally, they enable you to make a profound difference to vast industries and potentially change the lives of millions of people worldwide.

“It is for this reason that the STEM skills shortage is incredibly concerning and could prove to be catastrophic if it is not addressed quickly.

“From my perspective there are a number of ideas which could tackle this. Developing business and education task forces in major, strategically targeted tech sectors, could identify current business technology needs and skills that aren’t being met and which are in great demand. This could anticipate future business requirements and tech trends to ensure people have the relevant skills.

“Intervention at an educational level is also vital, and as such establishing combined academic and vocational training packages for students over 18 could really provide a boost.

“These could cover both academic training in STEM, alongside tech training within a job, that will directly fill the UK priority skills gaps. If they were run as a joint programme, combining academic and vocational learning, they could become a training experience of prestige that is sought after.

“It could also be beneficial to look at reward and remuneration of STEM jobs in key areas where there are big skill gaps. Businesses could offer bursaries, enhanced salaries and other rewards to attract people into these STEM roles in targeted sectors.”

Exciting new Techniquest appointment will ‘transform’ engagement and participation opportunities

By Raspberry Jim,

Educational charity Techniquest has appointed an expert new Community Engagement Officer who will transform engagement and participation opportunities as the charity steps into an “exciting” new era.

Kelsey Barcenilla has joined the leading science discovery centre to spearhead engagement with new audiences and community members, whilst also creating new volunteering opportunities as the charity embarks on its multimillion-pound Science Capital project.

Mrs Barcenilla, who will support the Partnerships and Engagement team, will work closely with local communities, delivering events, participation research sessions and collaborative projects which will help the organisation embed a rewarding, inclusive culture of community engagement.

With a wealth of experience which includes international teaching in China and a role with Cardiff Institute for the Blind, she will also be responsible for developing robust relationships with local communities by shaping exciting volunteer opportunities.

The appointment comes at an exciting time for the charity, which will see its innovative Science Capital project brought to life this year.

The new Techniquest is set to open by 2020

The Science Capital, which encompasses a radical transformation and extension of Techniquest’s current building in Cardiff Bay, aims to redevelop the site into a contemporary science hub by 2020.

With interactive and immersive STEM learning experiences designed to pique curiosity and increase interest in the STEM industries, the project is part of the charity’s commitment to developing a scientifically literature society across Wales.

Mrs Barcenilla said she was “over the moon” about her new role.

She said: “I’m thrilled to be joining Techniquest at such a pivotal and exciting time. I’ve over the moon to be joining such an iconic organisation, which has helped shaped my own learning over the years. Growing up, it was always somewhere which ignited excitement, curiosity and learning, and I couldn’t be happier to be involved in its journey.

“I’m looking forward to creating lasting and rewarding relationships with the local communities and really discovering what matters to them. It’s incredibly important to me that I harness these wonderful relationships and create meaningful opportunities for both Techniquest and the community.”

Lesley Kirkpatrick, CEO at Techniquest, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Kelsey to the team for what is set to be a game-changing year for our organisation. With her expertise and natural talent for cultivating relationships, we’re looking forward to seeing her flourish in her new role.”

Legal expert offers crucial advice ahead of Divorce Day

By Raspberry Jim,

While the festive season brings joy and happiness for many who celebrate their new engagement, the first Monday of the New Year has become notorious for divorce enquiries and proceedings.

With many couples facing marital disillusionment by the New Year, the first working Monday in January is known for a spike in separation enquiries with January 7 dubbed Divorce Day by lawyers.

With over 100,000 divorce cases in 2017, according to recent figures from the Office of National Statistics, a legal expert offers crucial advice for the newly separated and recently engaged.

Sophie Hughes, head of the family law at award-winning firm Watkins & Gunn Solicitors, discusses why more couples seek a “life-changing” divorce in January and how newly engaged couples can prepare for the future.

Why is January so notorious for divorce enquiries?

In January, we see the number of divorce enquiries double. Most clients that I deal with will have been experiencing problems for a long time but will stay together over Christmas for the sake of their children and families.

Christmas is notorious for bringing problems to boiling point, with families forced to spend more time together in a confined space. While some people are only home for a few days, the home can easily feel like a pressure cooker for many, and feelings can be pushed to breaking point.

Alcohol and over-indulgence can become far less merry than expected, fueling arguments and inappropriate actions, with cracks in a relationship quickly exacerbated. With the new year presenting a fresh start, many people will look for ways to improve their lives and make a positive change. While some people do this by joining a gym or adapting a healthy lifestyle, other people do it by divorcing their significant other, identifying their relationship as a source of unhappiness.

What advice would you give to a couple contemplating divorce in January?

Don’t rush things based on a temporary emotion, make sure you’re calm and logical when considering separation and take some time to yourself to make sure this is really what you want and need.

If divorce is the route you choose, expert advice is crucial to reduce the stress of such a disruptive process. Divorce is a life-changing and heartbreaking event that needs to be carefully managed; not only for the individual, but also for any children.

Despite emotions running high, try to take a constructive approach to divorce proceedings as unnecessary acrimony can increase tension at an already difficult time, as well as increasing legal costs, making less money available for financial settlements. Consider a collaborative approach using specially trained lawyers to find a fair and honest solution to minimise the pain of family breakdowns and avoid the courts.

How can newly engaged couples prepare for the realities of marriage?

While it’s understandable that many couples enjoy the romantic whirlwind of a new engagement, it’s important to think about the realities of becoming a union, which is a legal process. With many couples celebrating saying “Yes” over the festive season, it’s a good time to start thinking about how they might want to protect themselves in the future.

Over the years, we’ve seen an increased popularity in pre-nups, and not only with more mature couples who have a fair share of assets to protect.

We are finding that more and more young couples are taking out pre-nuptial agreements before they get married to cover them if the worst happens. It might not be the most romantic thing in the world, but it’s a necessary precaution for many people entering a marriage.

Do you think couples today are more aware of pre-nuptial agreements?

Absolutely. With many people choosing to establish their careers and build foundations for a successful life, a lot of couples are marrying slightly later. Those who are entering their second marriage are also more aware of how they need to take steps to safeguard against legal complications further on down the line.

The concept has become more widely accepted due to the number of celebrity cases and has made the pre-nuptial agreement much more popular.  Though not absolutely binding in law at the moment in England and Wales they can certainly help protect one’s assets. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, young love does last but taking that extra step ensures peace of mind for both parties and makes sure they are entering marriage for all the right reasons. 

I know plenty of couples who are still happily married 30 years later, including myself, so while a pre-nup needs to be handled carefully and professionally by a family law expert, there’s no need to let this dampen your spirits. 

Sophie Hughes is head of the family team at Watkins & Gunn Solicitors and the Chair of the South Wales Region of Resolution, an association of specialist family lawyers dedicated to resolving family disputes in a constructive way. Sophie is one of a select group of lawyers in Wales trained in Collaborative Law and has extensive experience in high value divorces, often involving an international element.  

Watkins & Gunn has offices in Cardiff, Newport and Pontypool. For more advice from the family law team at Watkins & Gunn visit www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk or call 01495 768932

Bus stop changes due to St David’s House demolition

By Raspberry Jim,

Bus stop alterations and route changes are set to come into effect from January due to the demolition of Cardiff’s St David’s House in the city centre.

The area, which is located on Wood Street opposite the new Central Square development, is being redeveloped and will see the withdrawal of the existing bus stops on that street from Sunday 6th January.

These include service 4, which will depart from the Royal Hotel bus stop on Westgate Street; and service 18, which will follow the same route as service 17 entering the city centre via Westgate Street, not serving Wood Street, Tudor Street or Clare Street.

Additionally, from 6th January, services 54 (to Cyncoed), 95A, 95B and 95C (to set-down) will use bus stop JV on Wood Street which is located outside Southgate House.  Services 92/93/94 will start and end at stop JQ,a new bus stop located on the opposite side of the road, outside the new BBC Wales building.  Service 95 to UHW Heath Hospital will move to Westgate Street stop KP.

Finally, services 96 and 96A will enter the city via Westgate Street and set-down at stops KD and KH; service X45 from Cardiff Bay Retail Park towards St Mellons will travel straight to Westgate Street (Royal Hotel); and Capital Links service X91 will start from Canal Street instead of Customhouse Street.

Commercial manager at Cardiff Bus Gareth Stevens said “With the demolition of St David’s House set to take place in January, we are alerting our customers to a small number of bus stop and route changes.

“From January 6th services from Wood Street will be departing from different stops while this work is undertaken.

“We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, and would encourage customers to visit our website, Facebook, and Twitter pages to find out more.”

Cardiff Bus’s information centre will also be relocating from the city’s library to Westgate Street in 2019, with more details on the date set to be released in the new year.

Alongside this the trial extension on service 98 will end and the service will revert back to its pre-September 2018 timetable. 

Mr Stevens added: “We have worked with the Vale of Glamorgan Council and existing customers to raise the awareness of the trial afternoon service.  Regrettably, despite best endeavours, we have not seen the level of usage increase to support the afternoon timetable on a permanent basis.”

Expert urges care providers not to ‘accidentally impair’ vulnerable people’s rights

By Raspberry Jim,

Care home managers, local authorities, and social workers across Cardiff are being urged not to “accidentally impair” the rights of vulnerable people by failing to follow best practice.

Amy Roberts-Rees, the head of the Court of Protection team at leading firm CJCH Solicitors, is calling on professionals across the city to ensure they are “up to date” with legislations and legal developments in order to provide the best care to at-risk people.

This comes after Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan councils earlier this year revealed that they were “struggling” to keep up with the number of referrals for deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS).

These come into effect when a person is unable to make decision surrounding their own welfare and require specialist supervision.

According to the councils, they were dealing with a backlog of over 800 outstanding assessments, after seeing DoLS referral number reach more than 2,500 between 2017/18.

In a bid to tackle this worrying upturn and ensure that vulnerable people are getting the correct initial assessment and care, Mrs Roberts-Rees hosted a Court of Protection conference at the Novotel Conference Centre in Cardiff.

The special event aimed to better inform care providers across the industry, including local authorities, social workers, solicitors, and mental health assessors, of the legislation in this area, and prevent incorrect referrals or potentially damaging intervention.

Mrs Roberts-Rees said she felt the event would help to make a “significant impact” in the welfare of thousands of people being cared for across south Wales.

She said: “It is absolutely crucial that those working across the full spectrum of the social care industry are up to date on Court of Protection, DoLS legislation, and case law in this area.

“The law changes so quickly and so extensively that care providers can quickly become outdated and may not be providing the most effective standards within their organisations, which is not just detrimental for them, but the people they care for too.

“It is for this reason, that we felt a training day was essential to ensure the industry was fully updated on recent developments within the Court of Protection concerning a person’s deprivation in care home facilities and other general welfare matters.

“I think those who attended will really see the benefits of learning more about this, which will ultimately translate into better care for vulnerable people across south Wales.”

Mrs Roberts-Rees said the event also identified worrying trends surrounding a lack of proper implementation of the Mental Capacity Act in day to day practice.

She added: “What we have learned is that some, not all, local authorities and health boards are failing to follow best practice to ensure that individuals’ rights are not being handled incorrectly.

“It is due to this worrying trend, that the event aimed to help professionals ensure there was careful care planning at all stages when supporting people who lack the capacity to make their own decisions.”

Father Chickmas helps celebrate the launch of Slim Chickens in Cardiff

By Raspberry Jim,

Renowned US brand Slim Chickens got into the festive spirit when it launched in Cardiff this week as food artist Nathan Wyburn created a special portrait of Santa.

The Britain’s Got Talent Finalist who specialises in creating iconic celebrity portraits using non-traditional media, such as food, handmade ‘Father Chickmas’ out of Slim Chicken’s signature buttermilk marinated, hand-breaded chicken tenders and house sauces.

The new restaurant, which is located in the food quarter of St David’s, opened its doors on Tuesday December 18th.

The new 92-seater eatery brings an “unmistakable” flavour of the American south to Wales, featuring a mouth-watering menu serving up freshly made signature chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches and chicken wings, along with quintessential southern sides. Diners also able to choose from its famed 13 dipping sauces.

And while enjoying its freshly made chicken dishes, customers can also treat themselves to a range of southern sides including mac and cheese, fried pickles and Texas toast, while those with a sweet tooth can indulge in a milkshake, fried pies and jar desserts.

Adding to Slim Chickens’ Southern US ambience and relaxed vibe, there will be screenings of traditional American sports on TV along with modern blues music playing in the background.

The flagship Cardiff launch comes just six months after Slim Chickens opened its first UK restaurant in London, just off Oxford Street, to widespread success. It has also proved to be a huge hit in America serving its mouth-watering dishes across 80 US outlets.

Thanks to this success, UK franchise owners Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) is now aiming to roll out the American restaurant chain to other cities across the UK next year.

On the launch of the Cardiff restaurant CEO of Slim Chickens UK Tom Crowley said: “There is something totally unique about Slims with its freshly cooked chicken, house sauces, modern blues music and awesome hospitality.

“We can’t wait to launch our very first restaurant in Cardiff and bring a flavour of the American south to Wales. We’re sure Cardiff’s foodies will love our southern dishes, sides, and hospitality.

“And we would encourage everyone to download our app to get their hands on a free chicken sandwich when we launch!”

Now that the restaurant is open customers can claim a free chicken sandwich of their choice by downloading the Slim Chickens UK app. Once downloaded, a free sandwich token will appear in the rewards section within 24 hours and customers must show this in the restaurant to redeem their gift.

Those that download the app will also get a tasty treat on their next birthday, with a variety of different mouth-watering desserts. With every purchase made at Slim Chickens, customers can scan their app to receive awards that will mount up to even more free chicken.

For more information on promotional offers and launch updates, follow its social media channels @slimchickensuk or visit www.slimchickens.co.uk

First-time buyer’s Guide to the highs and lows of property purchase

By Raspberry Jim,

Buying a new home is frequently listed as one of the most stressful experiences in life.

In fact, a recent survey of 2,000 people revealed that the majority felt purchasing a house was even more stressful than having a baby.

While that may shock some prospective house hunters, for many others this revelation won’t be a surprise.

Funding hurdles, paperwork problems, surveys, chain disputes, and title defects, are just some of the common issues which first-time buyers will be all too familiar with.

Here Julie Miles, a conveyancer and Chartered Legal Executive at leading Cardiff-based firm CJCH Solicitors, offers her advice on ensuring your buying experience helps you unlock the door to home sweet home.

Instruct a Solicitor

You’ve found your dream home and your offer has been accepted, so the first step is to instruct a solicitor.

It is often better to instruct a solicitor that has been recommended to you by family or friends, who will put your interests first, rather than a firm suggested by the agent who is likely to have a referral arrangement with them.

Ask the solicitor to provide an estimate at the outset of the costs and disbursements (costs paid to third parties on your behalf) so you can budget accordingly.

Respond as quickly as possible to any information requested by your solicitor and agree with them a realistic preferred timescale at the outset.

Funding

Unless you have an impressive savings account, then the next step will be to obtain confirmation of funding and a mortgage.  

You may have a Financial Advisor who can source the best deal for your circumstances, if not, most major lenders are on hand to help. 

It is important that you provide your advisor or lender with the most accurate information from the start to avoid any delays later down the line. Most lenders are able to issue an offer within 21 days.

If you have saved in a Help to Buy Isa account your lawyer will arrange for the government bonus to be paid to them on completion. But ensure your solicitor is informed so they can advise you when to close the account in readiness for completion.

What you see is what you buy

The property will be sold “as it stands” and whilst it may look wonderful to you, you would not wish to discover any nasty surprises once you have moved in.

For this reason, it is advisable to arrange a survey. This can either be done alongside the funding application or independently.  This will be an additional cost but will provide you with a qualified surveyor’s report of the property, highlighting any urgent repair work.

A survey may also reveal excessive repair work, and if the seller is not willing to negotiate on price, you may be forced to withdraw your offer.

These common issues frequently face first-time buyers and impact on the average six to eight-week timescale provided.

Why would it take so long?

Your solicitor will check the title deeds to the property, carrying out searches and enquiries to ensure that you buy a good and marketable property title.

A title proves that you own the property and no-one else has the right to purchase this.

This is a title that you will be able to sell without difficulty in future.  This will also be the requirement of your lender.

Often there are problems with the title – perhaps the plan is wrong, a deed is missing, there is no right of way to the front door, the correct Planning Permissions were not obtained  – the list is endless.

Common delays tend to be caused by waiting for answers to pre-contract enquires. This could be due to solicitors on the other side not responding promptly, or they are not receiving the information needed from their clients to respond.

These issues and the proposed solutions will be drawn to your attention as soon as they are noticed.

If there is a title defect, initially the seller’s solicitors will be asked to solve it. This can cause a delay as the involvement of third parties may need to be introduced to resolve the defect.

There can also be delays in the chain. Perhaps someone doesn’t want to move until a certain date or perhaps a buyer at the top of the chain is having difficultly arranging a mortgage or has had an adverse survey, forcing them to withdraw which will have a knock on effect for the chain below.

These delays are not unusual and it is important for buyers to have realistic expectations following the advice of their lawyer who will work to ensure the process runs as efficiently as possible.

It is important to be prepared for such matters, to avoid disappointment if intended timescales are significantly altered.

Whatever happens being prepared and flexible when it comes to this process really is key. Things can, and sometimes will go wrong, but most things can be resolved by a legal expert.

CJCH Solicitors has over 35 years’ of experience in property matters and conveyancing. Whether you are purchasing your first home, a buy-to-let property or expanding your property portfolio, its specialist team will guide you through the process tailoring the service to your needs. For more information visit https://www.cjchsolicitors.co.uk/

Techniquest makes crucial appointment ahead of “game-changing” 2019

By Raspberry Jim,

Educational charity Techniquest has recruited a brand-new Head of Engagement and Partnerships ahead of a “game-changing” 2019. 

The appointment is the result of an open recruitment process which saw one of its longstanding employees, Clare James, being promoted to this exciting new role.  Clare was previously the centre’s Fundraising Manager.

As part of her new role, Ms James will lead the charity’s stakeholder engagement programme across its wide range of partners, including corporate sectors, academic institutions, and local communities.

Working with relevant organisations and STEM partners, Ms James will develop crucial relationships and provide essential support in shaping Techniquest’s programmes,  demonstrating the relevance of science to people’s everyday lives. 

After securing £5.7million in funding, the organisation will now march forward with its Science Capital project, set for completion in 2020, which will encompass a radical transformation and extension of its current building in Cardiff Bay.

Discussing her new role, Ms James said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role during such a pivotal and exciting time for Techniquest. I’ve worked diligently to support the charity on its mission to inspire generations of scientists and great thinkers to come, and I’m looking forward to taking on a new challenge and building upon our recent achievements.

“While Techniquest has always been loved by young children and families, we’re now diversifying our audiences and we’re working with our partners, particularly within our communities, to find out how to make science relevant to them and the assets they bring to the partnership.

“2019 is set to be a game-changing year for our organisation. After an incredible year in which we secured a mammoth £5.7million in funding, we’re looking forward to seeing our Science Capital project come to life.”

Lesley Kirkpatrick, CEO at Techniquest said: “We’re delighted to see Clare achieve such great success during her time with us. With her unique insight and expertise, her work as Fundraising Manager has made an incredible difference to the charity.”

“Since starting at the organisation in 2016, Clare has been committed to helping us on our mission to create a scientifically literate society across Wales. Nurturing positive relationships with incredible partners, Clare has been instrumental in our recent successes and we’re all thrilled that she has been successful in this recruitment process.”

The top Christmas party issues causing festive gloom for employers

By Raspberry Jim,

With December just around the corner, many businesses are looking forward to a month of annual leave, Secret Santa gifts, and the highly anticipated Christmas party.

However, the aftermath of the annual festive bash can cause more than a Prosecco-fuelled headache for employers, and can even create issues that can plague businesses long after the new year.

Local award-winning law firm Watkins & Gunn is urging employers to consider potential problems ahead of Christmas party season.

Lisa Guscott, Partner and Head of Employment & HR Services at Watkins & Gunn advises employers to approach Christmas parties with “a positive but cautious approach”.

The Newport-based legal expert said: “A good starting point is to view all parties as an extension of the workplace. The rule of thumb is that if it wouldn’t be acceptable in a working environment, then it wouldn’t be acceptable outside of it.

“It is important that employers are aware that they can be held vicariously responsible for the acts of their employees and this responsibility extends to these types of situations.  It is therefore good practice to send out a clear message to employees before any significant social gatherings.”

Here Miss Guscott discusses the top issues that employers might need to combat this Christmas …

Sexual harassment

Unfortunately, Christmas parties are notorious for unwanted sexual attention, and what may appear to the pursuer like harmless flirtation under the mistletoe can easily become a bigger problem with serious consequences.

Inappropriate physical contact is not the only thing to be avoided, as sexual remarks or jokes presented as “banter” can often lead to the discomfort of others and result in legal problems.

Miss Guscott explains that employers must ensure that they have a firm anti-harassment policy in place, stating that “implementing these policies is vital in preventing unacceptable behaviour against co-workers, clients or any third parties”.

She said: “This kind of behaviour includes written or verbal comments, including jokes or questions of a sexual nature, sharing explicit images, sending emails containing sexual references or content, and unwanted physical contact. It’s good to remember if someone has not given you consent to do or say something, then it is not acceptable.”

Discrimination

It may seem obvious that discrimination in any form is unacceptable, as well as being in bad taste. However, there are also legal ramifications to this kind of behaviour.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to discriminate against others for any reason protected by the act, including age, race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, pregnancy and transsexuality.

Miss Guscott warns: “It is therefore important that all employees are made aware that such inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated in any circumstances, whether inside or outside of the workplace.”

Mobile phones

Employers may also want to consider the way in which employees engage with social media during the festive season, which can also lead to complaints.

With most employees eager to document their Christmas parties across social media, it’s worth making sure there is a firm social media policy in place to avoid any problems.

Miss Guscott advises: “Whilst there’s nothing wrong with a harmless selfie or fun photos to be shared between the team, the last thing you want is for employees to go on a drunken rant about clients or co-workers on social media, which could also lead to issues of harassment, discrimination or bullying.

“A social media policy for employees is always good practice, especially during the festive season.”

How employers can reduce risk

All social events come with a risk, especially when alcohol is involved and can increase the risk of employee conflict or unacceptable behaviour. Many employers may be unaware that is their responsibility to ensure that measures are put in place to minimise the risk of disorderly behaviour, as well as making sure their employees get home safely.

Miss Guscott said: “At this time of year, particularly when alcohol is involved, there in an increased risk of disorderly behaviour.  Employers should consider taking appropriate measures in order to minimise the risk, for example if they are putting on a free bar for employees at their Christmas party, then they may wish to consider providing food to ensure that they have eaten to avoid them drinking on an empty stomach. They may also wish to consider providing them with transport or ensuring that they are able to get home safely.

“With enough awareness, information and consideration, these issues can be avoided. However, if employers find themselves in a legal bind following their Christmas parties, it’s important to seek trusted legal advice to avoid further hassle and disruption.”

Whilst bearing all these points in mind employers should remember that the Christmas party is a time for staff to let down their hair and enjoy themselves after working hard all year. In taking the above into account employers can ensure that everyone has a great end to the year with no fireworks at the start of the new one.

Techniquest submits plans for Science Capital project

By Raspberry Jim,

Techniquest has submitted a planning application for its £5.7m Science Capital project, which will see the radical transformation and expansion of its science discovery centre in Cardiff Bay.

Planning has been submitted to extend the educational charity’s current building on Stuart Street to create an additional 900m2 of exhibition floor space.

The scheme, designed by local architecture practice HLM, will significantly increase Techniquest’s footprint providing an additional 60% exhibition space to house brand new innovative content related to, and developed with, Welsh STEM innovators, academics and communities.

The new immersive and innovative exhibition areas and experiences will help Techniquest to diversify its audiences and increase visitor numbers by at least 40%.

Lesley Kirkpatrick, CEO of Techniquest said: “Since securing funding, it has been full steam ahead in our Science Capital project. We’ve been working closely with our consultants to marry up our objectives, with the space we have available, and our ultimate goal of ensuring the charity has a sustainable and long-term future in Wales.

“We’re delighted with the final plans, which are contemporary, inclusive, flexible and eye-catching. Gaining planning consent is naturally a crucial factor in the future of this project so we’re hopeful for a positive result.”

As well as creating a new vibrant public entrance, the plans include a designated community space overlooking the Bay, a new café and shop, in addition to a roof terrace and courtyard designed to host interactive artworks and features to complement exhibitions.

Patrick Arends, leisure and culture sector lead at HLM said: “Techniquest has been providing inspiring scientific education for over 30 years and the new extension will reflect this with a contemporary design that will showcase this unique and much-loved facility in Cardiff.  The Cardiff HLM studio has been working closely with the project team, drawing on its extensive experience in designing top class educational and leisure spaces, to create a vibrant space that is flexible, active and relevant.”

The scheme is being project managed by Lee Wakemans who are working alongside HLM (architects), Hydrock (project engineers) and Wardell Armstrong (planning consultant).

Paul Wong, Director at Lee Wakemans said: “Techniquest is on a marvellous journey of renewal looking to reach a much wider audience. We feel privileged to play our part in helping to translate what the client is seeking to achieve, into an exciting design which will get built and ready for summer 2020. It’s great to have reached this milestone of submitting the planning application and we’re grateful to all team members who have helped us reach this point.”

Subject to planning permission being granted, it is anticipated that work on the extension will commence in Spring 2019, with the new space being open to the public by Summer 2020.

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