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Polish volunteers line up to help Ukrainian refugees

“Przemysl is the heart of Europe, and possibly the heart of the whole world,” Dariusz Lapa, a city official, enthused in an interview published in the regional daily newspaper Zycie (Life) yesterday. “Our town is the first safe place reached by refugees.”

Moved to action by anger over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of volunteers from all over Poland have converged on this Mitteleuropa town of 60,000 to greet refugees disembarking from trains and buses with hot, sugary waffles and goulash soup, telephone sim cards, medicine and clothing, offers of lodging and transport to all points in Poland.

In many cases, Poles offer their own apartments. A volunteer tells me how close friends “adopted” a family. Pawel, a car dealer, drove to the border as soon as the war started. “Do you want to come with me?” he asked the first group he met. He drove eight people, ranging from a five-month-old baby to a grandfather, to the home of his girlfriend Monika. She gave her flat to the refugees and moved in with Pawel. Monika’s mother cooks for the refugees daily.

The main refugee reception centre began to take form on the first day of the war, one week ago today, in the parking lot of the former Tesco supermarket. It closed because of Brexit, but the site – like the European Union — has gained new purpose from Vladimir Putin’s aggression. The centre is manned by about 300 Polish volunteers working 24 hours a day. Those from out of town sleep in tents on the parking lot.

Terrified

“For the first two days of the war we were terrified,” says Ania Lapinska, a 42-year-old mother of four young children and fitness trainer in Przemysl. “I sat at home, crying and hiding with my children. Seeing all those Ukrainian mothers and children arriving lost at the border broke my heart. I had to do something.”

Lapinska stands behind a table laden with soap and shampoo, snacks, milk, fruit and nappies. Ukrainian refugees, virtually all women and children, serve themselves. Boxes of donated goods arrive constantly. Were it not for the tears and shattered expressions of new arrivals, one might think this was a marketplace or open-air fair. “There is no more place for fears and tears now,” Lapinska says. “There’s a lot of energy. I can’t sleep at night. In my dreams I am sorting packages.”

Poland and Ukraine have had their differences, like most close neighbours. Przemysl was long disputed territory between them. Will the warm feelings last? “I hope I am wrong,” Lapinska says, “But I think the Ukrainians’ gratitude towards us will not last long.”

At the moment, the bond between Polish hosts and Ukrainian refugees is deeply emotional. Halina Gryniv, age 48, from the central Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankivsk, arrived in Przemysl yesterday with her sister, young son and daughter, after a five-day wait on the Ukrainian side of the border. She left a husband and three sons behind to fight the Russians.

When I ask Gryniv what she feels for the Poles, she places a hand over her heart and tears pour down her cheeks. “We are very grateful. We didn’t realise that so many people can be so good.”

Exhausted

Gryniv was a supermarket cashier in Gryniv. “It was an ordinary life. Home, work, home work,” she says. “Only now do I realise it was happy. It goes round and round in my head: everything was fine and life was good and the world was peaceful. I am in shock.”

A bus pulls up behind us. Ukrainian women and children spill out, most too exhausted to speak, many of them crying. Twenty-two year-old Alina Krasnochub was a tour operator in Kyiv. She chokes back tears when she begins to tell me about the boyfriend she parted from in Lviv. Polish volunteers have organised a network to adopt refugees’ pets, but Krasnochub will not part with her pet tabby cat, Judy, who peers out from under the young woman’s anorak.

Men in bikers’ jackets marked “Riders On the Storm Club” ladle fermented rye and sausage soup from a field green military stove they borrowed from the fire department in their home town of Kobliernice, 300 km away. One of the volunteers, whose first name is Mariusz, is fittingly named Zurek, like the soup he is serving. “This is from the bottom of my heart,” he says.

At the transport stand, the licenses of volunteer drivers are photographed, lifts are recorded and refugees are given emergency telephone numbers, just in case. Some criminals had taken Ukrainian women and children away, claiming to be relatives, and imprisoned them in apartments with the intention of trafficking them. Word got around and the refugee women are wary.

Missiles

The transport stand has the feel of an exchange floor, with volunteers shouting out: “I have a vehicle that can take five people. Where do you want me to go?” “I can take people to Krakow.” “Someone is asking for Lublin.” Justina Ruscka, age 32, drove 600 miles to contribute 15 litres of goulash. She holds up a sign offering lifts to central Poland.

Dominik Ortyl, age 26, took time off from writing his Master’s thesis to help run the traffic stand. Before lunchtime, he matches up close to 400 refugees with drivers.

On Tuesday, Ortyl arranged a lift for a mother, son and aunt from  Zaporizhiya, southeastern Ukraine. “Their refugee convoy was struck by Russian missiles and the father was killed. They had to leave him, beause they were under attack. It was the saddest thing I ever saw,” Ortyl says as tears fill his eyes.

Ortyl believes the war will end either with regime change in Moscow or the defeat of Ukraine and the imposition of a puppet government in Kyiv. “I don’t believe Russia will attack the Baltic states or Poland,” he says. “The Russians know they are no match for Nato, and they see Europe is united for the first time.”

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Folkestone dubbed the new Whitstable after undergoing a dramatic transformation

Every year around this time we hear of plans to regenerate run-down seaside towns and dreary resorts, from Margate to Morecambe. 

Yet none could match the dramatic transformation of Folkestone on Kent’s south coast.

Just ten years ago, Folkestone was on the slide. ‘I moved here in 2015 from Gran Canaria to work in a hotel and parts of the town, notably the harbour area, were scary — so I moved on to Canterbury,’ says Alex Rodriguez, 31, now a freelancer working in corporate communications.

Turning the tide: The Kent seaside town’s once off-limits harbour is now an enticing location

Turning the tide: The Kent seaside town’s once off-limits harbour is now an enticing location

‘Then I heard about the changes going on, so in 2020 I moved back here with my husband and picked up a three-bedroom Victorian end-terrace house for £240,000. 

I have never regretted it — Folkestone nowadays has a really cool vibe and beautiful scenery.’

It is difficult to imagine the Folkestone that Alex found back in 2015. Much of the harbour and seafront was occupied by railway sidings, a squalid fairground and a flea market. The Old Town area was, to put it bluntly, a slum.

It took the ambition of Sir Roger De Haan to create the Folkestone of today. He bought the town’s harbour in 2004 with a view to regenerating it.

‘My parents started [travel company] Saga and when I sold the company in 2004 [for £1.35 billion] I was still only in my late 50s and I needed to carry on working,’ Sir Roger told me. ‘I decided on four strands of regeneration: education, buildings, the arts and sport.’

These areas were in desperate need of attention. Folkestone had one of the five least academically successful secondary schools in England. 

With an investment of £34 million, Sir Roger had architect Norman Foster design a replacement and it is now judged ‘good’ by Ofsted. 

Sir Roger also helped set up performance venues and ploughed money into a variety of sports facilities.

But the flagship of the new-look Folkestone is a development of 84 apartments on the sea-front. Set on shingle at the top of the beach, it is built of glistening white, glazed bricks. 

Broad balconies give the exterior a Gaudi-esque look, while inside the curvature of the tall windows means rooms are bathed in light. Materials of wood and pebble echo the seaside theme.

Prices range from £430,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £2.2 million for a penthouse. Six more blocks are planned, totalling 1,000 units (shorelinefolkestone.co.uk).

Nearby is the restored Harbour Arm, with its champagne bar, food stalls. Stroll south along the seafront and you pass brightly painted beach huts and a landscaped coastal path.

The revamped Old High Street is now bursting with independent shops and studios — not unlike popular and chi-chi Whitstable on the north Kent coast.

‘It has a really cosmopolitan atmosphere,’ says Alex. ‘There are lots of freelancers and we meet in a coffee shop twice a week, which gives a real sense of community.’

There’s a lot to attract newcomers, with London’s St Pancras just an hour away. So, with so many seaside towns looking to re-invent themselves, what’s the secret of a successful regeneration?

‘In areas where the economy is broken, it is not enough to just fix the buildings,’ said Sir Roger. ‘You have to give the town a whole new economic purpose … there must be one over-arching grand ambition.’

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Majority of Businesses (82%) Set to Boost R&D Funding in the Next Three Years

Businesses And R&D Funding

More than 78% of R&D professionals believe that an enhanced 50% R&D tax credit will incentivise green tech development

A recent report by the Industry Research and Development Group (IRDG) and KPMG sheds light on the state of Research and Development (R&D), highlighting the urgent need for increased funding to keep pace with other leading innovation-driven nations. Titled ‘Ireland’s Innovation Index,’ the report presents insights gathered from a survey of 394 respondents representing various sectors, including engineering, technology, medical, and software.

Growing Ambitions for R&D Investment

The findings of the report reveal that a significant majority (80%) of respondents plan to boost their R&D expenditure in the next three years, while 67% have already increased their R&D budgets over the past three years. Encouragingly, only a mere 4% anticipate a decrease in future R&D spending. This heightened commitment to R&D investment underscores its critical role in driving economic growth and competitiveness.

R&D Landscape

Ireland has demonstrated commendable performance in the realm of R&D, with a substantial proportion (69%) of multinational companies considering Irish R&D grants and tax supports on par with or even superior to those offered by other countries. Only 31% expressed a less favorable opinion. Moreover, 64% of the survey respondents have taken advantage of the Research and Development Tax Credit (RDTC), while 53% have availed themselves of semi-state grant supports. These figures indicate the value that companies place on government incentives to support their innovation endeavors.

The Need for Increased Funding

Despite the positive strides made, the report highlights the pressing need for Ireland to bolster its R&D funding to match the levels seen in leading innovation-driven nations. According to the IRDG, an additional €2 billion in funding is required to bridge this gap effectively.

Embracing Sustainability and Digitalization

The report also emphasizes the potential of enhanced R&D funding in promoting green tech development. An overwhelming 78% of R&D professionals believe that an improved 50% R&D tax credit would serve as a powerful incentive to drive innovation in sustainable technologies. This highlights the need to align R&D investment with the challenges of sustainability and digitalization, ensuring continued economic prosperity and positioning Ireland as a global leader in these areas.

The Importance of Support for SMEs and FDI

Dermot Casey, CEO at IRDG, underscores the significance of increased investment in innovation, particularly in supporting innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to create the next generation of Irish success stories, akin to industry leaders like Kingspan and Fexco. Additionally, such investment is crucial to bolster the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) sector. Businesses are poised to invest, but they require robust support to overcome challenges related to accessing skills, talent, and administrative burdens.

Competition in the Global Landscape

Ken Hardy, head of KPMG’s R&D incentives practice, draws attention to the intense competition among European jurisdictions, including neighboring countries like the UK, which are actively vying to attract R&D activities. In light of this landscape, Ireland must fortify its support systems and allocate a more substantial budget to maintain its competitiveness. Hardy commends the positive sentiment among over two-thirds of Irish RD&I professionals who view Ireland’s support systems as comparable to those of other countries.

Charting the Path Forward

The report underscores the urgent need for Ireland to bolster its investment in R&D, both to stimulate innovation and to address the challenges presented by sustainability and digitalization.

By increasing funding and providing comprehensive support to innovative companies, Ireland can seize opportunities for economic growth and maintain its position as a global hub for research and development. The collective efforts of industry, government, and academia will be instrumental in driving Ireland’s innovation agenda and securing a prosperous future.


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— By Team VoiceOfEU.com

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Ways Small & Medium-Sized Businesses Can Hire Big Tech Talent

In response to mounting financial concerns, tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have recently implemented significant staff cuts. This has prompted industry leaders to reevaluate their hiring practices, recognizing the limitations of Big Tech’s ability to weather challenging economic times.

While the tech industry’s overall stability is assured, the combination of a declining economy and a previous surge in hiring has resulted in substantial job losses. However, this situation also presents an opportunity for small businesses and start-ups to tap into a pool of available tech experts.

To capitalize on this unique scenario, small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners must act swiftly to gain a competitive advantage over larger companies and attract highly skilled candidates.

In this article, John Elf, Technology Contributor at ‘Voice of EU’ and Head of Marketing at Vibertron Technologies, provides insights into some simple but effective strategies for attracting talent in a candidate-heavy market.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can leverage consulting services to attract the best talent, just like big tech companies do. Here’s how SMBs can make use of consulting services to enhance their talent acquisition efforts:

1. Talent Acquisition Strategy Development: SMBs can engage consulting firms specializing in talent acquisition and HR strategies to help them develop a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy. These consultants can assess the organization’s needs, identify talent gaps, and devise effective recruitment and sourcing strategies tailored to the SMB’s specific industry and requirements. This strategic approach ensures that the SMB is targeting the right candidates and maximizing its resources.

2. Employer Branding and Positioning: Consulting firms experienced in employer branding can assist SMBs in developing a strong employer brand that resonates with their target talent pool. They can help SMBs articulate their unique value proposition, culture, and growth opportunities, ensuring that the organization stands out as an attractive employer. These consultants can also provide guidance on how to effectively communicate the employer brand across various channels to attract the best talent.

3. Recruitment Process Optimization: Recruitment service provider can help SMBs, same as LCEs, optimize their recruitment processes, making them more efficient and effective. Consultants can review and streamline the entire hiring process, from job postings and candidate screening to interview techniques and selection methodologies. By improving the candidate experience and ensuring a smooth and timely process, SMBs can enhance their reputation as an employer of choice.

4. Candidate Sourcing and Evaluation: Consulting firms specializing in talent acquisition can assist SMBs in sourcing and evaluating candidates. They can leverage their networks and resources to identify top talent and conduct thorough assessments, including skill evaluations, cultural fit analysis, and background checks. By leveraging external expertise, SMBs can access a broader candidate pool and make well-informed hiring decisions.

5. Compensation and Benefits Consulting: Attracting and retaining top talent often requires competitive compensation and benefits packages. SMBs can engage consulting firms that specialize in compensation and benefits to ensure their offerings align with industry standards and meet the expectations of high-caliber candidates. These consultants can provide insights into market trends, salary benchmarks, and innovative benefit options, enabling SMBs to remain competitive in talent acquisition.

6. Training and Development Programs: SMBs can leverage consulting services to design and implement training and development programs. These programs not only help attract talent but also contribute to employee retention and growth.

Consultants can identify skill gaps, design customized training modules, and provide guidance on employee development initiatives, ensuring that SMBs create a culture of continuous learning and professional advancement.

By utilizing consulting services in talent acquisition, SMBs can access specialized expertise, best practices, and industry insights that are typically associated with larger companies. This approach enables SMBs to compete for top talent on a more level playing field, enhancing their ability to attract and retain the best candidates.


By John Elf

John Elf is Head of Marketing at Vibertron Technologies, and an Honorary Contributor at ‘Voice of EU’. A version of this article has already been published.


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