Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group are currently on the lookout for local business professionals to get involved in the judging of the College’s annual ‘Dragons’ Lair’ competition.

Based on the hit BBC series, Dragons’ Den, students will be tasked to come up with a business idea and prepare a business plan, which they will showcase at an exhibition style event. Shortlisted students will then be entered into a ‘final’ that involves the students presenting their ideas to a team of ‘dragons’, who will be given the opportunity to ask deeper questions and decide on an overall winner.

During the event, judges will be asked to give their advice and expertise to the hopeful students.

‘Dragons’ are needed on 20th May (GCSE students) and 22nd May (A Level students) from 9am – 4pm with a working breakfast and lunch provided.

If you would be interested in becoming a ‘Dragon’ for this event or to find out more, please email or call 01782 254311.

A new degree apprenticeship will help open up opportunities for trainees in material science in North Staffordshire and across the UK.

After two years in development, the Materials Science Technologist (Level 6) Degree Apprenticeship is now approved and ready for delivery.

The programme, which provides a bachelor’s degree qualification and extensive workplace experience, has been approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and is now available to all students, universities and employers.

The Applied Materials Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Company (AMRICC) has led more than 40 employer-members of a Trailblazer Group, including Steelite International, Johnson Tiles, Wade Ceramics and Cape, who have worked together to design the qualification and bring the scheme together.

It is being supported by Staffordshire University, Sheffield Hallam, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Birmingham and the University of Derby.

Paul Farmer OBE, managing director of Wade Ceramics, said: “I think this is an excellent opportunity for the industry to put back in place some long overdue technical training, as this has been neglected for too long.

“The apprenticeship will encourage young people to come into ceramics, which offers a good future, especially in the technical field.”

James Kent (Ceramic Materials), based in Fenton, has also been a key supporter of the apprenticeship.

Simon Nash, the company’s managing director, said: “We have had to completely reinvent ourselves over the past 20 years, going from pottery material suppliers to specialist glass and pigment manufacturers.

“During this time, it has become increasingly difficult to find people with the right qualifications to enable them to fit into our organisation quickly and effectively.

“There are options for candidates with a material science or chemistry background nationally but very little at a local level.

“By giving students a good grounding in ceramic technology the apprenticeship programme can help new talent to quickly succeed in and make a worthwhile contribution.”

The apprenticeship can be customised to meet the needs of specific materials, including metals, ceramics and advanced ceramics, glass, polymers, rubbers and composites, as well as new and novel materials.

Dr Cathryn Hickey, chief executive of AMRICC, a subsidiary of the Lucideon Group, based in Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent, said: “Material science and engineering have a hugely significant role to play in the economy of the future.

“We are excited to see the programme take shape.

“It’s good news for prospective apprentices, academics and businesses in a wide range of sectors and industries across the UK.

“Ultimately, this apprenticeship will provide students with the skills, knowledge and competency to deliver tangible benefits to individual companies and play a part in supporting the UK economy overall with significant advances in productivity, performance, innovation and reducing environmental impact.

“We can look forward to these apprentices obtaining much needed high-skilled jobs and increasing the competitiveness and technical competence of North Staffordshire, in national and international markets.”

Dr Chris Stevens, of NGF Europe Limited, is chair of the Trailblazer Group. He said: “The apprenticeship standard is a great new opportunity, but it is only the beginning.

“Education providers now need to choose to offer the course, and then companies need to employ apprentices to go on the programme.

“By understanding the science of materials and advanced manufacturing, new products will be better, problem solving more effective and production efficiency increased.”

To find out more please visit

Aspiring female entrepreneurs are invited to attend an International Women’s Day event next month to help launch and accelerate their businesses.

Taking place from 10am to 12pm on Thursday 12th March at the Civic Centre in Wolverhampton, the event is being hosted by Access to Business, a not-for-profit organisation which provides routes into self-employment, employment and training.

Speakers lined up include successful businesswomen from across the region who will offer guests seasoned business advice, guidance, and tangible tips for turning ideas into profitable businesses, and ways in which they can propel their ventures to the next level.

Josie Kelly, CEO of Access 2 Business, explained: “We’re very excited to be hosting this event for International Women’s Day. Our own professional Business Advisors will be on hand to provide advice and support and to also tell attendees about some of the wide-ranging and free services available in our City to support business growth. We want our event to inspire women in the area to kick-start their businesses and fulfil their dreams.

“So many women out there have fantastic ideas but just need the extra push or support in areas such as PR and marketing, operations, and finance. Our wide range of speakers and support on offer will provide something for everyone, plus real-life success stories from people who have built their brands with help from Access to Business.

“We’ll also welcome Claire Darke, Mayor of Wolverhampton, and Harinder Kunor, Business Growth Enabler at NatWest and part of the bank’s Back Her Business campaign. We hope to hear from as many people as possible, but places are limited so I’d encourage anyone interested to get in touch with us on or call the team on 01902 572397 to secure their space.”

The event is proudly supported by Access to Business RAISE project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the City of Wolverhampton Council and NatWest.

For more information and to book a place at the event please visit or call Access to Business on 01902 572397.

Realise charity appoints new chair

Realise charity has appointed a new Chair to help increase its impact in the community.

Wendy Dean will lead the charity’s board as it continues to refocus on new priorities to carry out its aim of building better futures in our communities across North Staffordshire through skills, jobs and health.

Wendy is the CEO and founder of Newcastle-based Strategi Solutions Group. She was HR Director of the Year in 2006, a finalist at the Forward Ladies Business of the Year Award in 2016, won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, and has led Strategi Solutions Group, which employs 24 people, to be a finalist in the National Business Awards, Personnel Today Awards and the Staffordshire Chamber Awards.

Wendy, who has been a member of the Realise charity board since February 2019, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to take on this role, having lived in North Staffordshire all of my life. I hope that my experience working within the community will enable me to help Realise take the next steps in its impressive work to date.”

Will Nixon, Trustee of Realise charity said: “Over the last ten years Realise has invested £4m across Staffordshire and supported over 10,000 people to overcome barriers to health, education and employment. During Wendy’s time on the board she’s displayed huge commitment to the charity and a drive to support our communities.

“We’re excited to be working with Wendy in her new role as we strive to increase Realise charity’s impact in North Staffordshire.”

Realise charity’s former Chair Philippa Holland has stepped down from the role, having successfully guided the charity since 2019 and having led the Aspire Housing board since 2011.

Will continued: “We’d like to thank Philippa for her tireless work and dedication at we are aspire. Her contribution over the past nine years has been invaluable and she has helped to shape the People First philosophy that now forms the heart of our strategy.”

As the charitable arm of we are aspire, Realise works together with Aspire Housing, PM Training and local partners to deliver programmes supporting core themes that build resilience and break down the causes of poverty for generations to come.

To find out more about the work of Realise visit

Tax specialists at Dains Accountants will analyse the budget and its impact on businesses at an annual post budget breakfast next month.

Dains Stoke are inviting local businesses to the free event on Thursday 12th March 2020 (7.30am-10am) at the Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent – the day after the new Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces his first budget to the nation.

The Stoke team will provide a complete analysis on the budget which promises to give local professionals lots of food for thought.

Guests will enjoy tea and coffee and a bacon roll on arrival at the event before listening to a presentation about the budget and its implications for companies in Stoke-on-Trent and the wider Staffordshire community.

A Question and Answer session will follow before business representatives have the chance to network with each other.

Business owners, directors and local business professionals are all invited to attend the event.

Julia Peat, Business Development Manager at Dains Stoke, said: “With a new Chancellor in post it will be very interesting to see what this year’s budget holds.

“The post budget breakfast is always a popular event for the Stoke and Staffordshire business community and this year’s event promises to be no different, particularly with the announcement of Brexit.

“Our team will be giving their reaction to the budget and offering tax advice and guidance to businesses that need it.”

If you would like to register and book your place at the post budget business breakfast, please visit

Coronavirus toolkit

As the coronavirus outbreak escalates, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce have been receiving enquiries from businesses asking what steps they should be taking. We’re committed to do all we can to support the business community in Staffordshire at this difficult time.

Coronavirus is a potentially lethal respiratory disease which has now spread to countries throughout the world, including the UK. The virus is classified as an airborne high consequence infectious disease (HCID) and can cause coughing, high temperatures and, potentially, pneumonia.

Staffordshire Chambers daily briefing:

Each weekday, we’re putting together a support sheet with the latest guidance for businesses. This daily briefing gives you advice on the range of support available, including financial, tax, insurance, employment and mentoring: Staffordshire Chambers Coronavirus Support Sheet 07.04.2020

New rules on staying at home and away from others:

The single most important action we can all take in fighting the coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. The government has introduced three new measures:

  1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Gatherings of more than two people in public are permitted where the gathering is essential for work purposes – but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.

Travelling to and from work is permitted, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

Every citizen must comply with these new measures. They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

Update on new social distancing measures:

Guidance has been issued on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, as part of further social distancing measures. A full list of the businesses and premises that must remain closed is available. Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal. Retail and public premises which expect to remain open must:

  • Ensure a distance of two meters between customers and shop assistants; and
  • Let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded.
  • Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.

The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible. Everyone is instructed to comply with the rules issued by the government in relation to coronavirus, in order to protect both themselves and others.

Please note this guidance is different in Scotland. We will keep you updated with developments as soon as possible.

Small business grant from local authorities:

We have guidance on the small business grants available from local authorities across Staffordshire: Local Council Grant information for COVID-19

Guidance from Staffordshire Police:

Staffordshire Police have put together the following document for crime prevention advice for empty commercial premises: Empty Commercial Premises Advice

Video message from Adam Marshall:

Take a look at the latest BCC video below where Adam Marshall responds to the recent lockdown announcement and share on your social channels to spread the message with your members.

Weekly Coronavirus Business Impacts Tracker Poll:

Given the rapid pace of Coronavirus developments and the increased requirements for up-to-date data, we are running a weekly ‘Coronavirus Business Impacts Tracker Poll’ for UK members. This will assess general business conditions from week to week and understand the levels of business awareness and usage of UK government support measures.

The tracker poll has been developed with input from a group of UK Chambers. It will take only 2-3 mins to complete and will be kept under constant review as data is received.

As with all our national surveys outside of QES, if your Chamber has contributed a database to the BCC for surveying members then no action is required. The BCC manages the fieldwork process entirely in-house. If your Chamber has not contributed a database, a standalone link can be provided on request. Contact David Bharier for more information or click here.

New social distancing measures and Chamber documentation staff: 

A reminder from the BCC International Trade team!  If you have yet to do so, now is the time to move documentation staff to home working. This will ensure that we continue to deliver the services that your customers need to keep on trading.

Our approved electronic documentation platforms provide the means to eliminate contact with trader representatives.  Almost all documentation certified by Chambers can be issued remotely when traders apply for certificates through the electronic platforms.

Some traders will need help with setting up and accessing the software used by your Chamber as well as advice on printing documents at their own premises which can also be done remotely.

Contact Liam Smyth for further information and with any queries.


Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. More here.

Business Support Campaign:

The government has launched a new phase of the Business Support Campaign to help businesses across the UK meet the unprecedented challenge the country is facing in dealing with coronavirus (Covid-19).

The campaign aims to help businesses and their employees with a package of measures through this period of unprecedented disruption. More here.

Support for the charity and voluntary sector:

VAST have put together a useful toolkit for the charity and voluntary sector.

Ministry at Work support:

During these challenging times the Chambers’ chaplaincy support to business is available to take calls for those anxious about their own wellbeing. They can offer various ways to manage mental health at this difficult time, but most importantly someone to talk to. You can call them on 07971966160 and access more information about the service at

Below, we outline the advice and best practice from the government, NHS, and other organisations:

The NHS has a regularly updated guide to coronavirus, setting out how it is spread, how to avoid catching it, symptoms, treatment and what to do if you think you or any of your employees might be infected. There’s also guidance on self isolating. Details here.

The official guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care, and Public Health England, is here and is being updated daily. This covers the situation in the UK, provides information about the virus and outlines the action the government is taking.

From 17th March 2020, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all non-essential international travel, initially for a period of 30 days. This advice takes effect immediately. More here.

The Government has released its Coronavirus Action Plan. 

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has produced a fact sheet, which sets out how employers should respond to the threat from Coronavirus. More here.

The Department for Transport and Public Health England have produced specific guidance for the transport sector here.

The World Health Organisation has more detailed information including videos on best practice and posters to download to inform your workforce. There’s also a useful myth-buster section and advice on when face masks are appropriate. Click here.

The British Chambers of Commerce have put together guidance.

The BBC has advice on working from home

Access free guides to living and working during the coronavirus pandemic: 

COVID-19 has brought significant changes to the way we live and work, and the rapidly changing situation can make it hard to keep up with the latest news and advice.

Westfield Health know how important it is for HR teams and business leaders to understand the situation, mitigate the risk for business, and care for the health and wellbeing of their people.

They’re creating a series of guides with lots of resources and ideas to support businesses and their people.They’ve already shared their employer guide for preparing for COVID-19, and the next guides in the series are now available for you to download. Take a look here.

RSM coronavirus hub:

RSM have developed a dedicated online platform that brings together the latest from experts and covers numerous topics pertinent to businesses at this time. Here is the link to their coronavirus hub:

The hub outlines some critical considerations for businesses to help mitigate the risks. They are aiming to keep this as up to date as possible, and there is new content being added daily, but please do bear in mind how fast the situation is changing. There will be challenges for us all in the coming months so if there is anything RSM can assist you, or your members with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Learn By Design are looking for volunteers to support a STEMployment workshop on Monday 2nd March at Gladstone Primary, Stoke On Trent, ST3 5EW.

The day will start with an assembly session with 4/5 STEM employer volunteers in attendance in which the children will explore with them what they do in their day to day jobs and what inspired them to take that career route. The day will then continue with a carousel of hands-on STEM activities led by Learn By Design communicators and supported by the employer volunteers to explore employability skills and different STEM careers.

If you could support this workshop, please contact Darren Kimberley:

Luxury motorhome dealer, Erwin Hymer Centre Travelworld, is hosting an International Women’s Day networking event on Monday 9th March at its showrooms in Stafford.

At the event, business women from the worlds of recruitment, training and the local business community will share their stories and celebrate the theme of the national event, Each for Equal. Guests will also be able to network and enjoy refreshments in the luxury showroom surroundings.

The company will open its doors to all guests interested in business networking and hearing some inspirational stories from women with very different journeys.

The line-up of speakers includes, Sara Williams, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, Maxine Booth, trainer at Intec Business Colleges and Rachel Lowe, Branch manager at Brook Street Recruitment in Telford.

Sara Williams, CEO of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “I’m delighted to be speaking at this event to mark International Women’s Day. Women still face many barriers in business, from perceptions of our roles to lack of workplace flexibility, so it’s essential that we come together at events like this to look at how we can break down barriers, raise the profile of women, and celebrate all we have to offer.”

Rachel Lowe added: “This event is a fantastic way to highlight the current issues facing women at work. A big challenge many still face today is going back to work following a career break, such as maternity leave. On their return, women can feel uncertain and isolated, and it is down to organisations to provide appropriate support during this stage and ensure a comfortable and effective pathway back into the workplace.”

Carol Huggins, organiser of the event and HR manager of Erwin Hymer Centre Travelworld added: “Throughout history, women have used their determination and strength to forge a positive future. International Women’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate this overall achievement and acknowledge the experiences women in business have also shown.

“There are so many inspirational women right here in our own business community. We want to bring them together in our showrooms to celebrate how far we have come and to keep on encouraging each other.”

The event opens at 4pm for informal networking in the showrooms and speakers will begin at approximately 4.30 pm. The event is scheduled to finish at approximately 6 pm.

Please register on the Eventbrite page to book your place:

Ornua Foods Curry and Quiz Night

In July, some of Ornua Foods UK’s (very brave!) colleagues in Leek will be taking on the Three Peaks Challenge to help raise money for The Community Foundation for Staffordshire. They are aiming to raise £10,000 for the charity in 2020 through their key activity, the Three Peaks Challenge.

Alongside this, they are also running other fundraising activities, including their upcoming Curry and Quiz Night, held on Friday 3rd April from 6pm at Leek Cricket Club. Tickets are £10 per person for teams of 2 – 8.

To register your team and find out more, please contact Kate Taylor from Ornua Foods, Places are going fast so please don’t hesitate in getting in touch.

Ornua are asking if your business would be willing to donate a prize for them to use in their raffle at the Curry and Quiz Night. As they are a Leek based business, they want to help raise the profile of the charity, but also the variety of local businesses that help to make the Moorlands a fantastic place. Donations of any size would be greatly appreciated.

The Community Foundation for Staffordshire is an independent charity dedicated to strengthening local communities across Staffordshire and Shropshire. They aim to tackle issues of disadvantage and exclusion through the building of permanent endowments and the allocation of grants. You can read more about the charity here.

Working with other Moorlands based businesses through partnership with the Staffordshire Moorlands Chamber of Commerce, Ornua’s fundraising will go back into supporting the smaller, unsung charities within our local community.


To mark International Women’s Day, Freeths LLP are asking for donations of any unwanted work clothing, to help get women in the UK back into work. We would be extremely grateful for any clothing items you are able to donate!


Sharewear are a registered charity and provide emergency clothing and shoes to people currently in crisis. With this initiative, they can provide women with the confidence to attend job interviews and get back to work when they previously may have been held back due to not having or being able to afford suitable clothing. Sharewear accept high quality, pre-loved clothing, shoes, coats and accessories.


If you would like to donate, please drop off your unwanted items on Friday, 6th March between 9am and 5pm at Freeths LLP, Federation House, Station Road, Stoke, ST4 2SA. Please feel free to join us for a tea or coffee when you drop off! Alternatively, we can arrange to collect the items from you.


Please contact to arrange a drop off, collection or for further information.