The biggest shake-up to planning rules in more than 70 years was revealed in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday. And, at the same time, there is chance for businesses to influence what gets built where – and particularly where you might want to build new premises – in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle.

The current planning system has hardly been touched since 1947, but the Government, after many false attempts, now plans to replace it through the Planning Bill with reforms that have been brought forward.

The aim is to simplify planning for housing, making sure that homes and infrastructure can be delivered more quickly across England. It comes as the government aims to create 300,000 new homes annually – an increase of over 100,000 new homes per annum. What businesses also need to know is whether there will be enough “employment land” for their growth and development.

The key planning system changes are:

Cutting Red tape: The Planning Bill aims to cut the time it takes for developments to go through the planning system. Under the current rules, it takes an average of five years for a “standard housing development” to go through. And businesses who are engaged with the system for their own developments know that it is a tortuous and complex system – and seems to be quite opaque.

Move to a digital service: The changes also include a move from a document-based planning system to a digital and map-based service. The hope is that this will allow residents to be more engaged in the development of their local area. Presently only percent of locals engage with planning applications, according to the government. However, residents often oppose business development and so this could be difficult for companies seeking to build or expand.

Change local plans: The government also aims to change local plans, so they provide more certainty over the type and design of development permitted. This would include reforms for locally led development corporations to ensure local areas have access to support for growth and generation.

However, the current Local Plans need to have businesses input. Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Local Plan went out for consultation this week until 21st June.

We are running a Local Plan Consultation Webinar with Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 18th May. It will be introduced by chair of the Chambers Planning and Infrastructure Forum, Carl Copestake, and presented by Thomas Lewis and Harmesh Jassal from Stoke City Council. It is a chance to find out about the plan and how it will affect you and your business, allowing you to raise any issues before the 21st June deadline. You can book your place here: https://bit.ly/2RL4jnz

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that the planning system should be genuinely plan-led with succinct and up-to-date plans providing a positive vision for the future of an area and a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic social and environmental priorities including sustainability.

New frameworks for funding infrastructure: The Bill is set to create new frameworks for funding infrastructure, while at the same time assessing environmental impacts, made easier after the UK left the EU.

The details of this planning legislation will be critically important if it is to support communities in meeting the major challenges facing society. We need more homes. But the Bill must set out a framework that will deliver much more than that. It must transform housing standards and give local people true democratic control over their future AND provide for businesses and companies to provide more opportunities for work in up-to-date factories and offices.

Finally, Businesses across the country will be relieved to hear that they will be able to re-open or restart more of their operations on May 17th. The last few months have seen many firms either severely restricted in their activities, or unable to trade at all, and this announcement will come as a huge boost to them.

Questions remain over what kind of restrictions businesses will be expected to operate under in the medium to long-term, and government must move to answer these as soon as possible. In addition, government must continue to do everything it can to support businesses in the transition back to full trading, giving them every chance to recover and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

The latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) shows that growth is expected but some sectors are yet to see signs of revival.

No big surprises there as we emerge from a third lockdown and our exporting sector comes to terms with the UK – EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement which was ratified last week but has been in place since January.

The survey of over 5,900 UK businesses, including Staffordshire businesses, shows an increase in the percentage of firms expecting workforce growth but also continued weakness and volatility in retail and hospitality sectors.

The percentage of firms attempting to recruit in Q1 remains low at 40 percent in comparison to a 55 percent pre-pandemic 2019 average. Increases in attempted recruitment in the construction and manufacturing sectors are offset by a decline in recruitment in other sectors. There was also an increase in the number of firms attempting to recruit who reported difficulty in finding staff.

These figures serve as a sharp reminder of how unevenly the jobs impact from Covid-19 has been distributed across different sectors, and the consequences this could have for different generations in the workforce.

The labour market is particularly difficult and competitive for young people entering the workforce, as it is for those who have lost jobs during lockdown and may need re-training as well as suffering a drop in confidence.

While the furlough scheme has helped to protect many jobs, the severe restrictions on retail, leisure and hospitality businesses have reduced entry-level employment opportunities. At the same time difficult conditions have led to less apprenticeship opportunities.

Through the BCC we are lobbying the Government to extend the Kickstart initiative well beyond the current December deadline. In addition, extending employer incentives will support businesses in creating more apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities for young people. These measures together with a temporary cut in employer NIC contributions, will support job retention and recruitment for young people and others in the labour market.

Government must also ensure skills are a priority and we have a flexible system, responsive to the needs of employers, to deliver high quality training when and where needed.

If you have any issues around employment and skills, please contact: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

The pandemic has certainly brought employee health and wellbeing into sharp focus whilst highlighting that proactive health planning is vital.

Our partner provider, Westfield Health, have commissioned research which shows that in 2020 there was a 10 percent increase in days off due to mental health issues, with 30 percent of

employees saying that mental health had affected productivity with more employees looking for extra wellbeing support.

The Chamber Health Plan, provided by Westfield health, offers an effective employee healthcare solution. It provides money back towards everyday health costs, supporting early diagnosis as well as access to health-related services, including 24/7 telephone support and counselling sessions.

As well as cash-back for treatment such as dental, optical and chiropody there is support for health and wellbeing through counselling and a 24-hour helpline where you will always speak directly with a doctor. Cover starts at £6.13 per employee per month and you can find out more here: https://bit.ly/3elx3Mg

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

This Saturday, 1st May is Staffordshire Day, a celebration of our wonderful county, its people, places, its creativity, and the business community.

As someone who has lived and worked in the county for a mere 10 years, I never cease to be amazed just what the county has to offer.

With unrivalled countryside, a creative and an industrial heritage that has reached all corners of the world, two excellent universities and of course a diverse and brilliant array of businesses from micro to blue chip global leaders, Staffordshire truly is an incredible place to live, work and play.

It is also a very special day as May 1st is the anniversary of our most famous son, Josiah Wedgwood, setting up his pottery company in 1759 and helping to transform Staffordshire into the centre of the world’s ceramics industry, a crown it still wears proudly 262 years later.

There are lots of virtual events planned on the day and throughout May. You can find out more here: https://bit.ly/3nvhi8B

And don’t forget to use #StaffordshireDay on all social media posts.

I have been fascinated to read the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Barclays LifeSkills report, The next normal: Futureproofing the post-pandemic workforce.

The findings are from discussions during a series of roundtables with members of the UK Chambers of Commerce between November 2020 and February 2021.

The report finds that new ways of working introduced during the pandemic offer opportunities for employers and staff and highlights how supporting employees’ mental wellbeing and digital skills will become increasingly important.

It also shows that equipping school-leavers with key skills to deal with new working arrangements will be vital.

The report contains some crucial insights into the way employers have managed their workforces during the testing circumstances of last year and how they view the route forward post-pandemic.

It tells us that companies are now looking to the future of the workforce and are keen to grasp opportunities for both greater productivity and improved wellbeing of their employees.

However, businesses will need the necessary support to achieve these goals and the capability to adapt to shifting training priorities and new ways of working from top to bottom will be a key strength for any organisation.

Chambers of Commerce have a key role to play in helping firms recover from the effects of the pandemic and, in equipping employees and especially the next generation of employees coming into the workforce.

You can read the full report here: https://bit.ly/3elT8cB

We are incredibly fortunate to have the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub based at the Chambers. They offer complete bespoke training packages for business with funding of 48 percent up to £5000.

To access the fund all businesses just need to undertake a skills review with a member of the Skills Hub team.

The Skills Hub has just passed a milestone in delivering funded training to their 300th client company in Staffordshire.  There are no limits to the type of business training on offer and there is also currently top-up funding available to cover the remaining 52 percent cost for eligible companies.

Also, we have Growth Hub HR advisor, Amanda Swann based at the Chambers. Amanda can help with any people and HR issues and signpost you to relevant support. Email Amanda: amanda.swann@staffordshirchambers.co.uk

For more information and to find out how you can benefit from the funded training on offer call the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub on 0300 600 1066 or visit https://bit.ly/3xo5f1s

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

My blog this week is all about hard-earned awards for businesses who have gone above and beyond the norm in an exceptional year.

On Thursday night this week, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce were privileged to sponsor the ‘Business of the Year Award’ at the Stoke-on-Trent Live Business Awards 2021.

The Business Awards seem even more poignant this year coming at the end of the toughest year for business in living memory.

The Stoke-on-Trent Live Business Awards were an opportunity to reflect the positives of the past year and recognise that for some, 2020 has been a year of opportunity. Whether taking their business online, entering new markets or using their expertise to develop new products and services, many businesses were not only surviving, but thriving.

There were also countless examples of businesses supporting our key workers and the more vulnerable in society. Providing meals to those hit hardest by the pandemic, distributing food to food banks, manufacturing PPE and equipment and raising money for the NHS are just some of the ways in which business saw their role in the collective effort to get through this as one community.

And so, we celebrated the best of the business community with award entrants, fellow sponsors, guests, and everyone from the Sentinel at the online award ceremony. It may be a cliché, but everyone was a winner at the ceremony. Congratulations go to all the winners especially our ‘Business of the Year’ category winner TMT First. The Newcastle based Samsung authorised repair partner have had a great year, winning more repair contracts, and creating jobs in the most difficult of years. Well done to CEO Adam Whitehouse and the team at TMT First.

For a full list of award winners click here: https://bit.ly/32CL2qg

There is another opportunity for Staffordshire businesses to showcase their excellence as we launch the Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards 2021. The competition will open for entry on 19th July and the winners and runners up will be celebrated at a special gala celebration evening on 15th November. We are hopeful that this will be a hybrid event with attendees and a live streaming.

Entry criteria is very similar to the Stoke-on-Trent Live Business Awards, so if you entered that competition, you have already done the hard work.

We will shortly be sending out full details of the Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards and publicising them across social media.

Finally, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise launch on 1st May.

These awards are widely considered the highest accolade to be bestowed upon a UK business, celebrating the British companies that have showed outstanding achievement in trade, innovation, sustainable development and promoting opportunity through social mobility.

In 2020 two Staffordshire businesses won Queens Awards for Enterprise, Addmaster (UK)Ltd (Innovation) and Churchill China (International Trade).

I know that there are many more Staffordshire businesses out there deserving of a Queens Award for Enterprise and I hope that you will take time to consider entry. Alternatively, perhaps you work with or know of a business that should enter.

To find out more, check eligibility criteria and to apply, visit: https://bit.ly/3gob4WC

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

It was fantastic to see people flocking back to the high street and into pubs, restaurants and cafes on Monday, as the long winter lockdown gave way to the long awaited second phase of the Government’s roadmap to recovery.

People just wanted to be with other people, to smell the coffee, see and feel the goods and take in the experience of real everyday life. We all know only too well that you do not get any of this staring at and talking to a screen.

I was heartened by the optimism of both business owners and customers as both sets talked not only of what they had missed but looked forward to a new beginning.

The start of a renaissance for our high streets? – let us hope so.

Back to reality with the other news on Monday that the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Trade Confidence Outlook for Q1 revealed the stark issues facing UK exporters in the first months of 2021.

Data from the survey of more than 2,900 exporting businesses revealed that 41 percent reported decreased export sales on the previous quarter. 20 percent did however, report increased export sales with 40 percent revealing no change.

Historically the proportion of firms reporting an increase in sales is at an all-time low and it is this figure which we need to keep an eye on in subsequent surveys.

Respondents cited Brexit and the impact of Covid-19 as the biggest causes of problems in trade with shipping delays, increased cost of transporting goods and extensive paperwork requirements. Worryingly, many saw the problems as structural rather than short-term issues likely to alleviate as companies adjusted to changes in the new EU-UK trading relationship.

In response, the government has set up the £20 million SME Brexit fund, but it will take much more than this to fix the current problems.

The message from Staffordshire Chambers and the BCC is that the difficulties exporters are facing are not ‘teething problems’. They are structural issues that, if not addressed now could lead to long term and potentially irreversible weakness to our export sector.

We are calling ion the UK and EU to get back around the table and produce solutions to reduce trade barriers and give exporters a fighting chance.

Finally, this week also saw the start of Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims commit to a period of fasting during daylight hours.

Given the physical demands of daytime fasting, staff observing Ramadan may require some adjustments to their working routine, even if they are working from home. This could include altering shift patterns, allowing staff to start and finish earlier in the day to aid with daytime fasting, or amending workplace duties to reduce the chance of fatigue impacting performance or increasing the risk of injury.

It is important to remember that the requirements may affect each person differently, and organisations should refrain from taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to flexible working arrangements.

Here at the Chambers, we are committed to accommodating people from all backgrounds and we have for a long time had policies in place to ensure respect and equal treatment of all our staff.

If you would like any advice on how to accommodate staff during Ramadan please get in touch via the contact details below.

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

Research shows that entrepreneurship offers refugees economic independence; boosts self-confidence; and brings communities together. Refugees tend to be young adults who are less reliant on state benefits. As their businesses grow it brings more jobs, and generates more taxes, with economic activity far outweighing governmental costs. They have also been found to display key traits for business success, from high confidence to strong risk-awareness, and they have gone on to start countless businesses which enrich their host countries.

I am therefore extremely proud that Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is one of four organisations across the UK to have received funding for a pilot scheme to support refugees starting a business. The UK Refugee Entrepreneurship Pilot Scheme commissioned four organisations to design and run tailored business support programmes for refugees over a one-year period. The aim of the pilot project was to prove the efficacy of refugee entrepreneurship programmes and to experiment with different models of delivery. It was designed and run by the Centre for Entrepreneurs and funded by the Home Office and The National Lottery Community Fund.

A report just published is the culmination of the year-long pilot scheme illustrates how Staffordshire Chambers and projects in Bristol, the East of England and Belfast provided direct support to 112 refugee participants. The evaluation looked behind the hard outcomes (numbers engaged, businesses launched) to identify the important role that refugee entrepreneurship programmes play in helping refugees acquire the skills, industry experience and finance needed to start and grow a business.

The Chamber’s pilot scheme was titled Positive Pathways and was coordinated by our entrepreneur advisor, Polly Hargreaves. The aims and objectives of our pilot were to highlight self-employment as an opportunity for refugees and help overcome initial barriers such as understanding the UK business culture. It was open to any refugee, with a leave to remain status, interested in exploring starting their own business. We had 52 refugees access our ‘Exploring self-employment’ sessions with an entrepreneurship advisor and we went on to recruit 18 participants, 12 men and six women. Over 12 months participants attended ten ‘Exploring self-employment sessions’ and underwent a 10-week enterprise workshop programme. They had further support for start-up grant funding, and post-start mentoring.

This complements our excellent existing business start-up programmes for adults and students in further education. So many refugees just want to make a positive start in their adopted country and by providing the opportunity, inspiration and support we can help them to get their lives back on track and help them integrate and make a positive contribution to the local economy.

The detailed evaluation report now presents a vision for refugee entrepreneurship programmes to be available nationwide and it can now be used by programme funders, delivery organisations, and wider stakeholders seeking to expand refugee entrepreneurship support across the UK. You can view the report UK refugee entrepreneurship pilot scheme – Independent Evaluation at www.centreforentrepreneurs.org

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

Sara’s blog – 2 April 2021

Visit of Government Minister to Staffordshire Chambers – and the next stage of recovery.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure to welcome Rt. Hon. Mims Davies, MP, Secretary of State for Employment to a round table discussion on Kickstart and helping young people into employment. Mims’ family comes from Stoke-on-Trent, so she has a real affinity with the city.

The meeting was arranged because the Kickstart programme, and building this into our businesses, is so important to the future of young people. It is an ambitious programme, aiming for 250,000 young people to be in six months employment via placements, available until December 2021, with the Government paying the wages.

Employers raised questions around making sure that the young people were getting the right training, both from the employers and training providers, to help with their employability skills. We talked about how businesses may be able to start advertising these jobs themselves and how they could work with the excellent youth charities we have across the city who can support young people in applying.

We also discussed how these businesses can be supported to amend their employment systems and contracts to take on a young person and how to develop links with colleges and training providers to offer a route into apprenticeships and full employment. Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire have an excellent partnership on skills through the Skills Advisory Panel and through the Staffordshire Partnership for Employability and Skill (SPES) and because of this, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is keen to maximise the impact that Kickstart will have in the area and ensure young people have better opportunities for long-term employment.

The Minister paid tribute to the excellent work that the Chambers’ network across England are doing on Kickstart as they have already generated over 10 percent of the placements’ target.The Minister was extremely open and honest and welcomed questions. It was encouraging to see so many of the local DWP and JCP staff, with whom we work so well, on the call too. I think she came away with positive news of the strong partnerships that exist across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is passionate about helping young people into employment post-pandemic and see Kickstart and other schemes to bring new enthusiasm into our brilliant businesses and organisations and support the growth of the economy and prosperity for all. We are proud to be a Gateway and have already but over 1200 job opportunities from businesses across the area for young people. The scheme lasts until December and we are sure that we can generate even more. Thanks to Jack Brereton, MP for facilitating this meeting in the first place, and for chairing on the day, and we hope Mims Davies will be able to visit in person to meet with many local businesspeople soon.

This week has also seen another key milestone step in the government’s Roadmap to Recovery with people able to meet again in an outdoor setting. The Easter break now gives us all an opportunity to take some time to relax with family and friends, reflect and look toward the next phase of recovery. It has been a tough start to 2021, and I do not need to remind you why. However, there is so much to look forward to, and we like every business have lots of exciting things planned for 2021 including our new peer to peer member platform, a brand-new website, the 2021 Business Awards and Business Festival and much more.

More of all this later, but for now have a happy Easter and continue to stay safe.

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

Earlier this week, members of the HS2 Community Engagement Team gave a presentation to the Chambers’ Council about engaging with local businesses to support the development of HS2.

Work is already well underway on phase 1 from London to Lichfield, and Staffordshire based businesses can benefit from a good proportion of around 400,000 supply chain opportunities.

Over 80 Staffordshire businesses, including several Chamber members, are already involved with HS2, which has a policy of ensuring that more than half of the suppliers are local to the route and over two thirds of all suppliers are SMEs.

Opportunities are available in the following sectors: accommodation; food and catering; creative; transport and logistics; employee services; site services and trade and construction.

There are various ways in which you can find out about opportunities including visiting the national public contracts website www.competefor.com/hs2 You can also register your business on the HS2 map at www.hs2.org.uk/local-business

There will also be seminars and other events run by HS2 in partnership with the Chambers and other organisations which we will publicise through our channels as they arise.

HS2 is one example of new job opportunities in new sectors offering hope for the future which leads into the Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour market statistics for March 2021, which were published on Tuesday.

There was a glimmer of hope as, despite unemployment rising slightly, the continued uptick in the payroll employment data indicates that the UK jobs market is becoming more resilient.

Ongoing wage support through the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, greater clarity provided by the government’s roadmap and the adaptations made by some small firms to operate under lockdown restrictions, all helped to support higher payroll employment in February.

Whilst it is likely that extending furlough will limit job losses, the damage done by cash flow problems is still inflicting a heavy toll on business and this is likely to keep unemployment levels rising well beyond the full reopening of the economy.

The extension to the job support schemes will protect millions of jobs and livelihoods, but we will continue to lobby through the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to make sure that those businesses and individuals who remain excluded from government support get the assistance they need to navigate a difficult period.

And looking longer term, we will continue to hold the Government to account on there promise of delivering on new jobs in sectors as outlined in their 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. https://bit.ly/31gvBn3

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

It is sad, but hardly a surprise, to see just how bad the pandemic has hit retailers, as illustrated in new research from PwC compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC).

According to the research 600 shops opened and 1,468 closed in the West Midlands in the last 12 months, a net decline of 868. Nationally, there was a net decline of 9,877.

Worryingly, PwC says, the real impact of the pandemic is yet to be felt as some stores ‘temporarily closed’ during lockdowns, are unlikely to return.

Retail parks have fared better than the other retail locations with net closures of 93 in the West Midlands, compared to shopping centres (285) and faring worst of all high streets (487).

But let’s stop the negativity there. Locally Burton-upon-Trent, Kidsgrove and Newcastle-under-Lyme are set to benefit from several million pounds the government’s Town Deals, as announced by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick in October.

They will have the opportunity to invest in their local economies at this critical time, implementing proposals submitted to the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund, which is designed create jobs and drive growth across the country, forming a cornerstone of this government’s levelling up agenda to help reshape our towns and cities into places where businesses and communities can thrive.

Stafford town centre has also been allocated more than £14 million from the £830 million Future High Streets Fund. The funding will help Stafford transform its high street into a vibrant hub whilst protecting and creating many jobs.

Our largest shopping centre, The Potteries Centre has hatched a plan to ensure that the centre survives and adapts to a new era for the town and city centre retail experience.

Online shopping has risen exponentially, and we have seen years of profit warnings and many business failures from the more traditional bricks and mortar retailers. The pandemic has just accelerated retail business failure and store closures.

The Potteries Centre plan puts a focus on local businesses to support the centre and the high-street.

The centre’s wider strategy includes the recruitment of two new letting agents in Barker Proudlove and BWD Retail, which will be working alongside The Potteries Centre team to ensure a diverse mix of local independents alongside its existing brands over the coming months.

Rather than getting downbeat the centre has identified an opportunity to regroup and reposition, by increasing support for local independents, who they see as playing a big part in its future.

Smaller towns have been faring better in recent years because of the variety and innovation of independent retailers and hospitality businesses who offer something unique and work hard to build customer loyalty. They are also not so exposed as they don’t rely on so many large chain ‘anchor’ businesses who leave a big hole when they close.

Landlords and local authorities also have a role to play, keeping rents and rates at levels which encourage growth, whilst being flexible to allow businesses to ride out any unexpected disruptions to trade.

Enhancing the high-street experience will increase visitor engagement. There is a real opportunity now for all town and city centres, to work smartly and collaboratively with all stakeholders including national chains and independents, food and drinks businesses, local authorities, education and community organisations to create centres with a board and exciting offer that engender pride and make visitors want to return.

If you would like to discuss any issues raised here please contact my personal assistant Vicki Hardie vicki.hardie@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

Earlier this week International Women’s Day celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, whilst also marking a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Things have certainly moved on since I started my career and many more women now hold senior positions in business and in the public and third sectors.

I am proud to be a part of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) network which boasts 70 per cent women employees in half of its 123 member Chambers and a female chief executive in 40 per cent of those Chambers.

I know many successful women in Staffordshire, and it is great to see them making such a positive difference to our daily lives.

Whether it be International Women’s Day or any day of the year, what we aim to do at the Chamber is to encourage and enable all women to realise their full potential and make a positive contribution to business and to society.

The Chamber network is full of women who have achieved success, from running their own lifestyle business to holding the position of chief executive in a large organisation and they are constantly giving their time to encourage others through events, networking and mentoring.

In addition, Staffordshire Chambers offers support, encouragement and confidence building through our Women, Work and Wellbeing Network.

The Network engages with women facing barriers to progression and operates through a series of events, workshops, keynote speakers and one-to-one sessions.

Sessions are intentionally relaxed and informal and Chamber staff and participants make it a welcome forum for first time visitors, providing a safe space to build confidence and connections. If you would like to find out more about Women, Work and Wellbeing visit https://bit.ly/3vbVLFq

Additionally, if you are a woman and are considering starting your own business, you can contact our business start-up advisor Aly Davidson for an informal chat: aly.davidson@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk