A talented young Stoke-on-Trent Accountant has won national recognition after passing part of his taxation exams with the highest marks in the UK.

Josh Draycott joined Geens Chartered Accountants after A-levels and has won the Kimmer Medal for the best paper in the Inheritance Tax, Trust and Estates section of the ATT (Association of Taxation Technicians) qualifications.

Geens is celebrating a double success as Hannah Sutcliffe, who only joined the staff at the Stoke town firm in the summer, passed her Level 3 AAT,, gaining a distinction.

Geens’ Director, Karen Lowe, said: “Josh is part of our Trust and Tax team and has been studying is tax exams after already passing his AAT, accountancy exams. 903 students sat the ATT exams but just 73 selected the Inheritance Tax, Trust and Estates paper due to its complexity, with only three achieving distinctions. To come out on top is a remarkable achievement for Josh.

“Hannah only joined Geens in the summer from a non-accountancy role. She is making rapid progress and has now passed her Level 3 AAT with distinction. Hannah’s commitment to gaining industry qualifications is matched by her work at Geens where she has progressed very quickly.

“We have a proud record of training our own staff and all five of our Directors came through their examinations at Geens, gaining promotions along the way. Geens is experiencing a period of growth, adding new clients and staff. We recently extended into Probate services, an area once reserved for the legal profession.”

Fleet Operations has further underlined its commitment to tech innovation and growth with a key appointment.

David Gallimore has joined the Newcastle-under-Lyme company as Chief Information Officer, bringing with him almost 20 years’ experience in the information technology and services industry.

David will be tasked with broadening the scope of services available to customers and ensuring IT systems are as efficient and innovative as possible, from vehicle ordering processes to data security.

As well as looking after the existing IT infrastructure, David will focus on developing IT products that meet ever-changing customer need and create systems that drive businesses forward.

David said: “My experience developing, designing and managing IT products and making strategic operational decisions has given me key insight and understanding of the marketplace and its demands on technology, so I can help ensure Fleet Operations is developing ahead of the curve.

“Fleet Operations will continue to have its finger on the pulse and be at the frontier when it comes to the use of technology.”

David joins Fleet Operations from Zonal Retail Data Systems, where he was responsible for the strategic direction and operational delivery of the marketing technologies division.

He has enjoyed entrepreneurial success, having run his own digital marketing company TXD for 15 years, before successfully agreeing an acquisition by hospitality technology solutions specialist Zonal.

David has worked with Fleet Operations in the past and helped develop some of the firm’s IT systems.  In his new role, he hopes to put all users, including drivers, at the heart of the company’s services and offerings.

Richard Hipkiss, Managing Director at Fleet Operations, said: “We are delighted to welcome David on board and look forward to him spearheading and driving technological development at Fleet Operations.

“David joins us at an exciting time, as we prepare to launch innovative new systems, harnessing the power of analytics and automation to streamline processes, manage costs and support strategic, data-driven decisions.  His appointment reinforces our commitment to develop innovative systems and applications in the fast-evolving fleet landscape.”

David’s appointment follows a successful year for business growth, with the company’s workforce growing by 15% over the past 12 months.

JCB has announced an exciting partnership with a new British motor racing team as the company continues to expand its presence in global markets.

The partnership with SportPesa Racing Point F1 team (formerly Force India) will see prominent JCB branding on the two cars driven by Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez from the first Formula One race in Melbourne in March. Branding will also appear on helmets, overalls and the team’s trackside clothing.

In addition, JCB will play a major part in Racing Point’s development by providing machines to help in the construction of the team’s planned new factory later this year. JCB will also provide a range of power tools and workwear for the British team as well as equipment including access platforms and generators to assist the team when it races in Europe.

JCB began its Formula I association in 2017 with a Williams Racing sponsorship which has now concluded. The new deal offers JCB the opportunity to develop customer relationships at race meetings and to promote its brand in new and existing markets to increase global sales.

JCB Chairman Lord Bamford said: “The popularity of Formula 1 gives JCB an excellent platform to promote our products on the international stage to both new and existing customers. JCB is one of the world’s biggest construction equipment brands and this partnership will help us cement and build customer relationships. We see great synergy with the Racing Point team; we both have a passion for pushing the boundaries of new technology and an ambition to succeed.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal and CEO of SportPesa Racing Point, added: “This is the dawn of a new era for this team and we are delighted to welcome JCB on what is certain to be an exciting journey in the years ahead. We are hungry for success on and off the track and it’s great to have such a dynamic and world-leading brand supporting our efforts as we head into the 2019 season.”

SAVE MONEY AND MONKEY AROUND

Our favourite furry friends are back as Staffordshire’s Trentham Monkey Forest reopens its doors for another season.

The locally loved attraction reopens on the 16th February, just in time to entertain your little ones over half term.

As well as seeing the monkeys for the first time this year you can also save money with the forest’s new online tickets. Simply buy your tickets online in advance and save on admission – what’s not to love!

“Our customers can now plan their day in advance and know that their tickets are sorted before visiting which is perfect for busy parents. We’ve also added a discount to our online tickets which we’re sure our customers will like!” commented Monkey Forest director, Matt Lovatt.

“As well as online tickets we’ve also launched annual memberships so our customers can enjoy visiting the monkeys as often as they like whilst we are open”.

The forest hopes their new membership tickets will help encourage locals to visit multiple times throughout the year and start from only £20. With a range of events planned during the season, and the anticipated arrival of little ones in the spring there’s so much to see throughout the season.

With a matter of days to go before reopening the Monkey Forest team (and the monkeys) are looking forward to opening their doors to the public again.

“As the winter is coming to a close, we can’t wait to for the season to begin and welcome lots of new customers during half term. It’s always a really exciting time for all the team” continued Matt.

“It’s the visitors first chance to catch a glimpse of the monkeys and see how our little ones have grown. We also have face painting during weekends in half term. That’s always very popular with the kids!”

The forest opens from the 16th to the 24th February, as well as weekends in March, before opening daily from the 30th March. To plan your visit and book your tickets online (and SAVE) visit monkey-forest.com.

#SHARESTORIESNOTSTIGMA

Mental health campaigners say an e-book in which they share their stories could be ‘life-saving.’

In the free e-book, customers of not-for-profit Brighter Futures, based in Hanley, discuss their first-hand experiences of mental health conditions and offer inspiring advice.

In Staffordshire, more than 82,000 people aged 18-64 are predicted to have a mental health problem this year – including over 24,000 in Stoke-on-Trent alone.*

The digital book was created to help raise awareness as part of Brighter Futures’ #ShareStoriesNotStigma campaign.

Brighter Futures customer Howard Dexter, from Hanley, shared his story in the e-book. He described how he was initially diagnosed with depression and sectioned under the Mental Health Act before being correctly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

The 62-year-old said: “It was a relief to finally have a diagnosis of Bipolar; it meant I could start to get the right treatment I needed and the medication helped me be stable.

“It was a little daunting sharing my story, as it’s so personal, but if it helps one person on the street relate to their life and reach out for help it’s worth it. I really feel like we’ve helped to create something which could genuinely be life-saving and I’d encourage as many people as possible to read it.”

Sharon Godwin, Brighter Futures Clubhouse Network Manager, said: “There’s still so much that needs to be done to help people who are experiencing poor mental health. We know that according to local GP registers, one in nine adults in Stoke-on-Trent suffers from depression**. Our helpline service, Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline received over 950 calls related to suicide over 12 months – that’s in Staffordshire alone.

“We hope this e-book will not only help to further the conversation about mental health, but actually save lives. We are encouraging people to show support by sharing our social media posts about the e-book using #ShareStoriesNotStigma.”

Brighter Futures’ support workers help thousands of people every year through personalised mental health support, accommodation, employment and training. This work is backed up by specialist staff, support groups, a clubhouse network, as well as homelessness and outreach services, and employment and volunteering opportunities.

To download the e-book visit www.brighter-futures.org.uk or follow brighterfuturesNW on Facebook or @BFNW on Twitter.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

A spectacular aerial photograph of Festival Park has been donated to Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce by professional Drone Pilot, Nigel Woodcock.

Nigel, of The Sky Cam North Staffordshire, teamed up with print, design and signage specialists Graphix to cover a large expanse of wall at Commerce House with the 3,975mm x 2,300mm image.

Nigel said: “The photo clearly shows Commerce House and the expanse of Festival Park. It is fascinating to see how the expanse of office and retail buildings have grown on land that once housed Shelton Bar steelworks.

“The area was reclaimed for the National Garden Festival in the 1980s before being regenerated for offices, shops and entertainment. The drone image clearly shows how successful this regeneration has been with buildings now extending into the Etruria Valley following recent developments close to the A500.”

Nigel was originally going to offer a framed print to Staffordshire Chambers but after telling Steve Ward, Managing Director, of Graphix about the photo, the project grew in size.

Steve said: “I suggested we could work with Nigel to come up with something that would have a real impact. The image has been printed on high-spec vinyl wallpaper with a matt finish to reduce reflection and glare. Our design team ensured the artwork was to scale and it was printed in a series of panels. Our signage team then ensured it was installed effectively, placing each panel in place and cutting to size. The overall effect is stunning and Staffordshire Chambers is thrilled with the result.”

Former RAF Regiment Gunner, Gary Peake, received the Mental Health Star individual award at the Thrive Mental Health Commission Awards, organised by West Midlands Combined Authority.

Gary works for  Acacia Training where he trains staff to become ‘mental health first aiders’ – supporting colleagues and customers with issues affecting their mental health or wellbeing.

He also volunteers with the Scouts, youth organisations and homeless charities, including providing support to ex-services men and women affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. This is a subject very close to his heart, as Gary himself was medically discharged from the Armed Forces in 2015, after a 31-year career as a military parachutist and team medic.

He explains: “Part of my recovery has been finding a purpose to help others to overcome depression, anxiety and PTSD and it’s obviously something I feel very passionate about. Working for a supportive employer like Acacia Training has been a big change for me. There is a lot of demand for the courses I am delivering, with major companies like Vodafone and Dufry getting on board to realise the importance of mental health first aid to their employees’ wellbeing and, in turn, their performance.

We trained over 400 people in the last year and received fantastic feedback. I’m learning to embrace all the positive comments I get from people who have done the course and found it life changing. People learn that there are lots of ways that their colleagues or customers could be struggling, and to notice it and provide support with early intervention. Keeping them at work and performing to the best of their ability can also be part of someones recovery. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. This is what we teach mental health first aiders – and we give them tools to have those difficult conversations with co-workers earlier. It is also paramount to break down the stigmatism surrounding mental illness.”

Gary also volunteers in his own time, talking to homeless people on the streets in Stoke on Trent to get them appropriate support. He credits his voluntary work with The Royal British Legion and the Scouts as a major part of his recovery, along with singing in the Invictus Games Choir. He has performed with the choir on Classic FM and at the Royal Albert Hall.

He adds: “I was really pleased to get this award, I hadn’t even realised that they had read my name out as the winner! It was a great night for me and the team at Acacia Training.”

On 10th July 2019, Staffordshire County Council will be hosting the fifth Annual Dignity Awards at Newcastle-under-Lyme College. This is a wonderful opportunity to recognise and reward those who provide care and support with dignity at the heart of everything that they do, and whose actions make a difference and serve as an example to others throughout the region.

The Awards will recognise those who care as a profession, plus informal and young carers, amongst others.  Carers UK suggest that one in eight adults are informal carers (around 6.5 million people), and over one million people care for more than one person. The Department of Education advises that there are almost 166,000 young carers (aged 5-17) in England alone. It is therefore likely that you and your colleagues will know someone who receives care or who may be an informal carer themselves.

In Staffordshire there are approximately 15,500 people working as professional carers; they work diligently to ensure that care is delivered in a dignified manner to citizens across the county 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Our professional social care workforce continues to provide care in sometimes difficult circumstances, in all kinds of weather and across our urban and countryside areas.

This is a self-financing event which relies entirely on business sponsorship. Staffordshire County Council would therefore be extremely grateful if your company would consider sponsoring the Dignity Awards for 2019. This could be one of several things – by providing a prize for the Dignity Award winners, a raffle prize for the day or financial sponsorship to enable the running of the event. The team require funding towards the cost of promoting the event, refreshments and lunch for attendees on the day, trophies, certificates and printing of the programmes. This is very much an opportunity to give something back to those who care for the most vulnerable amongst us.

In return for your kind offer of sponsorship, Staffordshire County Council will ensure your company name and logo are published in the awards programme, and your company details will be carefully placed on display screens during the ceremony. The team would also ensure that you would be referenced in any post-event communications across the region, including local media.

View information about last year’s awards at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/health/care/dignityincare/dignity-in-care-awards2018.aspx

MICHELIN CHOOSES CHARITY PARTNER

Employees at Michelin in Stoke-on-Trent are joining forces to raise funds for their selected 2019 charity partner, the Dougie Mac.

Michelin staff carry out extensive fundraising activities each year and comfortably exceeded the £10,000 target for their 2018 charity partner, the Donna Louise, also based in Stoke-on-Trent.

Now colleagues are gearing up to help the Dougie Mac, with a range of creative ideas being developed to unite fundraising activities across the business.

Donna Adams, Head of Lottery and Fundraising for Dougie Mac, said: “We are delighted that the team at Michelin have selected us as their next charity partner and we look forward to hearing all about the fundraising ventures throughout the coming year.

“It costs over £12million each year to deliver excellent care to over 3,000 people approaching end of life across North Staffordshire.

“We are reliant on the generosity of local people and we are working closely within the business community to build successful partnerships that benefit the business as well as the charity.”

James Alderman, Head of Michelin in the UK, said: “Dougie Mac has cared for people in North Staffordshire for decades, providing exceptional support for people with life-limiting illnesses, their families and their carers.

“Many of our employees have personal experience of the dedication and sensitivity shown by the Dougie Mac team, and this is a chance for all of us at Michelin to help secure funds for a vital cause.

“Michelin employees are already developing fundraising projects, and we know they will have great fun raising a lot of money.”

A partnership between Stoke-on-Trent College and Parogon Group is assisting the company’s ongoing expansion plans, with three new trainee chefs being the first to get on the career ladder following the successful launch of a work experience scheme.

Parogon currently employs around 350 people at popular Staffordshire venues The Wayfarer in Stone, The Orange Tree in Trent Vale, The Swan with Two Necks at Blackbrook, The Seven Stars at Brocton and The Block House in Baldwins Gate, as well as The Boar’s Head in Walgherton, near Nantwich.

Last year, the group announced expansion plans to grow from 350 to 500 staff in 2019 and increase in size by 35%, with the launch of more restaurants in Shropshire and Balterley.

As part of this growth strategy, Parogon has partnered with Stoke-on-Trent College to offer a 12-week work experience programme in order to attract and train the best young talent to become part of their kitchen teams.

The first successful phase has led to three of the college’s level 2 food preparation students securing part-time jobs as trainee chefs with Parogon, which they will carry out alongside their studies.

Jack Wall, 17, from Blythe Bridge, has started a new part-time job as a Commis Chef at Parogon’s Stone venue, The Wayfarer.

Wiktor Pocalun, 18, from Bentilee, and Kyle Johnson-Cooper, 17, from Madeley have both been offered part-time Commis Chef roles at The Orange Tree in Trent Vale.

Katy Chesters, Business Development Associate at Stoke-on-Trent College, comments: “Parogon Group is one of the fastest growing employers in the hospitality sector in Staffordshire, with an outstanding reputation for high quality food and service.

“We are proud to work in partnership with Ben and his team to provide this work experience programme for our catering students, and even prouder that this led directly to commis chef roles at The Wayfarer and The Orange Tree for Jack, Wiktor and Kyle. These are fantastic opportunities which will get their careers off to a great start, combining their new part-time jobs with their catering qualifications at the college.”

She adds: “The Parogon Group is known for high standards. The right team is critically important to the success of the business and that’s why this new partnership helps them attract and retain the next generation of chefs that will be key to their ongoing growth.”

Ben Allison, Operations Support Manager at Parogon Group said: “Our teams put a lot of hard work and dedication into making our business a success and we are able to maintain this by recruiting the right individuals.

“The work placement scheme with Stoke-on-Trent College is a valuable opportunity to provide potential recruits with some insight into the life of a professional chef, the high standards we expect and how it feels to be part of our team.”

He adds: “We are always looking for the right personalities, so small things such as displaying their passion for food with a smile when describing favourite meals and ingredients, led me to offer the new roles to Kyle, Jack and Wiktor.”

For the students, it’s been a very positive experience. Wiktor comments: “I was made to feel very welcome by the staff at The Orange Tree and I really feel part of the family.  I have loved cooking new dishes and trying new foods, and I have even cooked some of the dishes at home for my family.”

Jack says: “My confidence in cooking has grown and I’d recommend this work experience programme to other students. I have enjoyed working in such a busy and fast paced restaurant.

Kyle concludes: “My knowledge of ingredients and cooking methods has expanded, and I really enjoy working at The Orange Tree. It’s been great to take this knowledge back to college and share with classmates.”