A £55million programme to boost people’s skills and employment prospects across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has launched a new round of targeted programmes.

The European Social Fund Operational Programme has so far seen £37million invested in a range of programmes since 2014 which by March this year had seen nearly 20,000 people participate with over 9,000 progressing into education, further training apprenticeships or employment.

It is being run by the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and plays an important part in its strategy to secure a well-qualified and adaptable workforce with the skills sets appropriate to the needs of existing business sectors, as well as those where there are aspirations for economic growth.

The European Social Fund (ESF) Operational Programme is part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme for England in 2014-2020.

Three partner organisations are supporting the programme delivery and providing match funding. They are the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and The National Lottery Community Fund (BBO).

Now four new targeted programmes have launched, running until July 2021 and will benefit from £15million investment. Over 60 delegates gathered at an event earlier this month to celebrate the success of the overall programme and to mark the launch of the new round.

The new programmes are:

  • Skills support for the unemployed which will include bespoke personalised support and training.
  • Support for people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) or risk of being NEET which will encourage young people to realise their potential and progress in learning and in the workplace.
  • Community grants of up to £20,000 to develop the capacity of local community organisations and help them meet local needs.
  • Skills support for the workforce and redundancy – a programme to help people in work to progress and support those at risk of redundancy.

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP deputy chairman Alun Rogers (pictured) said: “Developing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of our employers is essential to the LEP and the European Social Fund Operational Programme has been hugely successful in helping us to achieve that.

“It has delivered targeted programmes to those most in need of support and has benefited over 9,000 so far in terms of progression into education or employment.

“We are speaking to businesses now to help formulate our Local Industrial Strategy and finding out how training programmes can support them is important.

“We’re now looking forward to seeing the new programmes get underway and make a real difference to people and business.”

Businesses with an annual turnover above £85,000 are being urged by HMRC to sign up to Making Tax Digital before the 7 August VAT filing date. Many of the 1.2m businesses affected by the MTD rules, which became law for VAT periods starting on or after 1 April, will be required to submit their first quarterly VAT return to HMRC using software by the 7 August. If paying by Direct Debit, these businesses must register by Monday 29 July.

£55m employment and skills programme launches new round

A £55million programme to boost people’s skills and employment prospects across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has launched a new round of targeted programmes.

The European Social Fund Operational Programme has so far seen £37million invested in a range of programmes since 2014 which by March this year had seen nearly 20,000 people participate with over 9,000 progressing into education, further training apprenticeships or employment.

It is being run by the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and plays an important part in its strategy to secure a well-qualified and adaptable workforce with the skills sets appropriate to the needs of existing business sectors, as well as those where there are aspirations for economic growth.

The European Social Fund (ESF) Operational Programme is part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme for England in 2014-2020.

Three partner organisations are supporting the programme delivery and providing match funding. They are the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and The National Lottery Community Fund (BBO).

Now four new targeted programmes have launched, running until July 2021 and will benefit from £15million investment. Over 60 delegates gathered at an event earlier this month to celebrate the success of the overall programme and to mark the launch of the new round.

The new programmes are:

  • Skills support for the unemployed which will include bespoke personalised support and training.
  • Support for people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) or risk of being NEET which will encourage young people to realise their potential and progress in learning and in the workplace.
  • Community grants of up to £20,000 to develop the capacity of local community organisations and help them meet local needs.
  • Skills support for the workforce and redundancy – a programme to help people in work to progress and support those at risk of redundancy.

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP deputy chairman Alun Rogers (pictured) said: “Developing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of our employers is essential to the LEP and the European Social Fund Operational Programme has been hugely successful in helping us to achieve that.

“It has delivered targeted programmes to those most in need of support and has benefited over 9,000 so far in terms of progression into education or employment.

“We are speaking to businesses now to help formulate our Local Industrial Strategy and finding out how training programmes can support them is important.

“We’re now looking forward to seeing the new programmes get under way and make a real difference to people and business.”

This programme supports projects that will contribute to the transformation of high streets and town centres in England helping them become thriving places, strengthening local communities and encouraging local economies to prosper.  It is part of a wider initiative to revive heritage high streets in England, alongside Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action ZonesTogether, these programmes form part of the Future High Streets Fund, administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Our programme is for individual heritage buildings in, or transferring to, community ownership. We will support charities and social enterprises to develop projects with the potential to bring new life to high streets by creating alternative uses for redundant or underused historic buildings in town centres.

What types of funding are available and when can I apply?

The AHF can provide grants to help with assessing the viability of a project, or to help fund development costs or to match funds raised through Crowdfunding and Community Shares. We will also provide a small number of capital (delivery) grants for Transformational Projects. Below you will find the dates for the opening of initial grant applications and please download the Programme Guide to find out more about the types and amounts of grants available.

  • Project Viability Grants: up to £15,000, for early viability and feasibility work, open now for applications.
  • Project Development Grants: up to £100,000, for capital project development costs, open now for applications.
  • Crowdfunding Challenge Grants: up to £25,000, to match fund crowdfunding campaigns, open now for applications.
  • Transformational Project Grants: up to £350,000, for transformational capital projects, open for first round project enquiries from 29th July 2019 (with a second round to be announced in 2020).
  • Community Shares Booster Grants: further info to be announced.

Which areas will be eligible?

The programme will focus on places where strategic regeneration programmes are planned or are already underway. This includes Heritage Action Zones or places that have secured funding through the Future High Streets Fund. Historic building projects located within other area-based regeneration programmes, such as Townscape Heritage areas or where an applicant can demonstrate a significant community-led strategic approach is in place, will also be considered. Projects should not be standalone but sit within a wider initiative to regenerate and bring a new purpose to the immediate surrounding area.

Please note that our grants cannot be used to fund the same work that is being grant-aided through a Future High Streets Fund or High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme. These strands of funding cannot partner each other, but will fund projects that are complementary. These strands of funding may separately fund different stages of one project.

Where can I find out further information?

Please see Enquire or Apply for more details of application deadlines as these are announced.

The Programme Guide and Application Help Notes provide details of each Grant. You can apply to only one grant programme at any one time, but you may apply for further grants on completion of the funded work, subject to overall limits as explained in the Programme Guide.

A team of Programme Officers and consultant Project Advisors will support projects seeking and receiving funding through the programme. When you make an initial enquiry and/or make a grant application, we will identify the need for support and put you in touch with one of our TPTH Team.

Last night saw over 400 guests gather in the sunshine to celebrate the success stories from some of Staffordshire’s finest companies. The Chamber’s annual black-tie business awards ceremony was held at the County Showground where finalists, sponsors and local media joined a wide variety of businesses that highlighted the innovation and diversity across Staffordshire.

This year 16 awards were presented, with Erwin Hymer Centre Travelwold receiving the most prestigious award of all, the Business of the Year.

The whole evening was a great success which showcased the valuable contributions both businesses and individuals make towards the prosperity and wellbeing of the area.

Over the coming weeks, case studies will be published on the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce website detailing profiles of the Staffordshire Business Awards 2019 winners.

Sara Williams, Chief Executive at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “This year we have seen a number of exceptional entries for this year’s awards, which made judging across the board very difficult.  More than other years this has showcased the innovation, spirit, creativity and ingenuity which should be applauded and supported across the whole of the county.

The evening was a true celebration of all things Staffordshire using locally manufactured awards, food and drinks sourced from Staffordshire farms and suppliers.

Thank you to all of our sponsors and to everyone who entered the awards. Many congratulations to all of our winners and finalists.”

The full list of winners is as follows:

  • Most Promising New Start-up sponsored by Grindeys Solicitors – Green Griddle Ltd
  • Digital Award sponsored by Synetics Solutions– SkinBase
  • Retail, Leisure, Culture and Tourism Award sponsored by Tile Mountain – Gladstone Pottery Museum
  • International Trade Award sponsored by The Department for International Trade WM – EffecTech
  • Science, Technology and Innovation Award sponsored by University of Wolverhampton – Specialised Orthotic Services
  • Environment / Low Carbon Award sponsored by Keele University – The Wool Packaging Company Ltd – Woolcool
  • Entrepreneur of the Year sponsored by Staffordshire University – Steve Timmis, Sempar Accountancy & Tax
  • Employee of the Year sponsored by Staffordshire Partnership for Employment & Skills – Danielle Louise Heath, Goddard Dunbar & Associates Ltd
  • Young Employee/Apprentice of the Year sponsored by Stoke on Trent & Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership – Jake Gordon, Key Plant / Buxton & Leek College
  • Small Business of the Year sponsored by SBEN LCBEP – EPX Technical Services
  • Medium/ Large Business of the Year sponsored by Dains Accountants – Lodge Tyre Company Ltd
  • Manufacturer of the Year sponsored by Michelin – Addfield Environmental Systems Ltd
  • Professional Services of the Year sponsored by Finest – Infinity IT Solutions
  • Professional Services of the Year sponsored by Finest – Prosurv Consult Limited
  • Employer of the Year sponsored by NSCG – Freeths LLP
  • Business of the Year sponsored by HSBC – Erwin Hymer Centre Travelworld

The Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey – forming part of the largest private sector survey of business sentiment and a leading indicator of UK GDP growth run by the British Chambers of Commerce – finds that underlying economic conditions in Staffordshire remained stagnant in the second quarter of 2019.

 

The latest results from the survey of over 164 business – employing around 3,000 people – points to the impact that the relentless Brexit uncertainty, rising business costs and tougher global trading conditions are having on the local economy, with both manufacturing and service sectors locked in a ‘holding pattern’ of stagnated growth.

 

Key findings in the Q2 2019 survey:

Services Sector saw slight increase in the balance of companies reporting high domestic sales and orders, as well as export sales and orders, however both remain weak by historical standards.

Both service and manufacturing sectors reported decreased in capital expenditure on plant machinery and equipment despite this indicator increasing nationally, again capital expenditure and business investment remains low.

 

Manufacturing sector showed a positive uptick in the number of firms who have recruited since the last quarter, conversely the service sector shows continued decline in recruitment as the UK continues with record high levels of employment. Recruitment difficulties remain in firms looking for professional and managerial skills.

 

Sara Williams, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce said: “These results show that while some of the Brexit ‘pressure’ has been taken away from businesses due to political uncertainty, businesses in Staffordshire are feeling the affect of that indecisiveness.

“To boost and incentivise investment, our business community are looking for a bold growth agenda. The next government must hit the ground running and introduce measures to reduce the upfront cost of doing business, deliver on major infrastructure projects such as HS2, and unblock the arteries of Britain’s skills system.”

BusinessLodge, Staffordshire’s newest flexible office space provider, is offering a unique opportunity to Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce Members to take a FREE stand at an exclusive Business Fair, held in the newly refurbished Trent House.

The market-leading flex space provider has expanded into Staffordshire with the development of contemporary serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms and conference facilities at Trent House, Victoria Road, formerly the Npower building.

The Business Fair is part of a prestigious opening event at Trent House to be held on Wednesday 10th July at 4pm until 7pm.

40 Staffordshire businesses will be exhibiting at the fair with many more delegates attending the event, including VIPs, the media and senior members of the local business community.

BusinessLodge is offering 20 FREE spaces exclusively to Chamber of Commerce members on a first come first served basis. It will be an opportunity for local businesses to take a stand and promote their services and network with valuable contacts. The event with be supported with marketing activity including PR and social media.

Kate Holt, Managing Director of Business Lodge said:

“BusinessLodge is hugely successful in Lancashire and we want to celebrate our expansion in to Staffordshire. We’ve already been made to feel extremely welcome by the local business community and this free event, as part of our wider open day is our opportunity to showcase our new building and say thank you.”

The limited places are expected to be quickly filled and so to secure your slot, please call Kate Holt at kate@businesslodge.co.uk or please call on 01782 390100.

 

 

Plans have been submitted for a new 120-bedroom hotel in the centre of Stafford.

The proposal for an Ibis Styles hotel comes on the back of huge investment in Stafford in recent times – like the six million pound Odeon Cinema, major retail premises including Primark, B&M and Aldi, alongside new restaurants such as Nandos and Verso.

The hotel is earmarked for vacant premises on Hunter’s Row at the north of the town centre. The proposals are now being examined by planners and people will be able to comment on the application before a decision is made.

The plans for the hotel can be viewed at www.staffordbc.gov.uk/planning-public-access

Head of Development at Stafford Borough Council, Karen Tierney, said the move was further evidence in the confidence investors had in the county town. Over the last couple of months around half a dozen independent businesses have opened in Stafford and latest figures revealed footfall in the town centre was up on last year – with a higher increase than the national High Street average.

Part of the planning application to the Borough Council states the hotel would provide local jobs, help improve the night-time economy and increase tourism. It says the application ‘makes beneficial use of largely redundant retail space. Redeveloping existing buildings that have outlasted their previous use.’

Karen Tierney said: “There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes selling the opportunities our borough offers to major businesses – not only in this country but around the world.

“The feedback we get from investors is that the borough is an attractive place to invest, our council and partners help make it easy for businesses to locate or relocate to the area, our connectivity to the rest of the country is good, and they can see the substantial growth already taking place.”

The authority has already put forward an ambitious masterplan to develop land around Stafford Station. And earlier this year the Borough Council was one of only five authorities to have been awarded £750,000 to develop plans for a garden community near Cold Meece in the north of the borough which could provide around 10,000 homes, schools, medical facilities and include a new west coast mainline station as part of a sustainable development.

Local business, Pawprint Badges, have been crowned People’s Choice winner for the Midlands at The National Family Business of the Year Awards 2019.

Pawprint Badges, a first-generation family-run business, came out on top in an online public vote against 13 other finalists in the category, which included long-standing family businesses with over 30 years’ experience.

Picking up the coveted award at a glitzy awards ceremony at The May Fair Hotel, London, last Thursday (6th June), Charlotte Russell, Director of Pawprint Badges, said: We are over the moon to have bagged an award! Having only been going for 3 years we didn’t think we were in with a chance at all but to have been voted for by our customers and followers, is humbling.”

“We aim to help others and provide a quality service that we would like to receive. Winning this award makes you realise that someone, somewhere (or rather lots of people) appreciate what we do and that makes it all worthwhile!”

Pawprint Badges create free activity packs and resources to support leaders, teachers and parents. The packs are accompanied by collectible, embroidered badges which sell for £1.25-£2.00.

The Lichfield based company also donates a percentage of profits in to The Pawprint Trust; providing grants to young members of The Scout Association and Girlguiding nationally, along with fundraising for other charities through the sale of their badges. Founded in 2016 by Charlotte and her husband Jamie, both Guide and Scout leaders respectively, they have grown Pawprint Badges year on year and given more than £3000 in grants to young members of their organisations.

Charlotte added: We are committed to upholding our promises made within Scouts and Girlguiding. We promise to do our best and help other people but, on this occasion, it is others that have helped us. We would like to thank everyone who voted for us, along with our family, who have supported and championed us tirelessly over the last 3 years, it really means the world to us.”

The People’s Choice Awards are organised by Family Business United, the award-winning magazine and resource centre that champions and celebrates the family business sector. Now in their seventh year, the awards recognise the diversity, strength and depth of family firms across the UK and seek to highlight the contribution that family firms make to the UK economy.

As Paul Andrews, Founder and Managing Director of Family Business United explains, “We created these awards to celebrate the enormous contribution that family businesses make across the UK. Winning one of the People’s Choice awards is truly special as it reflects the view of the public and is determined solely by an online vote. It is always great to receive recognition for your endeavours too. Family firms are the engine room of the UK economy and deserve all the recognition that they can get.”

A North Staffordshire based business coach is on a mission to create 1,000 jobs in the next five-years by helping companies to grow.

Former international sales and marketing director Doug Flynn is using his vast experience both on the corporate world and as a business owner to support business growth. Doug has joined the international ActionCoach network, returning to North Staffordshire and his home in Tittensor after a life of globe-trotting.

He said: “I have worked all over the world for multinationals and I’m now applying my 30-plus years of experience to help smaller businesses to grow. I offer different programmes from 90 day planning for the smaller businesses, group coaching events and full on executive 1:1 coaching for larger businesses with Teams.

“It’s really about transformational coaching, your business will not grow unless you do. Coaching is a process of learning but above all accountability, which business owners don’t have. The result is they shy away from key tasks of planning running KPIs testing and measuring, lead generation… the list goes on. Most business owners spend all their time working in the business not on the business.

“My aim is to help business owners to grow, create more profit and improve the work life balance. Ultimately, we are looking to build a commercial profitable enterprise that can operate without you in it. Going on to create wealth and financial freedom.”

Among current clients is BPA Safety of Stoke. Owners Darren Bedson and Vicky Milward have achieved a significant upturn in business having initially attended a business growth workshop, organised by Doug. BPA are a successful business, but progress had stalled a little due to loss of experienced staff. Now, the Leek Road based company has begun to grow again and plans to more than double its team to up to 12 staff.

“We were at a crossroads and had considered continuing running the business with a small core team,” said Vicky, “but Doug’s talk sparked a lightbulb moment as we realised that we didn’t have a long-term strategy and were constantly reacting to the latest sales trends. 

BPA now engage in bi-weekly one to one coaching. Strategies are defined along with action plans which are in turn implemented and then monitored for the impact. As a result, we are now seeing over-proportional growth in both sales and profitability.”

Darren said: “We have Key Performance Indicators and incentives and it is the focus of the Directors to work on the business rather than in the business. Doug ensures we are accountable for our actions and for our business plan. The first focus was on staff retention and we decided to move forward with new appointments and to refine our recruitment and interview process. This has led to the recruitment of one new full-time safety consultant, one part time consultant and we are now advertising for another full-time post. We’ve also implemented new business systems in our office and brought in a new administrator and this has helped free up Vicky to work more strategically.”

Further outcomes include weekly staff meetings and Vicky and Darren attend the Action Coach 90-Day Business Planning Growth Club, where they meet with a range of companies which Doug also coaches.

Vicky commented: “I had always felt an aversion to business coaching and assumed it wasn’t for me, but I’m now a total convert. We have a plan and we feel empowered to push forward with it.

“We started this process with four in the BPA team and are now advertising for our seventh and we have a clear vision to have a team of 10 to 12 in the business providing bespoke advice to our extended range of customers.” 

 

A regional partnership led by Keele University has been awarded £750,000 from the Office for Students (OfS) to develop an integrated community approach to mental health and wellbeing for students in further and higher education, in collaboration with Staffordshire University, as part of a £2.2 million project.

The universities will be working in partnership with local colleges and authorities, police and NHS providers, to effectively support students’ transition into, through and out of higher education, especially those with circumstances that may contribute to them being more vulnerable to mental health issues. It is hoped this will lead to new and innovative approaches that can be applied nationally in order to positively impact on student mental health, and as such a toolkit will be produced and shared across the further and higher education sectors.

Keele University’s community approach to mental healthcare is one of only ten projects to be awarded funding by the OfS, an independent public body sponsored by the Department for Education. The OfS funding will be supplemented by match funding from Keele and Staffordshire, together with financial support from all partners, with the project totalling £2.2million in total.

The funding is part of OfS’ major new programme to find innovative ways to combat a sharp rise in student mental health issues and spark a step-change in student support across the country. Key priorities for the project include a connected training framework, interventions for at-risk groups, a regional mental health campaign, and new multi-agency approaches to student support. The universities will introduce new activities and opportunities for engagement for both on- and off-campus students, increasing social cohesion and the opportunity for early intervention, and reducing the risk of isolation.

Through partnership working with the NHS, Keele and Staffordshire University will develop new and innovative approaches to assessing and referring students, allowing a more streamlined and sensitive approach to supporting students effectively in both emergency and planned situations. Both universities are already engaged with the Stoke-on-Trent Suicide Prevention Partnership and will develop a regional student-focused Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

Keele University Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan said: “Student mental health is a strong institutional priority for us at Keele, and a frequent topic on the agenda of both the executive team and the University Council as we develop a new institutional strategic plan, in which health and wellbeing is a key strand. It is extremely exciting for Keele to be leading this project with the support of the OfS and to be working in partnership with a regional network of university, college and NHS partners. We believe this project could have a transformative effect on the wellbeing and success of our own students and those of our locality and beyond.”

Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes said: “Supporting the mental wellbeing of our students, many of whom come from the local area and are important parts of local communities, is fundamental to ensuring they are successful in their studies and take advantage of the many opportunities that come with a university education. This successful bid follows on from the Student Minds Mental Health Charter event we held in March and will see us, together with Keele University and our wider partners, take a nationally-leading role in what is one of the most important issues for students and many others.”

The project will be working with regional partners including Stoke-on-Trent City Council; Staffordshire County Council; Staffordshire Police; North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust; Midlands Partnership Foundation NHS Trust; University Hospitals of North Midlands Foundation Trust; Stoke-on-Trent College; Stoke Sixth Form College; Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, and Sport Across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.