Digital Forum Blog

A blog by Charlie Houston-Brown

Chair of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Digital Forum

This Forum exists to drive the growing digital sector in Staffordshire enabling business to freely exchange information, share best practice and discuss digital innovation, information communication technology, the digital skills agenda and artificial intelligence (AI). Like the other Chamber forums, the aim of the Digital Forum is to support Chamber policy in its respective area.

For 2021 we have broken down the topics of concern to the forum into four main digital themes: skills; collaborate, connect and incubate.

Having the right skill set is essential if Staffordshire is going to achieve its digital objectives. We invite an external presenter to each forum and were delighted that Tim Chapman from Fujitsu joined us at the last meeting to talk about the new T Levels which will provide learners with the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to progress into skilled employment or higher-level technical training, or study in the digital sector. T Levels offer a three A-level equivalence blending classroom learning (~80%) with practical experience (~20%). The core knowledge and understanding are assessed through an examination and core skills through a practical employer placement.

We are also keen to support the Computing at School network to ensure that every child gets the world-class computing education they are entitled to.

On connectivity we are working to ensure that North Staffordshire gets the maximum benefit from the Silicon Stoke initiative which aims to roll out gigabit internet with the help of £9.2 million of government funding.

A successful rollout will give North Staffordshire the opportunity to be at the heart of a tech revolution. We already have the best university in the UK for computer gaming in Staffordshire University and this is just one example of how we can become a ‘smart city’ bringing high wage, high skilled jobs to the area, with all the associated economic benefits.

We have discussed the setting up a digital cluster along the lines of the moving image cluster ( which was spawned from Staffordshire University graduates setting up their own film businesses in the past 20 years or so. We had 20 attendees at our last meeting discussing this collaborative approach and were joined by Steve Hargreaves, Employer Partnerships Development Manager from Staffordshire University and Rob McKay, Innovation and Leadership Development Manager from Keele University. We welcome any input into this debate and project.

Going forward we will be discussing incubation and what facilities are available to house, support, and nurture tech start-ups, working closely with both Universities and local councils.

The Chamber is fortunate to have Alan Bloomfield and Lewis Kemp as Specialist Digital Advisors. They offer advice and support in digital transformation of business, whether it is broadband availability, through to advice on CRM, ERP systems, website performance, social media etc.

Alan and Lewis are also involved with the Staffordshire County Council Information Technology Business Enhancement Programme (ITBEP).

ITBEP is aimed at SMEs including sole traders, based in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent. These businesses will receive advice and information on using IT to become more efficient and productive. Businesses will be supported to maximise their digital potential and competitiveness, enabling sustainable growth. Further details at:

If you would like to find out more about what we do or are considering joining the Digital Forum, please email Alan Bloomfield:


If you want to talk about any business issues, you can call the Chambers switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email:

To join the Forum discussion click here Hot Topics — Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce

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