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Brightest sparks<br />

How next-generation apprentices can transform your business


The award winners’ issue<br />

<strong>2023</strong> has been another whirlwind of a year, with uncertainty, drama and concerns... so it’s<br />

good that Black Country businesses had their Chamber of Commerce on hand to bring some<br />

much-needed reassurance and sound advice, says Sarah Thompson, Editor of <strong>Prosper</strong><br />

Well, it has certainly been another very<br />

eventful and turbulent year. The months,<br />

as always, have flown by in a wave of<br />

uncertainty, rising costs and interest<br />

rates, along with war, peace, politics, and<br />

protests.<br />

But now, with Christmas <strong>2023</strong> just<br />

around the corner and as we hurtle<br />

towards the festive season, I want to first<br />

acknowledge and thank our <strong>Prosper</strong><br />

readers, contributors, and advertisers for<br />

your continued support.<br />

Glancing over our shoulders to review<br />

the past 12 months, <strong>2023</strong> has been just<br />

as eventful as 2022; another year of<br />

political upheavals, military actions,<br />

natural disasters and human tragedies<br />

which have captured the headlines and<br />

grabbed our attention.<br />

Back in January Prince Harry published<br />

Spare, his tell-all memoir on his life with<br />

the Royal Family, while February saw<br />

Turkey and Syria struck by a catastrophic<br />

7.8 magnitude earthquake which killed<br />

almost 60,000 people.<br />

In June OceanGate’s Titan submersible<br />

imploded during an expedition to the<br />

wreck of the Titanic, and Donald Trump<br />

became the first former US President to<br />

have their mug shot taken by police.<br />

Heatwaves dominated the summer, as<br />

did the debate over what became the<br />

Collins Word of the Year: artificial<br />

intelligence. And if that wasn’t enough,<br />

we were bombarded with more images of<br />

conflict: first from Ukraine, and more<br />

lately in the Middle East.<br />

At home, businesses across the region<br />

continued to struggle with rising<br />

inflation, labour cost pressures and<br />

hiring issues. According to the British<br />

Chambers of Commerce Quarterly<br />

Economic Survey for Q3 released in<br />

October, labour costs are the biggest<br />

driver of price rises across most sectors,<br />

cited by 66% of all businesses<br />

questioned, while domestic sales,<br />

cashflow, turnover and profitability<br />

indicators are stable but remain at a low<br />

level. Business investment continues its<br />

long-term flatlining trend, with only 23%<br />

of businesses interviewed seeing an<br />

increase, as the percentage of firms<br />

worried about interest rates rises.<br />

Plenty to think about. In this last issue<br />

of <strong>Prosper</strong> Magazine for the year, we<br />

round up another remarkably busy year<br />

for the Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce, a year in which Chamber<br />

CEO Sarah Moorhouse marked her first<br />

year in post. In this issue we meet some<br />

of the new faces to the Chamber team<br />

and celebrate our <strong>2023</strong> business award<br />

winners, announced earlier this month at<br />

a glittering red carpet event.<br />

We also meet four of the region’s<br />

young apprentices as they take their first<br />

steps in their careers, talk to West<br />

Midlands journalist and BBC Midlands<br />

Today presenter James Bovill about his<br />

career to date, and learn how the Wolves<br />

Foundation is creating opportunities and<br />

changing lives for the people of<br />

Wolverhampton.<br />

There’s news from Mayor of the West<br />

Midlands, Andy Street, on how Black<br />

Country businesses are getting behind<br />

our region’s push to Net Zero, advice<br />

from Chamber IT provider Superfast IT<br />

on cyber security and we introduce the<br />

British Chamber’s new Business Council<br />

as it ushers in an exciting partnership<br />

era.<br />

There’s news, views, interviews,<br />

opinion and debate from across the<br />

region’s business leaders along with all<br />

the Chamber’s news, events, training<br />

courses and updates.<br />

So, for now, it just remains for me to<br />

wish you all a very happy festive few<br />

weeks as we hurtle headfirst towards<br />

December, and wish every one of you<br />

much health, happiness, and prosperity<br />

in 2024 and beyond…<br />

Enjoy….<br />

Contact Sarah Thompson<br />

e: sarahthompson@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

@SarahT_BCCC<br />

linkedin.com/in/sarahthompson-83931813/<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 03


Editor<br />

Sarah Thompson<br />

0330 024 0820<br />

07971 322693<br />

prosper@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />



Membership<br />

Sian Roberts<br />

Sales and Marketing Director<br />

07714 740818<br />

sianroberts@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

Publisher<br />

Chamber Media Services<br />

4 Hilton Road, Bramhall<br />

Stockport, Cheshire<br />

SK7 3AG<br />

34<br />

Focus on<br />

apprentices<br />

and the<br />

next gen<br />

workforce<br />

Advertising<br />

Colin Regan<br />

01942 537959<br />

colinregan001@yahoo.co.uk<br />

Production<br />

Rob Beswick<br />

0161 426 7957<br />

07964 375216<br />

rob@chambermediaservices.co.uk<br />

Cover Photography<br />

Meet four of the region’s brightest<br />

young business stars. See page 34<br />

Photographers: Jennifer Smith and<br />

Chandni Raithatha; with thanks to Dr<br />

Euripides Altintzoglou, FHEA, Course<br />

Leader (Photography), Senior Lecturer<br />

(Fine Art) University of Wolverhampton,<br />

Wolverhampton School of Art ; and Sam<br />

Wood.<br />

Black Country <strong>Prosper</strong> Magazine is the official magazine of the<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce.<br />

It provides news, views, interviews, opinion and debate along with<br />

information and insights.<br />

<strong>Prosper</strong> is the region’s longest running business publication .<br />

Produced on a quarterly basis, the magazine is supported by an array of the<br />

Black Country’s most influential business leaders and is read by business owners throughout<br />

the region and further afield.<br />

To find out more about advertising in <strong>Prosper</strong>, contact<br />

Colin Regan on 01942 537959.<br />


The work of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce is supported by these strategic<br />

business partners working together to make the region a better place for business.<br />

Although every effort is taken to ensure<br />

the accuracy of material contained within<br />

this magazine, neither the Black Country<br />

Chamber of Commerce nor Chamber<br />

Media Services can accept any<br />

responsibility for omissions or<br />

inaccuracies in its editorial or advertising<br />

content.<br />

The views expressed in this publication<br />

are not necessarily those of the Chamber.<br />

The carriage of adverts in this publication<br />

does not constitute an endorsement of<br />

the products or services advertised.<br />

All articles within this publication are<br />

copyright Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce. Consent from the Chamber<br />

and the publisher must be obtained<br />

before any articles are reproduced either<br />

in printed form or electronically.<br />


We’re delighted that <strong>Prosper</strong> is back in a<br />

printed version, but you can still read it online.<br />

Go to https://www.blackcountrychamber.co.uk/<br />

news/prosper-magazine/<br />

Follow the Chamber on<br />

Twitter: @BCCCmembers<br />

Instagram at<br />

@blackcountrychamber<br />

LinkedIn:<br />

Search blackcountrychamber<br />

Facebook: @BlackCountryChamber<br />

Search BlackCountryChamber<br />

40<br />

HS2: So after the<br />

northern leg was<br />

cancelled, what’s<br />

in it for me?<br />

O4 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

Celebrating Unsung Heroes ...<br />



Here is the<br />

news...<br />

confidence<br />

matters<br />

30 08<br />

38<br />

The Wolves Foundation<br />

Road to Net Zero<br />

Chamber<br />

platinum<br />

Group<br />

adds three<br />

new<br />

members<br />

14<br />

42<br />

Cybercrime<br />

is on the<br />

rise: how can<br />

you stop it<br />

hitting your<br />

business?<br />

50<br />

A family<br />

business:<br />

it’s the<br />

personal<br />

approach<br />

Chamber<br />

Director-<br />

General<br />

visits region<br />

... and WIL<br />

hosts event<br />

on mental<br />

health<br />

56<br />

INSIDE...<br />

Members’ News<br />

The Platinum Group, Patrons and<br />

the Start-Up Business Club<br />

In conversation with Martha Lane Fox as<br />

new Business Council is launched ...<br />

Spotlight features... on cyber crime, WFH<br />

and the dementia in the workplace<br />

Legal briefings<br />

Chamber Events<br />

Training & Professional Development<br />

<strong>Prosper</strong> People<br />

Business Voices & Advice<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong><br />



Challenging times demand a positive mindset and a go-to attitude. It’s fortunate that the Black Country has<br />

those qualities in abundance, says Sarah Moorhouse, CEO of the Black Country Chamber<br />

We’ve got your back,<br />

always be assured of that<br />

Welcome to the last <strong>Prosper</strong> Magazine<br />

of <strong>2023</strong>, another issue full of business<br />

insights, news, views, opinion, and<br />

debate. I’m also pleased it has an<br />

introduction to the talented and<br />

dedicated team I have here at the<br />

Chamber.<br />

Just over 12 months ago I took over the<br />

custodianship of this great organisation<br />

and fellowship of businesses.<br />

But times are tough for business, they<br />

have been for a while now. In recent<br />

memory, many of the events we have<br />

experienced usually occur infrequently, if<br />

not generationally.<br />

But we are in a period of great change<br />

as the region’s business community<br />

continues to navigate the aftermath of<br />

the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, the<br />

digital industrial revolution, and the<br />

transition to net zero, all against a<br />

backdrop of global economic uncertainty.<br />

Nationally and regionally, our public<br />

sector institutions and leaders are also<br />

evolving as an enhanced devolution deal<br />

is set to come into force this <strong>Autumn</strong> and<br />

local elections, a WMCA Mayoral Election<br />

and General Election are all expected in<br />

2024 ... and let’s not think about the<br />

recent multiple changes in Government!<br />

The old adage goes that business<br />

loves stability. Now, we could be forgiven<br />

for simply thinking that business<br />

deserves a break and as business<br />

leaders, we all could do with rest.<br />

But we cannot rest, and when<br />

moments of transition present us with<br />

the opportunity to reflect and review, we<br />

must respond.<br />

I took custodianship of the helm of an<br />

organisation with century-spanning<br />

heritage. But it is one which, since I’ve<br />

been involved, has rapidly modernised to<br />

present a dynamic, capable, and<br />

confident partner of choice. There is no<br />

doubt that we punch above our weight,<br />

and we are constantly in the orbit of<br />

much bigger chambers, with bigger<br />

teams and more resources.<br />

Yet I am a leader of a highly<br />

professional and knowledgeable team of<br />

individuals who through their creativity,<br />

adaptability, passion, and dedication<br />

have proven themselves to be capable of<br />

rising to the challenges put before them.<br />

The Chamber continues to work hard<br />

to shift perceptions about the type of<br />

organisation it used to be and<br />

demonstrate its potential as an advocate<br />

and champion of all the businesses, no<br />

matter their sector, their size, whether<br />

they’ve been trading for one year or 100.<br />

This Chamber is for everybody, it is<br />

forward-thinking, and it wants the best<br />

for its members.<br />

The future will continue to be<br />

challenging for business. We continue to<br />

operate in challenging times and many of<br />

us leading our organisations today have<br />

not done so in times of fluctuating<br />

inflation and rising interest rates before,<br />

let alone struggled to recruit and retain<br />

skilled talent during a period when the<br />

pandemic has shifted the expectations of<br />

those who work for us and our<br />

customers.<br />

But despite the challenges, there are<br />

exciting times on the horizon for the<br />

Chamber and for you, our members, who<br />

we never forget.<br />

I want you, our members, to be excited<br />

about your Chamber.<br />

We have your back and I hope you’ll<br />

have ours, too. I want us to be business<br />

partners and, moving forward, I see the<br />

Chamber’s role as inspiring our members<br />

to achieve success, supporting them<br />

along the way and encouraging them to<br />

be bold.<br />

For the Chamber, this is the moment<br />

for transformational change and I’m<br />

proud and honoured to be able to serve<br />

you.<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 07


Black Country businesses are driving force<br />

behind our region’s push to Net Zero<br />

Andy Street,<br />

Mayor, West Midlands<br />

As the defining issue of our time, we face<br />

tremendously tough decisions on how to<br />

tackle climate change. As the birthplace<br />

of the Industrial Revolution, we have<br />

worked hard to ensure the Black Country<br />

and the wider West Midlands is at the<br />

forefront of the green revolution.<br />

I want to use this column to explain<br />

why, despite those huge challenges, I<br />

believe it’s vital that we double-down on<br />

our climate change ambitions, so we can<br />

benefit from the jobs and investment<br />

that achieving them will bring.<br />

While the Government remains<br />

committed to achieving Net Zero in the<br />

UK by 2050, the Prime Minister’s recent<br />

shift on green issues illustrates the tough<br />

balancing act required to protect citizens<br />

from the financial impact of change.<br />

I understand his decision to ease<br />

targets on heating and insulation, as<br />

technology is arguably not moving fast<br />

enough to hit them. However, my job as<br />

Mayor of the West Midlands is to put the<br />

needs of our region first, and I disagreed<br />

with his decision to delay the ban on<br />

sales of new petrol and diesel cars until<br />

2035.<br />

The West Midlands is home to some of<br />

the UK’s biggest automotive<br />

manufacturers, including Jaguar Land<br />

Rover (JLR). We account for 30% of all<br />

automotive employment in Britain.<br />

My personal view is that, with<br />

automotive being such a critical industry<br />

for the future of our region, it was not the<br />

right call.<br />

However, regardless of the national<br />

decision-making, businesses here in the<br />

Black Country, and across our region, are<br />

leading the way in building the green<br />

economy, creating jobs and driving<br />

innovation. Much of the record inward<br />

investment our region has seen in recent<br />

years was concentrated in the clean<br />

manufacturing sectors. We are seeing<br />

real innovation.<br />

Take Wolverhampton’s Wintech, which<br />

is celebrating its 40th anniversary this<br />

year. This firm has ambitious goals to<br />

support the UK’s Net Zero targets, by<br />

raising awareness of how their innovative<br />

façade engineering creates energy<br />

efficient buildings.<br />

Andy Street<br />

visiting EDF’s<br />

battery energy<br />

storage project<br />

in Sandwell.<br />

Then there is EDF’s exciting battery<br />

energy storage project in Sandwell.<br />

Green energy sources will play a vital role<br />

in helping us to honour our #WM2041<br />

Net Zero commitment, and reliable<br />

battery storage – for when the wind isn’t<br />

blowing or the sun isn’t shining – is<br />

essential if we are to harness the full<br />

potential of renewable energy.<br />

This EDF Renewables project at<br />

Bustleholme will upgrade battery storage<br />

capability in our region and showcase the<br />

benefits to local people and businesses<br />

that a low carbon future can deliver.<br />

Capable of powering a small town, this<br />

facility has now gone live in the Black<br />

Country.<br />

Our region is also pushing ahead with<br />

building the infrastructure that is needed<br />

to enable motorists to switch to electric<br />

vehicles, with the UK’s largest public<br />

charging hub being launched on the<br />

National Exhibition Centre campus.<br />

Capable of charging 180 EVs<br />

simultaneously with 16 ultra-fast 300<br />

kilowatt DC chargers, of which two are<br />

designated accessible bays, the hub is<br />

the biggest private investment in electric<br />

charging in the UK.<br />

The commitments to net zero cross<br />

sectors. Over 100 businesses have now<br />

committed to taking steps to cut their<br />

emissions and help the West Midlands<br />

become net zero by 2041.<br />

Black Country-based manufacturer<br />

AVACE is among the latest cohort to sign<br />

the West Midlands Combined Authority’s<br />

(WMCA) Net Zero Business Pledge,<br />

joining some of the highest profile<br />

employers across the region.<br />

To lead change at this scale, we need<br />

businesses of all sizes – and from all<br />

sectors – to commit to new ways of<br />

working. All the indications are that<br />

businesses in the Black Country are<br />

buying into the benefits of joining the<br />

green revolution.<br />

08 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


British Chambers’ Quarterly Economic Survey:<br />

Why we need YOU …<br />

The British Chambers of Commerce,<br />

together with the accredited Chamber<br />

Network, including the Black Country<br />

Chamber, runs Britain’s most influential<br />

private business survey – the Quarterly<br />

Economic Survey (QES).<br />

Each quarter more than 6,000<br />

businesses nationally are questioned on<br />

a range issues, including domestic sales<br />

and orders, export sales and orders,<br />

employment prospects, investment,<br />

recruitment difficulties, cashflow,<br />

confidence and price pressures.<br />

The QES anticipated the onset of both<br />

the 1990s and 2008 recessions before<br />

they began and continues to act as a<br />

reliable indicator of national and regional<br />

economic performance.<br />

It is closely watched by national<br />

policymakers, including the Treasury, the<br />

Bank of England and the Office of Budget<br />

Responsibility and is the first economic<br />

indicator of the quarter, published in<br />

advance of official figures and other<br />

private surveys, which consistently<br />

mirrors trends in official data.<br />

But did you know…<br />

• The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy<br />

Committee uses the QES as one of its<br />

benchmarks when setting interest rates.<br />

• HM Treasury and the independent<br />

Office for Budget Responsibility use the<br />

We need you to take<br />

part in our next<br />

Quarterly Economic<br />

Survey. Scan this QR<br />

code for more details<br />

QES to put together their forecasts for<br />

the UK’s economic performance.<br />

• The European Commission uses the<br />

QES to assess the health of the UK<br />

economy.<br />

The QES takes place four times a year,<br />

and is open to responses for three weeks<br />

each quarter. All types of business can<br />

respond – private, public, and third<br />

sector. Results overviews are published<br />

four-six weeks after the survey ends.<br />

Black Country Chamber Policy Officer,<br />

Gemma Edwards told <strong>Prosper</strong>, “At a local<br />

level, the QES is an important source for<br />

the Chamber to review performance,<br />

concerns, and views of our businesses.<br />

“We can use this data when meeting<br />

with local MPs and council leaders to<br />

develop economic strategies and policies<br />

to promote and enhance growth and<br />

enterprise.<br />



Thursday, 11th January, at the<br />

University of Wolverhampton<br />

Science Park, Marston Room,<br />

Technology Centre, Glaisher Drive,<br />

Wolverhampton WV10 9RU<br />

Time: 8.30am-10am<br />

Cost: Free to members<br />

Join us at our QES breakfast<br />

meeting, where we will reveal the<br />

results from our Q4 <strong>2023</strong> Quarterly<br />

Economic Survey. You’ll be the first<br />

to hear how businesses in the Black<br />

Country are feeling as 2024 begins.<br />

We’ll also exclusively reveal Black<br />

Country data, alongside the national<br />

data, to give you the picture of the<br />

local and national economy to start<br />

your year off right.<br />

Further details, and to book, see<br />

www.blackcountrychamber<br />

ofcommerce.co.uk/events<br />

“But we can’t do this without Black<br />

Country businesses – so we strongly<br />

encourage all businesses, whether<br />

Chamber members or not, to complete<br />

the survey every quarter. It takes less<br />

than five minutes, and the information<br />

produced is invaluable.”<br />

Gemma Edwards<br />

Black Country Chamber’s own QES in<br />

early October showed firms are still<br />

struggling to recruit and are battling<br />

with rising labour costs which are<br />

rivalling the rise of utility prices.<br />

n Inflation and interest rates are<br />

amongst the highest concern for firms<br />

across all sectors, at 56% and 53%<br />

respectively.<br />

n Cashflow has increased for 29% of<br />

firms while 45% say it has remained<br />

constant; 26% report a decrease in<br />

cashflow.<br />

n 55% of Black Country businesses<br />

believe turnover will improve over the<br />

next 12 months, and 45% believe<br />

profitability will improve, too.<br />

n 26% of firms reported an increase<br />

in domestic sales, 44% reported no<br />

change and 26% reported a decrease.<br />

n 8% of firms reported an increase in<br />

overseas sales, 22% reported no<br />

change and 16% reported a decrease.<br />

n 71% of Black Country firms had<br />

looked to recruit over the past quarter.<br />

The same number experienced<br />

difficulties in doing so, compared with<br />

85% in Q2.<br />

Gemma Edwards said: “Although we<br />

continue to be concerned with the<br />

difficulties of recruiting suitable staff in<br />

the Black Country, and the ongoing<br />

impacts of high inflation and interest<br />

rates, it’s good to see some signs of<br />

positivity in business confidence of<br />

improving profitability and turnover,<br />

and that businesses expect that they<br />

will not need to raise prices in the next<br />

few months.”<br />

10 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

NEWS<br />

Apprentices boost In-Comm Training to record intake<br />

Interest in engineering apprentices is<br />

booming in the region after In-Comm<br />

Training announced a 35% increase in<br />

the number of starts this September.<br />

One of the UK’s leading training<br />

providers has recruited 199 individuals<br />

across its Aldridge and Telford technical<br />

academies, with learners starting careers<br />

in machining, robotics, welding, electrical,<br />

mechatronics and toolmaking.<br />

Companies, including Ansaldo Nuclear,<br />

Altrad Babcock, HS Marston Aerospace,<br />

Magna Cosma Castings, Makita, RBSL<br />

and Veolia, are taking the long-term<br />

approach to beating labour and skills<br />

shortage by opting to grow their own.<br />

In addition to the budding engineers of<br />

the future, In-Comm Training also<br />

successfully inducted 25 learners onto its<br />

Level 4 HNC programme, highlighting a<br />

strong move towards upskilling workers.<br />

Paul Hodgetts, Business Development<br />

Manager at In-Comm Training, told<br />

<strong>Prosper</strong>: “We have been able to fill nearly<br />

90 additional vacancies this year, which is<br />

great news for local employers and a<br />

massive indication that vocational<br />

learning is in the ascendancy.<br />

“There is a lot of opportunity for<br />

industry at the moment, but the ability to<br />

scale up is being held back by access to<br />

both the right people and the volume of<br />

individuals in the labour pool.”<br />

He added: “The results of our Training<br />

Barometer clearly showed that industry is<br />

waking up to the importance of<br />

developing their own staff and<br />

apprenticeships now being accepted as a<br />

credible career development choice.”<br />

“In-Comm has also had a big drive on<br />

equality and diversity, making sure<br />

industry is seen as a career for all. 30% of<br />

our new Telford cohort girls and nearly<br />

19% of our Aldridge learners coming from<br />

a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic<br />

background. The latter is an impressive<br />

stat when you consider the national<br />

average for engineering is just 7%.”<br />

The first cohort of learners have<br />

already started at both sites, with the<br />

second one set to begin shortly.<br />

Depending on their pathway, they will be<br />

either full-time at In-Comm or part time<br />

and spending the rest of the course at<br />

their employers, gaining experience and<br />

knowledge from work-based mentors.<br />

Jayne Guest, Recruitment Manager at<br />

In-Comm Training, concluded, “We will be<br />

continuing our recruitment of<br />

apprentices throughout the coming<br />

months for our early 2024 cohorts and<br />

then the big recruitment drive from<br />

Christmas kicks-off again - to fulfil our<br />

September and October 2024 starts.”<br />

Apprenticeship focus: see page 34<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 11

NEWS<br />

Chambers to take lead in levelling up skills<br />

A major new plan to help the West<br />

Midlands and Warwickshire tackle labour<br />

and skills shortages has been approved<br />

by the Government – with more than £10<br />

million of funding available in the region<br />

to deliver its aims.<br />

The West Midlands and Warwickshire<br />

Local Skills Improvement Plan (WMW<br />

LSIP) has been produced by Coventry<br />

and Warwickshire Chamber, in<br />

collaboration with Greater Birmingham<br />

Chambers of Commerce and Black<br />

Country Chamber of Commerce.<br />

The plan, which sets out three key<br />

priorities, comes after six months of<br />

research and consultation with employers<br />

and skills and training organisations.<br />

It has identified shortfalls in provision<br />

and made recommendations on how they<br />

can be addressed. Secretary of State for<br />

Education, The Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP,<br />

has rubber-stamped the plan and £10.4<br />

million has been made available through<br />

a Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) to<br />

enable FE providers to respond.<br />

A partnership of local providers, led by<br />

Solihull College, is now bidding for that<br />

funding to address the issues highlighted.<br />

The first priority is to target key sectors<br />

crucial to the growth of the region,<br />

including engineering & manufacturing,<br />

“The Chamber is<br />

helping to create a<br />

skills and training<br />

blueprint that meets<br />

the needs of<br />

businesses,” says<br />

CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse<br />

construction, ICT & digital and logistics<br />

and distribution, and to improve training<br />

and education provision.<br />

The second priority is the provision of<br />

excellent, flexible leadership and<br />

management training in both specific and<br />

general topics to facilitate business growth.<br />

Finally, the plan responds to employer<br />

requests for greater levels of essential<br />

skills with a new short course programme<br />

and mentoring and coaching projects.<br />

Sarah Moorhouse, Chief Executive of<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce,<br />

said: “Recruitment, retention, but more<br />

importantly skills, or sadly, the lack of<br />

them, remain our members’ number one<br />

priorities, so the opportunity to work<br />

collaboratively on this project, and place<br />

employers at the heart of the skills<br />

system, has allowed them to express<br />

their short and long-term skills needs.<br />

“By consulting with and articulating the<br />

skills needs of employers, the Chamber is<br />

helping to create a skills and training<br />

blueprint that meets the needs of<br />

businesses as well as the wider<br />

community, and LSIPs provides us with<br />

the opportunity to shape the future of the<br />

region’s skills and talent pipeline.<br />

“Alongside the specific skills required<br />

to build the new green economy, and<br />

ease the recruitment crisis in many<br />

sectors, businesses involved in the LSIPs<br />

overwhelmingly identified communication<br />

and soft skills as a key priority. Digital<br />

skills were also raised across the board,<br />

along with deficiencies in those which are<br />

specific to our region, in the fields of<br />

engineering and manufacturing.”<br />

“We look forward to working in<br />

partnership with our colleges, training<br />

providers, the combined authority, and<br />

other regional stakeholders to deliver real<br />

change as we move forward to phase two<br />

of the plans and the implementation.”<br />

Corin Crane of Coventry and<br />

Warwickshire Chamber said: “We are very<br />

pleased that the regional LSIP has been<br />

approved by Government and that we can<br />

now set to work in helping to tackle the<br />

skills shortage in the region.”<br />

Doocey’s delight<br />

over first female<br />

apprentices<br />

A construction firm has appointed<br />

its first ever female apprentices as<br />

the Doocey Group’s latest cohort<br />

of apprentices began training at<br />

Sandwell College. An open day at<br />

the firm sparked massive interest<br />

with local young people of both<br />

sexes popping along to see what<br />

opportunities lay in the<br />

construction industry.<br />

Nearly 120 hopefuls made it<br />

through to the Tipton group’s<br />

pre-apprenticeship scheme run<br />

through the summer, which<br />

included a three-week practical<br />

trial to rate their suitability.<br />

The final 12 chosen for the<br />

apprenticeship scheme included<br />

two females, for the first time.<br />

Long road behind Len – but<br />

plenty more miles to go<br />

National Express West Midlands’ is<br />

celebrating the remarkable 72-year<br />

career of Len Stanton, its longest-serving<br />

engineer.<br />

87-year-old Len from West Bromwich<br />

started as an apprentice aged just 15 with<br />

what was then the West Bromwich<br />

Corporation – and he’s been at the West<br />

Bromwich garage since 1951.<br />

From his days as a young apprentice,<br />

Len consistently demonstrated<br />

exceptional skill and mentorship, and his<br />

expertise and knowledge has earned the<br />

admiration and respect of his peers<br />

throughout the business.<br />

He plays a critical role in helping to<br />

maintain the bus fleet and ensure<br />

vehicles are ready for service to take<br />

thousands of customers to school, work<br />

and shopping every day.<br />

When asked what has changed over<br />

the years, Len told <strong>Prosper</strong>, “Things here<br />

have definitely changed. We used to start<br />

engines with a starting handle! But it’s<br />

like an old coat, you just fit it on.<br />

Whatever happened I just got my head<br />

down and did my job.”<br />

12 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 13


Black Country Chamber is delighted to welcome three new companies to its Platinum<br />

Group: Lloyds Bank, law firm Freeths and Dudley Building Society. The trio will now be a<br />

key part of our exclusive platform for business leaders, who meet to tackle some of the<br />

challenges that impact businesses across the region and identify new opportunities<br />

Lloyds Bank links up with Platinum Group<br />

to help build on existing relationships<br />

The Black Country Chamber has<br />

welcomed Lloyds Bank to its Platinum<br />

Group. Lloyds Bank has served the<br />

people, businesses and communities of<br />

the region for over 250 years, and is one<br />

of the UK’s leading retail and commercial<br />

banks serving millions of customers. It<br />

still boasts over 1,000 branches across<br />

the country.<br />

Richard Jenkins, area director for<br />

Lloyds in the region, and a regional<br />

manufacturing and sustainability<br />

ambassador for the bank, said becoming<br />

a member of the Platinum Group “builds<br />

on our existing, strong relationship with<br />

the Chambers which we’ve had for many<br />

years, particularly across the Midlands,<br />

and we’re delighted to be joining the<br />

Black Country Platinum Group.<br />

“Most recently we’ve partnered with<br />

the British Chambers of Commerce to<br />

explore the challenges and opportunities<br />

for SMEs as they transition to net zero,<br />

which we know is critical to Black<br />

Country businesses and their wider<br />

supply chains.<br />

“This partnership will not only enable<br />

us to deepen our insights and strengthen<br />

our business relationships across the<br />

region, but also provide a forum for us to<br />

share our significant regional and sectoral<br />

expertise to support local SMEs”.<br />

Joining the likes of the Wolverhampton<br />

Grand Theatre, KMB Shipping and<br />

Juniper Training, Lloyds will be looked<br />

after by the Chamber’s head of premium<br />

memberships, Gail Arnold, who said, “I’m<br />

thrilled to welcome such a prestigious<br />

name to the Platinum Group.<br />

Richard Jenkins<br />

with the Chamber’s<br />

Sarah Moorhouse<br />

and Gail Arnold:<br />

“This partnership<br />

will enable us to<br />

deepen our<br />

insights and<br />

strengthen our<br />

business<br />

relationships<br />

across the Black<br />

Country...”<br />

“Joining our confidential peer-to-peer<br />

discussions, gaining perspectives from<br />

other sectors and businesses and helping<br />

to build long-lasting relationships, is what<br />

the Platinum Group is all about, and the<br />

contribution that Lloyds will make to the<br />

longstanding partnerships in the group<br />

will be invaluable, and help us to continue<br />

our on-going work with every member of<br />

the group.”<br />

Richard Jenkins and Net Zero - pg 28<br />

Members’ news<br />

JJX on the right road to net zero<br />

JJX Logistics has compiled its sustainability figures for the three<br />

months between July <strong>2023</strong> to September <strong>2023</strong> and seen improvements<br />

across the board on its 40-strong fleet. This success, headlined by a<br />

reduction of 51,912kg of CO 2<br />

emissions, comes off the back of a revised<br />

corporate sustainability pledge back in July.<br />

With a strong ethos on #DeliveringGreener at JJX, Managing Director<br />

John Donovan said he is “incredibly proud” with the latest report.<br />

A major factor in supporting a push to net zero is fleet management<br />

company Samsara’s state-of-the-art vehicle tracking software, says<br />

John. “Using a combination of their integrated API solutions, we receive<br />

unparalleled real-time data on vehicle efficiencies, idling, anticipation<br />

and fuel usage, granting full fleet visibility to our stakeholders.”<br />

14 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Strategic advisers look to unlock growth<br />

Leading UK law firm Freeths is the latest<br />

company to sign up to the Chamber<br />

Platinum Group.<br />

As a full-service firm, Freeths, which<br />

has 13 offices across the country,<br />

including Birmingham, Nottingham,<br />

Leicester, London and Manchester, sits<br />

in The Times Best Law Firms of 2024 and<br />

consistently ranks in the top tier of the<br />

Legal 500 and Chambers guides.<br />

Nicola Dolman, Freeths’ senior<br />

business development manager, said,<br />

“We upgraded our membership to<br />

Platinum status with the strategic aim of<br />

raising our profile, building relationships<br />

with local businesses, and helping them<br />

unlock new growth opportunities.<br />

“Many members have strong<br />

manufacturing backgrounds, which is an<br />

area we’re looking to grow, not least<br />

because it aligns to our existing<br />

automotive, food, drink, life sciences and<br />

waste sectors.<br />

“We are excited to work with the<br />

Chamber and have some interesting<br />

plans for the coming year, providing<br />

opportunities for its members to learn<br />

how we can help with strategic business<br />

advice.”<br />

Gail Arnold, head of premium<br />

membership at the Chamber said: “I’m<br />

delighted such a well-known and<br />

respected national law firm like Freeths<br />

has joined this expanding group.<br />

“It is an absolute pleasure for me to<br />

work with such fantastic businesses on<br />

this peer-to-peer networking group.<br />

“I see them work together in sharing<br />

best practice meetings, challenge each<br />

other in their advisory group meetings,<br />

which ultimately forges strong and<br />

trusted business relationships.”<br />

Nicola Dolman with the<br />

Chamber’s Gail Arnold<br />

Group will help us support region’s business<br />

The third business to join the Platinum<br />

Group is Dudley Building Society.<br />

Founded in 1858 and powering life for<br />

over 160 years, the Dudley Building<br />

Society, headquartered on the<br />

Waterfront in Merry Hill, offers a range of<br />

savings accounts, mortgages and<br />

financial services to help our members, it<br />

joins the Platinum Group after upgrading<br />

membership from Gold.<br />

The society’s chief executive James<br />

Paterson said, “Dudley Building Society<br />

has been a Chamber member for a<br />

number of years. Having set an ambitious<br />

new growth plan this year and recently<br />

passing the significant milestone of<br />

£600m of gross assets, the society<br />

decided to join the Platinum Group to<br />

build our network of businesses within<br />

the local community, and to play our part<br />

in supporting the communities in which<br />

we serve.<br />

“We are a business that’s heart is in the<br />

Black Country region, and we are<br />

determined to do what we can to help the<br />

region to prosper and to support people<br />

across the region to live better lives.<br />

“Dudley Building Society has already<br />

announced and is delivering on a number<br />

of significant initiatives to achieve this<br />

aim, including the expansion of its branch<br />

network to savers across the region,<br />

teamed up with a new digital platform<br />

delivered during the pandemic;<br />

introducing some of the best savings’<br />

rates for businesses, charities and clubs<br />

in the UK and supporting local people to<br />

learn new skills and build financial<br />

confidence.<br />

“By joining the Platinum Group, we<br />

hope that we can expand our network of<br />

local businesses to understand what’s<br />

needed to support them and understand<br />

Pictured at the<br />

Chamber’s<br />

Business Awards is<br />

James Paterson,<br />

with Gail Arnold<br />

how we can work with businesses to<br />

support the Black Country community<br />

directly.<br />

“We also want to ensure that we’re<br />

offering the savings facilities that<br />

businesses need, ensuring businesses<br />

are aware of what it is that we offer.<br />

“We’re looking forward to working with<br />

more Chamber members moving forward<br />

and encourage you to reach out to us at<br />

Community@dudleybuildingsociety.co.uk<br />

to start a conversation.”<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 15


Major Black Country quartet renew<br />

Chamber patron deals<br />

Walsall-based, Starting Point<br />

Recruitment, the agency that ploughs<br />

100% of its profits to local charities and<br />

good causes, while helping people<br />

overcome obstacles to work, has<br />

renewed its patronage with the Black<br />

Country Chamber.<br />

They are joined by one of the UK’s<br />

leading independent training providers,<br />

In-Comm Training, Wolverhamptonbased<br />

not for profit health care cash plan<br />

provider Paycare, and the company<br />

responsible for operations at the newly<br />

opened Halls in Wolverhampton, global<br />

entertainment operator AEG Presents,<br />

who have all renewed their patronage<br />

with the region’s longest running<br />

business support organisation in recent<br />

weeks.<br />

The Chamber’s Patrons work as<br />

strategic partners alongside the region’s<br />

leading business support organisation<br />

and work hand-in-hand to support the<br />

Chamber’s work as they champion local<br />

businesses.<br />

Paul Hodgetts, sales manager for<br />

In-Comm Training said: “In-Comm<br />

Training has benefitted hugely from our<br />

excellent relationship with Black Country<br />

Chamber, so it made perfect sense to<br />

renew our patronage.<br />

“The organisation provides an excellent<br />

platform to support local businesses and<br />

to match companies who have shared<br />

goals, which in our case is supporting<br />

engineering firms and manufacturers to<br />

bridge their skills and labour shortages.<br />

“We also tap into the huge calendar of<br />

events the Chamber puts on, both for<br />

making new connections and sharing<br />

best practice with like-minded<br />

businesses.<br />

“Last, but certainly not least, is the<br />

fantastic advice we get from Gail Arnold<br />

and her team.”<br />

Anthony Burns, CEO of Paycare added:<br />

“We are delighted to continue our<br />

long-standing relationship with the<br />

Chamber. The organisation is an asset to<br />

the Black Country, providing valuable<br />

support to all businesses whether they’re<br />

start-ups or established companies like<br />

ourselves ensuring the prosperity of the<br />

region going forward and bringing<br />

together those businesses so they can<br />

build connections with each other too.”<br />

Gail Arnold, head of premium<br />

membership at the Chamber said:<br />

“Collectively, our Patrons are well-known<br />

organisations that hold years of<br />

experience supporting people and<br />

businesses across the region, and play a<br />

leading role in driving productivity and<br />

growth.<br />

“I am absolutely delighted that these<br />

high profile and very diverse businesses<br />

are continuing their patronage with us,<br />

and look forward to continuing our<br />

important work with every organisation.”<br />

Chamber welcomes<br />

global leader to<br />

its Patron Group<br />

The Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce welcomed their latest Patron<br />

Group member in recent weeks – global<br />

leader in worldwide access solutions,<br />

ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions.<br />

A former Chamber Platinum Group<br />

member, ASSA ABLOY has now joined<br />

some of the region’s biggest names to<br />

become the Chamber’s latest Patron, a<br />

selective group of Black Country<br />

businesses who play a leading role with<br />

the Chamber to drive productivity and<br />

growth across the region.<br />

Willenhall-based ASSA ABLOY, the<br />

first manufacturing business to join as a<br />

Patron Group, have been redefining<br />

opening and access solutions for homes,<br />

businesses, and institutions for nearly<br />

200 years.<br />

ASSA ABLOY’S Chief Operating<br />

Officer, Jeanette McFarland said, “We<br />

have a long-standing relationship with the<br />

Black Country Chamber and see<br />

becoming a Patron as a great opportunity<br />

to enhance our profile locally.<br />

Black Country<br />

Chamber’s Sarah<br />

Moorhouse and<br />

Gail Arnold with<br />

Jeanette<br />

McFarland and<br />

other members of<br />

the ASSA ABLOY<br />

senior<br />

management<br />

“We have always valued the<br />

opportunities provided by the Chamber to<br />

network with like-minded organisations<br />

and the ability to influence policies.”<br />

Gail Arnold, head of premium<br />

membership at the Chamber said: “I am<br />

delighted to welcome ASSA ABLOY to the<br />

Patron Group. Our Patrons have always<br />

been a key element of our work in the<br />

region, and make a positive impact.”<br />

16 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Juniper upgrades<br />

member links to<br />

become patron<br />

University renews ‘pivotal’<br />

relationship with Chamber<br />

The University of Wolverhampton, home<br />

to 28,000 students worldwide, has<br />

renewed its longstanding Patronage with<br />

the Black Country Chamber.<br />

Richard Nicklin, deputy director for<br />

business engagement at the University of<br />

Wolverhampton, told <strong>Prosper</strong>: “We’re<br />

proud to renew our patronage for the<br />

22nd year in a row.<br />

“The Chamber is pivotal to ensuring<br />

the voice and needs of Black Country<br />

businesses are heard and supported, and<br />

we look forward to working alongside the<br />

Chamber and its members as we<br />

continue to meet the challenges of an<br />

uncertain economic environment.<br />

“Engaging with business organisations<br />

of all sizes – to share<br />

knowledge, encourage<br />

innovation and support<br />

enterprise – is a vital part<br />

of the university’s<br />

commitment to the Black<br />

Country’s future. As a<br />

Patron we believe that<br />

collaboration is key to<br />

maximising<br />

opportunities, restoring<br />

faith in the region, and<br />

collectively ensuring that<br />

our local communities<br />

continue to thrive.”<br />

Gail Arnold, head of<br />

premium membership at<br />

the Chamber said: “I am delighted that<br />

the university, which I have worked so<br />

closely with over many years, is<br />

continuing its Patronage with us and I<br />

look forward to continuing our important<br />

work together.”<br />

The university’s role in the region was<br />

highlighted in September when it was<br />

ranked number 1 in the UK for teaching<br />

first generation students in the Daily Mail<br />

League Tables – those who are the first in<br />

their family to go to university.<br />

In recent years, a number of its<br />

photography and fine art students have<br />

worked closely with the Chamber to<br />

capture front cover images for <strong>Prosper</strong>.<br />

Graduating last month was Alina<br />

Ahmand, who is pictured left<br />

with the front cover she<br />

created of the Black Country<br />

Chamber’s Business-person<br />

of the Year 2022, Paul Hull,<br />

entrepreneur, and co-owner<br />

of KMB Shipping. Alina said,<br />

“To have the opportunity to<br />

take these images as part of<br />

my degree course and<br />

graduate with a magazine<br />

front cover already in my<br />

portfolio, has been amazing.<br />

“I am so grateful to the<br />

Chamber for championing<br />

my work and giving me the<br />

opportunity.”<br />

Platinum Group member Juniper<br />

Training has become the latest<br />

company to upgrade its<br />

membership and become a Patron<br />

of Black Country Chamber.<br />

The Wolverhampton-based firm<br />

offers training solutions and<br />

apprenticeships to individuals and<br />

businesses. It has been working<br />

within the Platinum Group for the<br />

last 12 months, having joined the<br />

Chamber back in 2018.<br />

Head of business development at<br />

Juniper, Samantha Broomhall said:<br />

“We’re absolutely delighted to<br />

become a Chamber Patron. Our<br />

membership has enabled us to<br />

network and build relationships with<br />

a variety of organisations, keep<br />

abreast of developments and<br />

provided opportunities to celebrate<br />

our successes.<br />

“Here at Juniper, we are<br />

passionate about supporting local<br />

people to access local opportunities<br />

with local employers, and we are<br />

proud of the impact this has in<br />

driving productivity and growth<br />

across the Black Country.”<br />

Gail Arnold at the Chamber said:<br />

“Our Patron Group is key to<br />

delivering our work here at the<br />

Chamber: they are our key strategic<br />

partners, with a sense of civic pride<br />

and a passion to make a positive<br />

impact across the Black Country<br />

economy. We are delighted to<br />

welcome Juniper from our Platinum<br />

Group to Patronage.”<br />

Lisa Jenkins, Gail Arnold &<br />

Samantha Broomhall<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 17

NEWS<br />

New business group to use collaborative<br />

approach as it aims for regional growth<br />

Black Country business leaders are<br />

among those joining a powerful private<br />

sector body established to champion<br />

growth across the West Midlands.<br />

Business Commission West Midlands<br />

(BCWM) comprises leaders in enterprise,<br />

supported by expert advisors, who will<br />

examine the opportunities for regional<br />

business and identify the action needed<br />

to seize them.<br />

Led by Mark Taylor, Midlands<br />

managing partner at accountancy and<br />

business advisory firm RSM, its partners<br />

include University College Birmingham,<br />

Aston University, Douglas Wright T/A<br />

McDonalds and Birmingham City<br />

University.<br />

The Commission has been convened<br />

by Greater Birmingham, Black Country<br />

and Coventry & Warwickshire Chambers<br />

of Commerce.<br />

Its key priorities will include identifying<br />

trends in business’ priorities and appetite<br />

for growth; outlining key areas of change<br />

required for growth; and looking at<br />

perceived strengths and weaknesses of<br />

the regional business environment.<br />

Its reports will be based on evidence<br />

gathering sessions and research with<br />

businesses and representative<br />

organisations across the region. Once it<br />

has identified areas for reform, it will then<br />

recommend policy changes.<br />

Sarah Moorhouse, CEO at the Black<br />

Country Chamber said: “As we head<br />

towards the end of yet another year of<br />

uncertainty and slow economic growth,<br />

we need to continue to work together to<br />

help us identify and unlock the barriers<br />

for business growth, while exploring the<br />

priorities and opportunities to enable this<br />

region to thrive.<br />

“By working collaboratively within the<br />

Business Commission West Midlands, it<br />

will allow us to identify the trends, outline<br />

the key areas and of course help us to<br />

highlight our strengths, as we come<br />

together as strategic economic partners<br />

to boost investment, sustain growth and<br />

identify new opportunities for our<br />

business communities.”<br />

Black Country Board member Vicki<br />

Wilkes, who will be a commissioner in the<br />

newly launched group, said: “I am joining<br />

the BCWM to represent SMEs, with<br />

whom it is traditionally harder to engage<br />

with. This region has a high number of<br />

amazing, but unknown, smaller<br />

Jeanette McFarland (far left) and Vicki<br />

Wilkes (left) will be members of the new<br />

Business Commission<br />

businesses, and if these can be<br />

understood, supported and helped to<br />

thrive, we can transform the regional<br />

economy.”<br />

Jeanette McFarland, chief operating<br />

officer UK & I for ASSA ABLOY Limited, a<br />

Patron of the Black Country Chamber,<br />

said: “Organic growth is vital to our<br />

long-term success, so I am excited to be<br />

invited to be a Commissioner for the<br />

Business Commission West Midlands.<br />

“The West Midlands is a great place to<br />

be based but it’s important that decision<br />

makers understand the challenges we<br />

face. BCWM provides a great opportunity<br />

to work with a talented and diverse group<br />

of individuals and advisors, for our voices<br />

to be heard and create a joined-up<br />

approach to accelerating growth in our<br />

region”<br />

Henrietta Brealey, commission<br />

convenor and CEO of the Greater<br />

Birmingham Chambers of Commerce,<br />

“The level and pace of change that the<br />

business community has seen in recent<br />

years has been extraordinary. In this<br />

context we need a fundamental reset of<br />

our understanding of what businesses<br />

need to fulfil their growth potential.”<br />

Chamber CEO named Vice Chair of regional business forum<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce<br />

CEO, Sarah Moorhouse has been<br />

appointed as Vice Chair of the West<br />

Midlands Business Insights Forum.<br />

The Forum, chaired by West<br />

Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, includes<br />

some of the most senior business<br />

leaders from across the West Midlands<br />

and provides a platform to explore<br />

topics of interest and concern to the<br />

business community in the region.<br />

“I was delighted to be asked to<br />

become this important business group’s<br />

vice chair,” says Sarah. “The Forum<br />

helps to drive and advise on<br />

interventions affecting business, giving<br />

us the opportunity to widen the<br />

discussions with government. It also<br />

enables us to work together to codesign<br />

the support mechanisms and<br />

ensure that a business voice is a key<br />

part of the West Midlands Combined<br />

Authority decision-making.<br />

“This cohesive approach will ensure<br />

our Black Country firms have a voice in<br />

the arena, which is vital for both our<br />

economy and future prosperity.”<br />

By utilising the combined expertise<br />

of business organisations, including the<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce,<br />

Make UK, FSB, universities and other<br />

representative organisations, the<br />

Forum will identify interventions on the<br />

major issues that the Government<br />

faces, and investigate, co-design and<br />

lobby on behalf of the West Midlands<br />

region.<br />

Sarah added: “Promoting the region<br />

and working together to ensure we have<br />

a collective message aimed at key<br />

decision-makers in Government cannot<br />

be underestimated, and I am relishing<br />

the opportunity to stand up for the<br />

region and the future of our business<br />

communities.”<br />

18 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Chamber awards celebrate<br />

region’s businesses’ talent,<br />

tenacity and transformation<br />

Chamber Business Awards,<br />

9th November<br />

The 22nd Black Country Chamber<br />

Business Awards had the spotlight<br />

shining brightly on the region’s<br />

businesses, and the people within them,<br />

as an audience of over 500 gathered at<br />

Wolverhampton Racecourse for the<br />

glittering annual celebration.<br />

Championing the talent, tenacity, and<br />

transformation which puts the Black<br />

Country on the map, the great and the<br />

good from businesses across the region<br />

hit the sell-out red carpet awards in their<br />

finery to hear the winners announced,<br />

and those specially commended by the<br />

judging panel across 13 categories.<br />

Against a stunning awards backdrop,<br />

and elegant, if not funky, table<br />

decorations specially designed and<br />

created for the occasion by team<br />

members and apprentices working in<br />

several Chamber member manufacturing<br />

businesses – Stainless Steel Services<br />

Ltd, Metsec, ASSA Abloy Opening<br />

Solutions, Birchills Sculptures and Zaun<br />

– the people playing their part in vital<br />

areas of the region’s economy were<br />

celebrated for their hard work,<br />

determination, innovation and for their<br />

kindness to others.<br />

With stunning handmade corporate<br />

biscuits handed to the winners alongside<br />

their coveted trophies, courtesy of a<br />

Start-Up Chamber member, Dear Emily<br />

Designs, the awards once again reflected<br />

some of the challenges businesses<br />

continue to face in the changing<br />

economic climate.<br />

A host of surprises lay in store for the<br />

assembled audience including a<br />

captivating performance from Britain’s<br />

Got Talent finalist, Tipton-based Amy Lou.<br />

Meanwhile the audience dug deep as a<br />

rousing competition of head and tails<br />

raised over £3,100 for the Chamber’s<br />

chosen charity of the year, Black Country<br />

Mental Health, in a bid to help those<br />

struggling with mental health issues<br />

across the region.<br />

Sarah Moorhouse, Chamber CEO said,<br />

“It was fantastic evening of celebration<br />

and gave us the opportunity to showcase<br />

and profile the innovative, successful,<br />

and high-performing businesses that are<br />

located right across the Black Country.<br />

“Our awards are always popular, but we<br />

received the highest number of<br />

applications in every category this year,<br />

beating previous years hands down,<br />

meaning the evening was a complete sell<br />

out and we had a long waiting list for<br />

tickets.”<br />

Continued on page 22<br />

20 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>



– sponsored by Sandwell Council<br />

Winner: Wolves Foundation<br />

Highly Commended: Starting Point Recruitment &<br />

YMCA Black Country Group<br />


– sponsored by MET Recruitment<br />

Winner: Kellie Simcox, YMCA Black Country Group<br />

Highly Commended:<br />

Nathan Richards, Beacon Centre for the Blind<br />


– sponsored by University of Wolverhampton<br />

Winner: School of Coding<br />

Highly Commended:<br />

ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions UK & Ireland<br />


– sponsored by Azets<br />

Winner: Lebronze Alloys UK Limited<br />

Highly Commended: Exol Lubricants<br />


– sponsored by Thursfields<br />

Winner: A & M EDM<br />


– sponsored by Walsall Council<br />

Winner: VOiD Applications<br />

Highly Commended: West Midlands House Ltd<br />



– sponsored by EBC Group<br />

Winner: Sandwell College<br />


– sponsored by Crowe UK LLP<br />

Winner: Burke Bros Moving Group<br />

Highly Commended: Coinadrink Limited<br />


– sponsored by Metsec<br />

Winner: JJX Logistics<br />

Highly Commended:<br />

The Mount Hotel Country<br />

Manor & Golf<br />


– sponsored by IOT Dudley<br />

Winner: Daniel-Scott Recruitment Ltd<br />

Highly Commended: MoRServ Ltd<br />


– sponsored by ASSA Abloy<br />

Winner: Lord Combustion Services Limited<br />

Highly Commended:<br />

West Midlands Psychotherapy Services Ltd<br />


– sponsored by IGNITE<br />

Winner: Birchills Automotive Presswork Ltd<br />

(Oliver Wellings Designs)<br />

Highly Commended:<br />

Penny Post Credit Union Ltd (PPCU)<br />


– sponsored by Halesowen College<br />

Winner: Jaspreet Kaur, Penny Post Credit Union Ltd<br />

(PPCU)<br />

Highly Commended: Anna Moore, Weston Park<br />


Winner, Business Commitment<br />

to the Community<br />



GROUP<br />

Winner, Business<br />

Commitment<br />

to the Community<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 21


A & M EDM<br />

Winner, Excellence in<br />

Manufacturing & Engineering<br />


Winner, Small Business<br />

of the Year<br />

Continued from page 20<br />

Sarah added: “The wide range of categories resonated with<br />

many and helped give recognition to a range of sectors and<br />

business approaches, which all contribute to driving forward<br />

growth and investment across the area, as well celebrate the<br />

region’s talent and tenacity.<br />

“There is always a fierce appetite for our awards celebration<br />

night, which is only possible because of the support of our<br />

members, our sponsors and our local businesses; I would like<br />

to thank everyone who was involved again this year for making<br />

it such a special night, and a great way for me personally to<br />

celebrate my first year at the Chamber as CEO.”<br />

<strong>Prosper</strong> Editor Sarah Thompson said: “From uber-smart<br />

start-ups to caring corporate giants, hi-tech manufacturing<br />

firms to suppliers of quality professional services, our award<br />

winners covered them all.<br />

“Thanks for all those who got involved: our sponsors, the<br />

Chamber team who worked so hard to put them on and our<br />

friends at Wolverhampton Racecourse who hosted us so well,<br />

and to our compere, Dicky Dodd, for keeping the evening<br />

moving along like clockwork.”<br />


Winner, Employer<br />

of the Year<br />

More award winners: See pg 24<br />



Winner, Most<br />

Promising Start-<br />

Up Business<br />


Winner, Medium or<br />

Large Business<br />

of the Year<br />

22 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>



Winner, Outstanding Support<br />

to the Armed Forces<br />

“It was fantastic evening of celebration and<br />

gave us the opportunity to showcase and<br />

profile the innovative, successful, and<br />

high-performing businesses that are<br />

located right across the Black Country...”<br />


Winner, Young Employee/<br />

Apprentice of the Year<br />


Winner, Excellence in<br />

International Trade<br />


Winner, Family Business<br />

of the Year<br />


Winner, Excellence in Science,<br />

Technology & Innovation<br />


Winner, Excellence in<br />

Professional Services<br />

24 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Award sponsor celebrates 15th birthday with new<br />

recruitment contracts and record revenues<br />

One of the Black Country’s fastest<br />

growing recruitment firms is celebrating<br />

its 15th birthday in style after seeing<br />

revenue pass the £8m mark.<br />

MET Recruitment, which supplies<br />

thousands of industrial workers and<br />

hundreds of permanent staff every year,<br />

has overcome the shackles of the<br />

pandemic and a rapidly diminishing<br />

candidate pool to win a string of new<br />

contracts.<br />

The company has continued to grow its<br />

portfolio of clients by focusing on its<br />

proven ‘partnership’ approach, where it<br />

commits to going beyond their<br />

recruitment needs and looks at delivering<br />

a long-term labour solution.<br />

It is a philosophy that founder Robin<br />

Tong put in place in 2008 when he<br />

decided to swap a safe career with a big<br />

high street recruitment business to set<br />

up his own company in a shared office<br />

next to Den’s Diner on the Pensnett<br />

Trading Estate.<br />

Fast forward 15 years and MET<br />

Recruitment is now one of the leading<br />

local names in the sector and boasts<br />

customers, including Dreams, Trebles,<br />

Winster and Isaac H Grainger’s, the latter<br />

a family-run Black Country business that<br />

was the firm’s first-ever client and still<br />

works with it today.<br />

“If you told me in 2008 that I would<br />

have to guide a business through an<br />

immediate global crash, Brexit and a<br />

worldwide pandemic, then I may have had<br />

second thoughts,” explained Robin.<br />

“Despite all of these challenges and a<br />

rapidly shrinking labour force, we have<br />

emerged stronger and in a fantastic<br />

position to claim our record year in <strong>2023</strong>,<br />

with 70 industrial clients in place and<br />

commercial customers now hitting 35.”<br />

He continued: “We’ve had some major<br />

milestones along the way, including Nella<br />

Share (Commercial Director) and<br />

Matthew Hunter (Industrial Director)<br />

joining, bringing the old Merlin Wine Bar<br />

in Dudley back to life to house our HQ<br />

and the recent £300,000 investment in a<br />

second office on The Waterfront to look<br />

after our permanent staffing division.”<br />

Originally set up to supply staff to the<br />

mechanical and electrical trades, MET<br />

Recruitment has gone from three people<br />

in a small office to a 23-strong agency<br />

operating from two modern offices in the<br />

Black Country.<br />

Rob was determined to ensure that it<br />

was like no other recruitment business he<br />

had ever worked for, where they just<br />

simply reward top billers only.<br />

This sentiment was mirrored by Matt<br />

and Nella, who felt as passionately about<br />

creating an inclusive culture and this is<br />

why the business rewards all staff for their<br />

efforts, with team trips away and nights<br />

out for everyone, not just the sales team.<br />

This year saw the business extend its<br />

“If you told me in 2008 that I would have to guide a business<br />

through an immediate global crash, Brexit and a worldwide<br />

pandemic, then I may have had second thoughts ... but despite all<br />

of these challenges and a rapidly shrinking labour force, we have<br />

emerged stronger and in a fantastic position to claim our record<br />

year in <strong>2023</strong> ...”<br />

Robin Tong, founder, MET Recruitment<br />

“The whole team at MET<br />

Recruitment benefits when the<br />

business does well... we are<br />

passionate about adopting a<br />

truly inclusive culture...”<br />

offering even further with additional<br />

benefits including having your birthday<br />

off as an extra holiday day, the<br />

introduction of ‘MeTime’ which allows the<br />

whole team to take an extended lunch<br />

break every week, and paid volunteer<br />

leave for people to help a cause that is<br />

close to their hearts.<br />

Nella Share commented: “We<br />

appreciate how important our staff are<br />

and that nearly all businesses are only as<br />

good as their people.<br />

“That’s why we decided to sponsor the<br />

Black Country Chamber’s Employee of<br />

the Year Award, celebrating some of the<br />

amazing individual talent we have in this<br />

fantastic region of ours.<br />

“The finalists did not disappoint,<br />

making picking a winner a very tough and<br />

challenging decision.”<br />

For further information, please visit<br />

www.metrecruitment.com or follow<br />

@met_recruitment on twitter<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 25


BCC Start-up award tops<br />

off a winning year for<br />

Daniel-Scott Recruitment<br />

Winning the title of Most Promising<br />

Start-up Business at the Black Country<br />

Chamber Business Awards has topped<br />

off a year of success for Daniel-Scott<br />

Recruitment.<br />

The fast-growing Halesowen-based<br />

recruitment agency scooped the prize in<br />

recognition of its continuous expansion,<br />

commitment to customer needs and<br />

entrepreneurial vision.<br />

Daniel-Scott Recruitment director<br />

Lucy Cashmore said: “I was thrilled to<br />

see our business crowned most<br />

promising Start-up Business at the<br />

region’s biggest business awards.<br />

“I am very proud of how far the agency<br />

has come in the past three years and<br />

feel extremely grateful to work with<br />

such a hardworking and talented team,<br />

who always want to deliver the best for<br />

our clients and job candidates.<br />

“I would like to thank all my<br />

colleagues, partners and clients for<br />

supporting Daniel-Scott Recruitment on<br />

its journey so far.”<br />

An experienced recruitment specialist,<br />

Lucy founded Daniel-Scott Recruitment<br />

in 2020. The agency’s recruiters are<br />

specialists within the contact centre,<br />

sales, marketing, admin and<br />

engineering sectors, offering a bespoke,<br />

consultative approach with expert<br />

advice to present the best candidates to<br />

great employers.<br />

The business has steadily increased<br />

its sales over the past three years,<br />

taking on new clients and winning<br />

repeat business with existing ones.<br />

Building on relationships with major<br />

clients based in the Midlands, Lucy has<br />

been able to expand her agency<br />

nationally, recruiting for company sites<br />

in Blackburn, Speke in Liverpool,<br />

Northampton and Bristol. Daniel-Scott<br />

is now the preferred supplier for six<br />

national businesses and their<br />

permanent staff recruitment needs.<br />

To set itself up for further growth, the<br />

agency recently expanded into new<br />

office space and welcomed a new<br />

business development manager, Sarah<br />

Westbury, to work alongside branch<br />

manager Becky Kells and recruitment<br />

consultant Daniel Cashmore.<br />

Daniel-Scott Recruitment achieves<br />

impressive candidate placement<br />

retention rates of circa 85% and has<br />

been awarded five-star reviews by all<br />

clients and job candidates who have left<br />

feedback.<br />

Lucy said: “I think the key to our<br />

success has been the quality of the<br />

relationships we have established with<br />

businesses and job candidates, which<br />

has made it easier to place the right<br />

people in the right roles.<br />

“We pride ourselves on not just being<br />

a recruitment agency but an essential,<br />

business-integrated partner, working<br />

very closely with companies throughout<br />

each recruitment process. We provide<br />

bespoke services, with phased payment<br />

options available.<br />

“By treating candidates as individuals<br />

and really understanding their needs and<br />

abilities, we place them into roles within<br />

companies that are not just a fit for their<br />

experience and qualifications but also<br />

for their personal character and values.<br />

“We also offer extended support to<br />

clients and candidates following all job<br />

placements, which is key to achieving<br />

strong retention rates.”<br />

As well as being committed to clients<br />

and job candidates, Lucy is passionate<br />

about giving back to her local<br />

community. She has signed up to<br />

become a volunteer enterprise adviser<br />

with the Black Country Careers Hub to<br />

help transform careers education for<br />

young people.<br />

Having been partnered with<br />

Perryfields Academy, a secondary<br />

school in Oldbury, for the <strong>2023</strong>-24<br />

academic year, Lucy will be a mentor to<br />

young people to improve their chances<br />

of gaining employment. She will be<br />

delivering workshops, assisting with<br />

mock interviews, providing insight into<br />

the workplace and offering advice on<br />

CVs, jobs, training and qualifications.<br />

Her role will also be to assist careers<br />

leaders and teachers with information<br />

about careers and offer support through<br />

her business network.<br />

Daniel-Scott Recruitment’s charity of<br />

the year is Acorns Children’s Hospice,<br />

and so far in <strong>2023</strong> the business has<br />

raised more than £600. Despite being<br />

small in size, the Daniel-Scott team also<br />

volunteered to support the Acorns<br />

Bubble Rush event in the summer, and<br />

at Easter collected more than 100<br />

Easter eggs to donate to the hospice.<br />

Daniel-Scott Recruitment builds<br />

strong partnerships with employers to<br />

find the right candidates to move their<br />

businesses forward while supporting<br />

candidates to forge a new career to suit<br />

their skills and experience.<br />

Welcoming new enquiries, Lucy said:<br />

“We want to see Chamber members<br />

thrive, so please get in touch to find out<br />

how we can meet your recruitment needs.”<br />

Whether you are recruiting for your<br />

business or looking for a new role,<br />

contact the team on:<br />

t: 0121 828 3848<br />

e: info@danielscottrecruitment.co.uk<br />

w: www.danielscottrecruitment.co.uk.<br />

26 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


<strong>Prosper</strong> asked Richard Jenkins, Area Director for the Black Country,<br />

Shropshire and North Wales at Lloyds Bank, about how the region’s<br />

businesses are transforming to take on the net zero challenge….<br />

Lloyds funding helps give the<br />

green light to net zero ambitions<br />

The Black Country is home to some of<br />

the UK’s most innovative companies.<br />

With the UK’s net zero target<br />

approaching, many are viewing the need<br />

for business change with proactivity,<br />

seeing the challenge not as an obstacle<br />

but as a chance to transform their<br />

operations, increase efficiency, enter new<br />

markets and drive growth.<br />

We want to shine a light on some of our<br />

customers in the region who are doing<br />

just this, and how we have been by their<br />

side to support in their ambitions.<br />

Illuminating the future<br />

Over the past year, rising energy costs<br />

have presented a significant challenge to<br />

businesses – particularly those involved<br />

in sectors such as manufacturing and<br />

industrials. However, some resourceful<br />

firms have looked at ways to significantly<br />

change how they fulfil their business’<br />

energy usage.<br />

Earlier this year, precision engineering<br />

firm Parker Precision invested £70,000<br />

in 162 solar panels. They supply around a<br />

third of the energy needed for its site in<br />

Bilston and have cut £4,000 from the<br />

monthly energy bills. Parker Precision is<br />

using the cost saving to invest back in its<br />

workforce, upskilling its staff and taking<br />

on new apprentices, which it hopes will<br />

help boost turnover by 20% this year.<br />

Likewise, we supported Wolverhampton<br />

-based fencing specialist, and fellow<br />

Chamber Platinum Group member, Zaun<br />

to revamp its approach to energy with a<br />

£200,000 loan to install 500 solar panels<br />

on one of its factories. The panels now<br />

supply the entire factory with energy,<br />

meaning the site is self-sustaining and<br />

saving the firm an average of £10,000 in<br />

energy costs each month.<br />

Both loans came through Lloyds<br />

Bank’s Clean Growth Financing Initiative,<br />

which provides customers with access to<br />

discounted lending for green purposes.<br />

Bespoke solutions<br />

And green financing hasn’t just<br />

supported Black Country businesses<br />

with new energy generation projects this<br />

“Zaun revamped its approach to<br />

energy with a £200,000 loan to install<br />

500 solar panels on one of its factories.<br />

year – it’s also been used in more<br />

wide-reaching sustainable<br />

transformation projects.<br />

Latham’s Steel Doors, one the UK’s<br />

largest manufacturers of steel security<br />

doors, based out of Oldbury, recently<br />

built a new sustainable warehousing<br />

facility to help decarbonise its<br />

operations. Supported by a £1m loan<br />

from Lloyds Bank, as well as being<br />

designed to save as much energy as<br />

possible, the building includes state of<br />

the art energy efficient air conditioning,<br />

LED lighting, electric car charge points<br />

and cycle storage. This has enabled the<br />

building to achieve an EPC A rating – the<br />

highest energy efficiency rating a<br />

property can receive.<br />

Meanwhile, Walsall automotive parts<br />

manufacturer, Birchills Automotive, has<br />

taken a creative approach to business<br />

change, adding another arm to its<br />

operations that helps reduce its waste<br />

materials. The business is repurposing<br />

unused metal from its manufacturing<br />

process which would have otherwise<br />

been thrown away, to create bespoke<br />

sculptures, planters and furniture. We<br />

have supported the firm with the financial<br />

tools they needed to sell the designs<br />

internationally, where they have<br />

commanded six-figure sums. The project<br />

hasn’t just helped Birchills Automotive to<br />

reduce its waste, but also utilised<br />

creative talent within the business to<br />

create a new revenue stream, helping the<br />

manufacturer to grow and develop.<br />

The creativity and innovation shown by<br />

Black Country firms to take on the<br />

net-zero challenge, to transform their<br />

businesses and deliver efficiency and<br />

growth demonstrates the tenacity and<br />

forward-looking approach of the region.<br />

We’re proud to be by the side of local<br />

businesses and support their journeys.<br />

28 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Navigating complex divorces:<br />

Thursfields offers advice on understanding the intricacies and challenges of<br />

financial arrangements and high-value assets<br />

Complex divorces are characterised by<br />

intricate financial arrangements,<br />

ownership structures, overseas<br />

jurisdictions, high-value assets,<br />

inheritance, pensions, and points of law.<br />

These separations typically involve<br />

challenging elements such as nondisclosure<br />

of assets and can be more<br />

difficult than typical cases.<br />

Property & assets – Dividing property<br />

and assets is often a difficult part of<br />

divorce. Residential properties can be a<br />

source of conflict, with both spouses<br />

feeling entitled to stay.<br />

Communication and compromise are<br />

necessary, and the court will prioritise the<br />

interests of any children or dependents<br />

involved.<br />

Family business – Deciding the future<br />

of a family business can be difficult and<br />

may require sensitive negotiations.<br />

Accurate valuation is essential, and<br />

issues such as dual operation,<br />

shareholders, and extended family<br />

involvement must be considered. The<br />

level of involvement of each spouse must<br />

be clarified, and courts may need to get<br />

involved if no agreement can be reached,<br />

even imposing a sale of the business if<br />

necessary.<br />

Hiding, or non-disclosure of assets<br />

– Full disclosure of assets is crucial in a<br />

divorce case, and failing to do so could<br />

result in penalties from the courts. If you<br />

suspect your partner is hiding assets,<br />

seek legal advice immediately and<br />

consider using forensic accountants to<br />

uncover any discrepancies.<br />

Transparency is key to minimising<br />

difficulties in divorce.<br />

“Transparency is key to<br />

minimising difficulties in<br />

divorce. .... communication and<br />

compromise are also necessary,<br />

and the court will prioritise the<br />

interests of any children or<br />

dependents involved...”<br />

High net worth – High net worth<br />

divorces involve more valuable assets<br />

and complicated financial arrangements,<br />

such as businesses and trusts, which<br />

may also have international implications.<br />

Pre & post-nuptial agreements – Pre<br />

and post-nuptial agreements are<br />

becoming more common in the UK,<br />

although they are not legally binding. A<br />

prenuptial agreement determines how<br />

assets will be divided in the event of<br />

separation before the marriage takes<br />

place, while a post-nuptial agreement is<br />

entered into after the marriage has<br />

begun.<br />

Both parties must enter into these<br />

agreements freely for them to be<br />

effective, and they offer protection for<br />

high-value assets. These agreements are<br />

now being referenced in court cases.<br />

International Dimensions – Divorces<br />

involving multiple nationalities, overseas<br />

business interests, and international<br />

assets can be complicated, especially<br />

when determining which country has<br />

legal jurisdiction.<br />

Legal advice should be sought early on<br />

“Pre and post-nuptial<br />

agreements are becoming<br />

more common in the UK,<br />

although they are not legally<br />

binding...”<br />

to establish the best jurisdiction.<br />

Child arrangements can also be<br />

challenging, particularly if one parent<br />

wants to move the children abroad.<br />

Offshore trusts, international businesses,<br />

and foreign tax structures can further<br />

complicate matters, with offshore<br />

jurisdiction making complete disclosure<br />

difficult.<br />

Thursfields is a full-service law firm with<br />

experience in difficult divorce cases, family<br />

law, commercial matters, wills and trusts,<br />

and other specialised fields.<br />

To find out more information visit<br />

www.thursfields.co.uk or call us on<br />

0345 207 3728<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 29


Foundation:<br />

is helping:<br />

Wolves to:<br />

be a winner:<br />

on and off:<br />

the pitch:<br />

For most football fans, victory on the<br />

pitch is all that matters from their club,<br />

but the team at the Wolves Foundation<br />

is looking for a little bit more than just<br />

three points at the weekend.<br />

The Foundation operates under a<br />

simple banner of Creating Opportunities,<br />

Changing Lives, for the people of<br />

Wolverhampton; its goal is to the support<br />

the people of the Black Country,<br />

whichever way it can.<br />

Kieron Ansell, the Foundation’s<br />

business development manager, explains<br />

more. “We serve the communities on<br />

which this club is built. Without the<br />

people of Wolverhampton, there is no<br />

Wolves FC. It’s our job to get out into the<br />

community and make the small<br />

interventions that can have a major<br />

impact on people’s lives.”<br />

At present the Foundation is delivering<br />

40+ live projects, based around three key<br />

themes: Health and wellbeing; Skills and<br />

education; and Inclusion and cohesion.<br />

Under these umbrella titles sit a host of<br />

activities, groups and projects, ranging<br />

from parent and baby groups at one end<br />

of the age spectrum to Molineux<br />

Memories, which offers help for those<br />

struggling with dementia, at the other.<br />

In between are employability<br />

programmes, food poverty provisions,<br />

cost-of-living support, a programme<br />

dedicated to ending bed poverty – where<br />

people may have a roof over the head but<br />

not a bed to sleep in – and a wide range<br />

of health-related projects.<br />

“Most of our projects involve putting in<br />

place a programme to help those<br />

struggling or in need of support,” says<br />

Kieron. “For instance, our Elders group is<br />

for people who may find themselves<br />

alone for the first time in many years and<br />

have few social outlets, or those whose<br />

mobility may not be what it was and are<br />

not able to get out as much as they used<br />

to. It’s an opportunity for them to meet<br />

people in a similar situation, have a hot<br />

drink and a game of bingo or crafts led by<br />

our incredible members of staff.<br />

“It’s a simple provision that makes a<br />

huge difference to people who have paid<br />

their dues and deserve this bit of care<br />

afforded to them. Members tell us how<br />

much they look forward to it; for some, its<br />

their only social interaction that week.”<br />

A lot of the Foundation’s work centres<br />

around young people. Says Kieron: “We<br />

operate in 34 schools across the Black<br />

Country every week, delivering PE, maths<br />

and English support and are developing<br />

plans for a STEM offering in the near<br />

future. Being in the Black Country, a<br />

30 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

“For most of the people in<br />

this group, Wolves is a<br />

huge part of their life.<br />

They see the club as a<br />

friend, so when they meet<br />

the foundation staff, the<br />

barriers are already<br />

coming down. The<br />

thinking goes, ‘if they<br />

work for Wolves, they’ve<br />

got to be okay’<br />

Kieron Ansell<br />

region enriched by a history and present<br />

synonymous with manufacturing and<br />

engineering, we want to help our young<br />

people discover pathways that they may<br />

have previously felt not applicable to<br />

them.”<br />

Both first team players and associated<br />

staff are enthusiastic supporters of the<br />

Foundation’s work. “Max Kilman, the club<br />

captain, has come onboard as our latest<br />

ambassador. He’s a hugely positive<br />

figurehead who helps drive the<br />

Foundation’s ambitions forward, but all<br />

the lads are happy to get stuck in. Be that<br />

Matheus Cunha taking on the role as<br />

bingo caller at Molineux Memories, or<br />

Josa Sa’ reading the Very Hungry<br />

Caterpillar to toddlers or Dan Bentley<br />

paying a visit to Head for Health, our<br />

mental health wellbeing programme – the<br />

playing group are a tremendous support.<br />

“We’re fortunate that the support<br />

comes from the top: Both Head Coach<br />

Gary O’Neil and Chairman Jeff Shi were<br />

both attendees and award-givers at the<br />

foundations first-ever gala dinner,<br />

recently hosted at Molineux.”<br />

In total the Foundation welcomes over<br />

51,000 participants a year to at least one<br />

of its projects and amasses over 3/4<br />

million contact hours.<br />

One of Kieron’s personal favourite<br />

projects is a mental health support group<br />

called Walk and Talk. Participants meet<br />

for a stroll around West Park, in the<br />

shadow of the stadium, in the company of<br />

one of the Foundation’s facilitators –<br />

Steve. By getting the group out into the<br />

open air, strolling around the park, they<br />

begin to open up about their mental<br />

health in a way that they might not do in a<br />

sterile office with a clinician. “A lot of the<br />

participants are signposted to us from<br />

other services that may be at capacity, or<br />

they find their way to us because they<br />

trust the badge,” said Kieron. “I took part<br />

in a session recently and as I was walking,<br />

I had one man say to me, ‘I don’t know<br />

why I’m telling you this…’ and then<br />

off-loaded his current worries. The group<br />

was a way to break him out of his silence<br />

on what was worrying him, but it’s a<br />

mutual thing. My own barriers began to<br />

come down and similarly I found myself<br />

sharing – I began to see why this is such an<br />

important resource for our participants.”<br />

This outlet is needed now more than<br />

ever, says Kieron. “We know that mental<br />

health services are under considerable<br />

pressure right now. We also know that<br />

men are usually more reluctant to open<br />

up about their concerns. The data<br />

surrounding mental health in males of a<br />

certain age is alarming, often they feel<br />

they’ve nowhere to go when they become<br />

stressed, and have no-one to talk to. The<br />

Walk and Talk Group gives them a chance<br />

of opening up about their struggles – and<br />

it does the same for our female and<br />

mixed cohorts, too.”<br />

It may seem odd that people will open<br />

up to strangers in an informal setting in a<br />

way they wouldn’t to a clinician in a more<br />

official one, but Kieron says it’s the club<br />

badge that makes the difference. “For a<br />

lot of the people in this group, Wolves FC<br />

is a huge part of their life. They see the<br />

club as a friend, and for some a great love<br />

even, so when they meet Foundation<br />

staff, the barriers are already coming<br />

down. They trust us and are happy to talk<br />

to us and we never take that for granted<br />

- you could not meet more dedicated<br />

staff. At the end of a session, we’re used<br />

to people saying how much the<br />

Foundation team ‘helped them though<br />

their problems’.”<br />

It’s interventions like Molineux<br />

Memories, Healthy Goals, Walk and Talk<br />

and so many others that highlight how<br />

the foundation can transform lives.<br />

Funding comes from a variety of<br />

channels. “A large portion of our income<br />

comes via grants - local authorities,<br />

national funding groups and sporting<br />

bodies including the Premier League via<br />

the PLCF. Thankfully we have the<br />

dedication of Kelly Freeman who presides<br />

over this area of the business and<br />

ensures we are applying for the necessary<br />

and relevant grants on a day-to-day basis<br />

to enable us to continue to deliver our<br />

vital work.”<br />

He is full of praise for the Premier<br />

League’s own Charitable Fund, which<br />

supports community-based schemes run<br />

“I popped into one of our<br />

sessions at a school and José Sá<br />

was sat reading The Very<br />

Hungry Caterpillar to a group of<br />

young children, using the book<br />

to promote both a love of<br />

reading and healthy eating.”<br />

by many Premier League and Football<br />

League clubs up and down the country.<br />

“They are a major partner and enabler in<br />

the positive impact delivered by the<br />

Wolves Foundation.”<br />

However, Kieron’s plan is to broaden<br />

the way in which the Foundation funds its<br />

work. “The funding we get from grants will<br />

always be a huge part of our strategy,<br />

however, I want to develop a funding<br />

structure that allows us to pivot and be<br />

more reactive to the needs of the<br />

community as challenges arise, one that<br />

sits alongside and compliments all the<br />

incredible work enabled by our wonderful<br />

grant funders. The cost-of-living crisis is<br />

an example in which we want to be able to<br />

offer support swiftly and not be reliant on<br />

the results of an application process. If<br />

we are going to respond quickly, funds<br />

need to be in place to do so.”<br />

Molineux Memories is another example<br />

of wanting to be reactive to a current<br />

need. “We are so oversubscribed we’ve<br />

had to create a waiting list. We’d love to<br />

take on a new member of the team, add<br />

more sessions and see more people.”<br />

Continued on page 32<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 31


Continued from page 31<br />

“Participants gain the most benefit<br />

from the group by accessing it as soon as<br />

a need is identified. Grant applications<br />

take time, that’s just the nature of the<br />

process.”<br />

Hence the bold move for ‘unrestricted<br />

funding’ – giving the Foundation the<br />

chance to react more quickly to need. But<br />

it won’t be easy: “One of our biggest<br />

strengths – the breadth of the<br />

programmes we deliver and the huge<br />

number of sectors we cover – is ironically<br />

one of our weaknesses when it comes to<br />

fundraising. We operate across so many<br />

sectors that sometimes it can be difficult<br />

for potential donors to digest exactly<br />

what we do or understand how we are<br />

working to improve the community.”<br />

As part of its new drive the Foundation<br />

wants to grow its network within the<br />

business community and establish closer<br />

links with business supporters through<br />

events. “Businesses can get involved by<br />

attending or sponsoring our events,<br />

purchasing items via our online auctions,<br />

donating on a matchday or becoming<br />

Patrons of the Foundation – a super<br />

important initiative for us,” Kieron says.<br />

“We’ve recently hosted our first gala<br />

dinner, there’s a golf day in the pipeline<br />

and our annual sleep out was on 17th<br />

November. They are all events<br />

businesses get involved with.”<br />

He added: “We love the patron model.<br />

We have tried to build something with<br />

broad appeal, as it’s a great way for your<br />

business to be linked to a charitable<br />

concern that is at the heart of the<br />

community as well as aligning yourself<br />

with a major stakeholder within the city.<br />

“By supporting the Foundation you can<br />

also build your network among our fellow<br />

supporters. In a way we’ve taken that<br />

concept from the Chambers movement:<br />

people do business with those who share<br />

common interests and beliefs.”<br />

“We absolutely believe the Foundation<br />

can be your vehicle for the CSR strategy<br />

within your organisation. We are able to<br />

reach great volumes of people very<br />

quickly, we are at the heart of the<br />

community, and we are fortunate to be<br />

the official charity of Wolverhampton<br />

Wanderers FC – founder members of the<br />

Football League.”<br />

Kieron is clearly proud of the<br />

contribution the Wolves Foundation<br />

makes in the city. “I’ve been with the club<br />

10 years, and as a lad that grew up in the<br />

city, a fan attending games with my dad<br />

and brothers, I’m extremely grateful for<br />

the way the club looks to support the<br />

Matheus Cunha takes<br />

on a new role as a<br />

bingo caller at<br />

Molineux Memories<br />

communities it sits among via the<br />

Foundation. Thankfully, under the<br />

stewardship of Fosun, these days, when<br />

people mention ‘Wolverhampton’, the<br />

first thing most people think of is the<br />

Wanderers. The team is the heartbeat of<br />

the city, the single thing that brings us<br />

together on a match day – win, lose or<br />

draw. That the club, though the<br />

Foundation, is extending that influence<br />

beyond the pitch and deep into the<br />

community, to make a real difference to<br />

people’s lives, is something that I find<br />

genuinely inspiring.”<br />

He’s quick to acknowledge that while<br />

he is in the spotlight in this issue of<br />

<strong>Prosper</strong>, the great work of the<br />

Foundation, rather like a successful<br />

football team, is a real collective effort.<br />

“Everyone who works for the Foundation<br />

loves the work they do because they can<br />

see how people benefit from it. We’re<br />

lucky to have such an incredible team of<br />

dedicated people. Headed by Will Clowes,<br />

and supported by a talented<br />

management team in Tom Warren, Zulf<br />

Khan, Lara Pegg, Rachel Smith, John<br />

Warburton and Luke Shearing – who, in<br />

turn are supported by an equally<br />

dedicated and talented team of senior<br />

officers, full and part-time staff and an<br />

army of volunteers.<br />

“If Wolves is the heartbeat of the city,<br />

those guys are the heartbeat of the club’s<br />

Foundation.”<br />

20<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Apprenticeships are definitely back in vogue, with more and more businesses<br />

seeing the benefits of bringing in young starters and training them to fill key<br />

roles within their organisations. <strong>Prosper</strong> spoke to three Chamber members<br />

– ASSA ABLOY, Crowe and Thursfields Solicitors – to learn more about their<br />

own apprentice and young worker development programmes, as well as<br />

asking the Black Country Chamber itself its views, after taking on its first<br />

apprentice recently, Owenia Francis<br />

Rising stars: From left,<br />

Owenia Francis, Ross<br />

Fletcher, Walid Hakem<br />

and Luke Edgar Hill<br />

Why did you think it was important to go<br />

down the apprentice route?<br />

ASSA ABLOY: Our apprentices are the<br />

rising stars and leaders of the future and<br />

can make a real impact within our teams.<br />

Our Apprentice Programme provides the<br />

opportunity for an exciting lifelong career<br />

journey, where apprentices innovate,<br />

challenge fixed ideas and bring fresh<br />

perspectives into our business.<br />

Crowe: Investing and building new<br />

talent is essential. It is the perfect route<br />

for us to follow as it supports our next<br />

generation of employees in on-the-job<br />

training while being given the opportunity<br />

to gain their professional qualification.<br />

Thursfields: We have always embraced<br />

alternative pathways to progression, and<br />

the apprenticeship is just one of the<br />

several routes to qualification we<br />

recognise. We challenged ourselves some<br />

time ago to broaden our talent pool,<br />

recognising that talented professionals<br />

come from diverse backgrounds, so<br />

increasing access seemed like the logical<br />

and, indeed, right thing to do.<br />

Black Country Chamber (BCC): The<br />

Chamber is a huge supporter of<br />

apprenticeships and encouraging the<br />

workforce of the future. We know from<br />

many of our members the positive impact<br />

an apprentice can make, so when a job<br />

opportunity came available within the<br />

Chamber, we wanted to practise what we<br />

preached and offer it to an apprentice<br />

living within the Black Country.<br />

What benefits do you see from bringing<br />

in young people from outside and<br />

guiding their training? Was part of your<br />

decision to take on apprentices a<br />

dissatisfaction with the number/quality<br />

of potential candidates available to you<br />

when you were looking to take on<br />

additional staff?<br />

Crowe: We have a long history of taking<br />

on people at the beginning of their career<br />

and supporting them through professional<br />

training. We welcome trainees across our<br />

offices and see them as a huge part of<br />

our future talent pipeline.<br />

Thursfields: We have never struggled<br />

to attract talent into the firm, but we have<br />

We’re taking the<br />

apprenticeship<br />

route to the top<br />

struggled to find diverse talent which<br />

represents the clients we serve. By<br />

widening access into the profession via<br />

alternative routes such as<br />

apprenticeships, work experience and<br />

graduate programmes, etc, we seek to<br />

address this imbalance. The benefits are<br />

manifold, from diversifying our thought<br />

processes to attracting an increased<br />

number of candidates.<br />

Choosing to grow our number<br />

organically through guidance means that<br />

by the time those individuals qualify, they<br />

are well acquainted with our practices,<br />

systems, colleagues and even clients.<br />

BCC: We felt that an apprentice would<br />

bring a fresh perspective and innovative<br />

ideas as well as allow us to impart our<br />

knowledge and skills to help them<br />

progress in their career.<br />

34 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


We asked the four apprentices featured in this special report for their views on how their careers were<br />

progressing, and why they had taken the apprenticeship route to work...<br />

Why did you look for an apprenticeship<br />

rather than going to college/<br />

university full time?<br />

Luke Edgar Hill (Operations<br />

engineering apprentice at ASSA<br />

ABLOY): I applied for an apprenticeship<br />

over university because it provided<br />

hands-on experience while providing<br />

me with an industry-recognised<br />

qualification. It’s specialised training for<br />

a particular skilled vocation, rather than<br />

a general education received from a<br />

university. The apprenticeship route<br />

gave me the balance between theory<br />

and practical tasks while in the<br />

workplace.<br />

Ross Fletcher (Associate, corporate<br />

audit, Crowe): During my sixth form I<br />

had completed regular work experience<br />

in accountancy and after I had decided<br />

that this was the profession I wanted to<br />

go into, I had no doubts that starting my<br />

professional career in a school leaver<br />

apprenticeship scheme and combining<br />

day-to-day work with studying towards<br />

the professional qualification was the<br />

best thing for me to do.<br />

Owenia Francis (BCC, from the BBC<br />

Apprentice Hub): I did go to university<br />

and graduated the summer before<br />

starting this current role. I think one of<br />

the misconceptions is that university<br />

and apprenticeships are almost two<br />

different languages that you have to<br />

choose between, but the truth is<br />

anyone can benefit from an<br />

apprenticeship.<br />

Walid Hakem (scholarship<br />

programme, Thursfields):<br />

Finding alternative means of getting to<br />

your goal is part of the process of any<br />

career, and so the scholarship<br />

programme at Thursfields, which I felt<br />

really played to my strengths, was the<br />

most logical and straightforward option<br />

for me.<br />

Do you consider the apprentices you<br />

have provide value for money?<br />

ASSA ABLOY: For us, onboarding early<br />

talent is not about value for money, it’s<br />

about the value apprentices bring, the<br />

impact they have on our processes,<br />

embracing new technology and their<br />

personal and professional progression<br />

within our business to senior roles.<br />

Crowe: Our apprentices are so much<br />

more than value for money. They bring<br />

fresh ideas and perspective, keeping us<br />

current, which helps the business to be<br />

always learning and evolving. We benefit<br />

from funding support with our<br />

apprentices’ training costs, but this is<br />

certainly not the leading advantage of<br />

being involved in this programme.<br />

Thursfields: Absolutely! After an initial<br />

period of becoming acquainted with the<br />

role, pace, etc, we have consistently seen<br />

a return on investment.<br />

BCC: Our apprentice works within the<br />

terms and conditions of all our<br />

employees. The skills Owenia will develop<br />

during the apprenticeship will not only be<br />

of benefit to her but also allow us as a<br />

business to harness this talent. She will<br />

also help us amplify the Chamber name<br />

and the services we offer to our members<br />

and the wider Black Country community.<br />

What measures do you take to ensure<br />

any apprentices taken on represent the<br />

diverse community you work in?<br />

ASSA ABLOY: As one of the largest<br />

employers in the Black Country we’re<br />

proud of the diversity within our teams –<br />

experience, knowledge and skills. With<br />

this in mind, we embed a culture of<br />

inclusion where all colleagues can thrive,<br />

where all individual contributions have an<br />

impact and where everyone feels seen,<br />

heard and valued for what they bring to<br />

our business.<br />

Crowe: We pride ourselves on making<br />

our application process accessible and<br />

fair – ensuring we assess a profile in full.<br />

Academic qualifications are just part of<br />

the criteria we look at to ensure we hire<br />

the right talent for our business.<br />

Our assessment centres are also<br />

constantly evolving. We strive to ensure<br />

that these are fair and uniform, giving<br />

students a full picture of what an<br />

apprenticeship with Crowe would look<br />

like and how their careers could progress.<br />

We also work with several external<br />

providers who promote careers with our<br />

business – ensuring we are well<br />

represented in the market.<br />

Thursfields: We tap into diverse<br />

“Finding alternative means of<br />

getting to your goal is part of the<br />

process ... the scholarship<br />

programme at Thursfields played<br />

to my strengths...”<br />

Walid Hakem (left)<br />

networks including those of our clients,<br />

universities, local initiatives and<br />

providers to ensure we attract talent from<br />

as wide a pool as possible. Being a<br />

multi-site firm helps us to partner with<br />

networks in the vicinity of our offices,<br />

which goes some way to ensuring we<br />

represent the diverse communities we<br />

work in.<br />

Do you think there is enough support<br />

from Government/local authority for<br />

businesses looking to take on<br />

apprentices? What support have you<br />

accessed?<br />

Thursfields: If there is enough support,<br />

which I have no reason to believe there<br />

isn’t, there is some work to do in making<br />

that support accessible and known to<br />

those that seek it, as it can be quite<br />

difficult to find what you are looking for.<br />

BCC: The West Midlands Combined<br />

Authority signposted us to its partner, the<br />

BBC Apprentice Hub, when we were<br />

looking to fill our new position. The<br />

opportunity at the Chamber was to<br />

employ a content creator and the Hub<br />

had apprentices available that would<br />

meet the needs of our business.<br />

The BBC Apprentice Hub is a great way<br />

for individuals to begin their career in the<br />

creative sector.<br />

Continued on page 36<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 35


Taking the apprenticeship route to the top<br />

Continued from page 35<br />

Have you found it easy to marry your<br />

apprentice up with further/higher<br />

education, if that’s applicable? How do<br />

your links with FE/HE work?<br />

ASSA ABLOY: Once an apprentice<br />

programme has been completed, the<br />

learning doesn’t stop there, we<br />

consistently invest in further education<br />

opportunities aligned to our apprentice’s<br />

personal development plans and skills<br />

needed for their chosen specialism.<br />

We work with multiple further<br />

education providers within the Black<br />

Country to progress our apprentices’<br />

career journeys and have received<br />

excellent support, with a high proportion<br />

achieving first class degrees.<br />

“Do I think more can be done at<br />

sixth form/ school to promote<br />

apprentices? Absolutely. I think<br />

encouraging young people to<br />

partake in learning outside the<br />

classroom through taster days,<br />

placements, internships, or<br />

traineeships will give them real<br />

insights into what an<br />

apprenticeship has to offer.”<br />

Owenia Francis<br />

What’s your post-apprenticeship<br />

strategy?<br />

ASSA ABLOY: It is based on career<br />

plans for key roles and the personal<br />

development of our apprentices, taking<br />

into account their aspirations and vision<br />

for where they want to go within our<br />

business. This is underpinned by learning<br />

and development and succession<br />

planning.<br />

Crowe: We have a long history of<br />

supporting our people through training<br />

programmes and welcomed the<br />

introduction of the higher level<br />

apprenticeship programmes in 2017. We<br />

have had a healthy intake of apprentices<br />

each year, many of whom stay on well<br />

past qualifying.<br />

Thursfields: We have yet to run a<br />

cohort of apprenticeships but we do host<br />

a widening participation programme<br />

aimed at providing work experience and<br />

paid work opportunities for law students<br />

from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic<br />

groups and students of any race from<br />

lower social economic backgrounds.<br />

Lawyers from those backgrounds remain<br />

under-represented in legal services and<br />

we wanted to address that.<br />

Are you looking at taking on more<br />

apprentices in the future?<br />

ASSA ABLOY: As we continue to grow<br />

our business and focus on our strategic<br />

plan, we will identify areas where<br />

apprenticeships complement and<br />

enhance our business needs. This year<br />

we have welcomed apprentices in<br />

operations, customer service, marketing,<br />

and commercial areas and look forward<br />

to welcoming many more into our teams<br />

in future years.<br />

Crowe: As we continue to grow, we<br />

continue to invest in our Early Careers<br />

recruitment, recognising the value it adds<br />

to our business but also how important it<br />

is in the development of the profession<br />

– setting up strong foundations to<br />

support our accountants of the future.<br />

Thursfields: Indeed, we are.<br />

BCC: Our experience to date has been<br />

extremely positive. It is firmly on our<br />

agenda to discuss opportunities that may<br />

arise within the Chamber, where taking<br />

on another apprentice will be of great<br />

benefit for all involved.<br />

The apprentice view...<br />

What benefits do you think you gain<br />

from your experience?<br />

Luke Edgar Hill: I’ve gained hands-on<br />

experience in the industry as well as<br />

targeted support from experienced<br />

colleagues. An apprenticeship is the<br />

start of my pathway to a career in<br />

engineering and has allowed me to<br />

develop more valuable skills in a<br />

workplace environment. I’ve also been<br />

exposed to many projects by shadowing<br />

fellow engineers.<br />

Ross Fletcher: I’ve learned key skills<br />

at an earlier age, such as leadership and<br />

organisation. You also meet lots of other<br />

people in the same situation that you<br />

can share the experience with.<br />

Owenia Francis: I’m gaining an<br />

invaluable understanding of how the<br />

business community operates and<br />

shares knowledge, and how this is made<br />

accessible to the public. As a content<br />

creator I am constantly developing new<br />

skills, from concept planning, digital<br />

marketing, to seeing how a platform<br />

such as <strong>Prosper</strong> is developed.<br />

Walid Hakem: Learning on the job<br />

comes with some auxiliary stresses and<br />

challenges, but managing stress and my<br />

time were skills I believe I have been<br />

able to strengthen.<br />

36 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


The apprentice<br />

view...<br />

Do you think more can be done at sixth<br />

form/ school to promote apprentices,<br />

rather than just the standard ‘apply to<br />

university/college’, and look for work<br />

afterwards?<br />

Luke Edgar Hill: There should be as<br />

much emphasis on apprenticeships at<br />

career evenings and conversations<br />

around the options you choose at each<br />

level of your educational ladder. If careers<br />

officers had a closer relationship with<br />

businesses, they could promote<br />

companies in their different disciplines to<br />

students as an alternative career. This<br />

could be done with companies doing<br />

small presentations to students at the<br />

appropriate times.<br />

Ross Fletcher: Yes, I believe that more<br />

can be done. More companies should go<br />

into schools and present the advantages<br />

of apprenticeships to students, and more<br />

students should be encouraged to attend<br />

apprenticeship fairs. Some students are<br />

simply unaware of the apprenticeship<br />

schemes available that would suit them<br />

better than going to university.<br />

Owenia Francis: Absolutely. I think<br />

encouraging young people to partake in<br />

Luke Edgar Hill: “I’ve gained hands-on<br />

experience in the industry as well as<br />

targeted support from experienced<br />

colleagues... an apprenticeship is the start<br />

of my pathway to a career in engineering...”<br />

learning outside the classroom through<br />

taster days, placements, internships, or<br />

traineeships will give them real insight<br />

into what an apprenticeship has to offer.<br />

Also, incorporating business into schools<br />

through enterprise events, workshops<br />

and careers fairs can help bridge that<br />

gap.<br />

Walid Hakem: Without a doubt. Most<br />

of the time, careers advisors and<br />

teachers promote apprenticeships as an<br />

afterthought or a ‘plan B’, but in the<br />

current atmosphere of diversification,<br />

finding different ways of “doing what’s<br />

best for me” can always be promoted.<br />

Do you think becoming an apprentice<br />

has helped your career?<br />

Luke Edgar Hill: An apprenticeship has<br />

given me a strong foundation in my<br />

career. I’ve learned on the job, putting<br />

into practice my training in a more impactfull<br />

way than just academic lessons. It’s<br />

also helped me build connections and<br />

I’ve had the chance to display some of my<br />

projects to executive team members.<br />

Ross Fletcher: It’s been a great start to<br />

my career; I feel that Crowe has given me<br />

the best possible foundation.<br />

Owenia Francis: I’ve been introduced<br />

to a wide business network through my<br />

work at the Chamber, including links to<br />

other regional chambers and the BBC<br />

Hub. Familiarity is a huge advantage<br />

when it comes to narrowing down a<br />

career path and the commitment to work<br />

and study is highly valued by employers.<br />

Walid Hakem: Taking the path I have<br />

has meant that it has been essential to<br />

my career progression as well as my<br />

personal development. It has been great<br />

Would you recommend other young<br />

people to think of an apprenticeship<br />

rather than going on to FE/HE?<br />

Luke Edgar Hill: The chance to gain<br />

“More companies should go into<br />

schools and present the advantages<br />

of apprenticeships to students... some<br />

students are simply unaware of the<br />

apprenticeships available that would<br />

suit them better than university...”<br />

Ross Fletcher<br />

hands-on experience in your chosen<br />

industry, and receive an industry<br />

recognised qualification, while earning, is<br />

a tremendous advantage.<br />

With HE/FE once you have finished<br />

your qualification you have to apply for a<br />

job, but you’ll be up against candidates<br />

with the same qualification but who have<br />

experience from their apprenticeship,<br />

and they will be more employable.<br />

Ross Fletcher: For those that want to<br />

work in finance, I would definitely<br />

recommend an apprenticeship as an<br />

alternative to going to university.<br />

The opportunity to complete the exams<br />

at an earlier age can speed up your<br />

development and growth.<br />

At a firm such as Crowe you are part of<br />

a large annual intake of other similar-aged<br />

people, not just in your local office but<br />

across the UK, and you can make<br />

friendships and really enjoy the journey<br />

together.<br />

Owenia Francis: If you have a strong<br />

passion for a subject, then university is a<br />

great option. That said, if you are<br />

interested in gaining work experience,<br />

qualifications and earning without<br />

prioritising one over the rest – an<br />

apprenticeship is the way to go.<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 37


Persevere, trust in your<br />

ability and don’t spend<br />

your life thinking ‘if only’<br />

BBC Midlands Today senior<br />

journalist and reporter<br />

James Bovill talks to <strong>Prosper</strong><br />

about setting career goals, how to<br />

ignore imposter syndrome and<br />

learning from life’s knock-backs<br />

Sometimes, though as a journalist you<br />

hate to admit it, only a good oldfashioned<br />

cliché nails the truth.<br />

Here’s one: ‘Nothing worth having ever<br />

comes easy.’<br />

It’s a phrase that’s as hackneyed and<br />

over-used as they come, with its<br />

originator allegedly former US President<br />

Theodore Roosevelt.<br />

But while such clichés are always best<br />

avoided, on this occasion James Bovill<br />

may just give it a nod of approval.<br />

“I’ve got another one for you,” he<br />

suggested, in a reference to his own<br />

career path: “You don’t always get what you<br />

want, but it can be for the right reason!”<br />

In James’s case, the two phrases sum<br />

up his journey to a dream job on BBC<br />

Midlands Today, which has included a few<br />

knock-backs and disappointments along<br />

the way. With this issue of <strong>Prosper</strong><br />

focused on apprentices and the next<br />

generation of our workforce, it seemed<br />

appropriate to ask for his views on<br />

planning a career, how to handle life’s<br />

hiccups and dealing with imposter<br />

syndrome – that feeling that despite your<br />

success, you don’t quite deserve it.<br />

James’s career has led him from<br />

university to PR, broadcast production<br />

and back to PR before a return to the<br />

BBC and the role that he had always<br />

hankered after. “As a child I used to<br />

dream of being on the TV and presenting<br />

the news. I just didn’t know how to go<br />

about getting into journalism, so PR<br />

seemed the easiest path into the media<br />

world.”<br />

But there was always an “itch to<br />

scratch about becoming a journalist, so<br />

despite being in a well-paid PR role, I took<br />

a gamble and left to study broadcast<br />

journalism for six months. It was a risk<br />

– and I’ve always thought of myself as risk<br />

averse, so it came as something of a<br />

shock to find myself doing it!”<br />

By working hard he made his way<br />

through a variety of roles, as a reporter<br />

and producer for radio at BBC WM and 5<br />

Live, and as a political reporter across TV,<br />

radio and online, but ultimately felt<br />

disillusioned with where his career was<br />

going. “It wasn’t what I wanted. I never felt<br />

I was getting everything I wanted out of<br />

the job, and went back to comms – with<br />

“The process of missing out was<br />

important; I learned from my<br />

mistakes, understood what I did<br />

wrong ... believing in yourself is<br />

incredibly important – get in that<br />

interview room and say to yourself,<br />

I’m the best person for the job”<br />

Midlands Connect and then the<br />

Commonwealth Games.”<br />

But he always knew the role he wanted<br />

was to be on TV, reporting on the West<br />

Midlands; “I’m no daredevil, but I looked<br />

at where I was at the time and thought<br />

‘I’m not stopping here.’ I wanted to prove<br />

myself in journalism, so took another risk<br />

and left PR again. It didn’t feel like<br />

journalism or bust... but I was determined<br />

to land my dream job – whatever shape it<br />

would take.”<br />

Four interviews for senior journalist<br />

roles with the BBC came and went with<br />

no success but lots of lessons were<br />

learned from the experience – proof,<br />

perhaps, that it is the knockbacks in life<br />

that make you stronger.<br />

“I began to question myself; was I good<br />

enough? It’s a situation everyone faces at<br />

some point, but I also knew that if I<br />

persevered, and put the work in, I’d get to<br />

where I needed to be. I just needed to<br />

believe in myself.”<br />

The fifth interview proved the charm. “I<br />

still felt insecure going in - I was told there<br />

was an extremely high level of interest in<br />

the role, and reminded that BBC TV<br />

reporter roles come up very rarely.<br />

“But the process of missing out<br />

previously was important; I learned from<br />

my mistakes, understood what had gone<br />

wrong and found out why the successful<br />

candidates had stood out. I spoke to the<br />

interview team beforehand and asked<br />

what they wanted – I was just told ‘give us<br />

something that amazes us, a story that<br />

we didn’t expect.’<br />

“I applied myself, thought up a story<br />

that might get their attention and filmed<br />

it for them, on knife crime in the<br />

Midlands. They responded really<br />

positively, and it was that story that won<br />

me the role on BBC Midlands Today.<br />

“My advice to anyone: don’t be put off<br />

by failure; learn from your mistakes.”<br />

James still admits to suffering from<br />

‘imposter syndrome’ – that feeling that<br />

you’re going to get found out at some<br />

point. But looking back at former bosses<br />

he has had, he realised that the thing that<br />

connects them is “they were all very<br />

confident in their ability. They feel that<br />

they own the role they have. It’s<br />

important to have confidence in your own<br />

ability. You have to believe in yourself. Get<br />

in that interview room and say to yourself<br />

‘I’m the best person for this job.’<br />

But even those at the top can suffer<br />

from imposter syndrome to some<br />

degree: “It feels like it is as prevalent the<br />

higher up you go - almost as if people<br />

think, ‘I’m bound to get found out here.’<br />

For young people making their way in<br />

their career, it’s important that they can<br />

38 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

NEWS<br />

James in the studio:<br />

“If you love something,<br />

make a career out of it. If<br />

you can be an expert in<br />

something that you love<br />

doing anyway, you’ll never<br />

‘work’ a day in your life; it<br />

will all be fun that you’re<br />

being paid to do.”<br />

see someone like them in the role. “I<br />

think imposter syndrome kicks in<br />

strongest where people don’t see others<br />

like them in a role, whether it’s on TV,<br />

elsewhere in the media, in a factory or in<br />

the office. When people come from a<br />

minority – and here we can include<br />

women looking to get on in any maledominated<br />

environment – they can feel<br />

that a job isn’t for them.<br />

“But that’s wrong; every job is open to<br />

everyone who has the talent, the skill, the<br />

acumen and the drive.”<br />

His key advice to young people is to<br />

accept that things won’t always go your<br />

way but to keep on pushing. It also always<br />

helps if your career is doing something<br />

that you are passionate about. “If you<br />

love something, make a career out of it. If<br />

you can be an expert in something that<br />

you love doing anyway, you’ll never ‘work’<br />

a day in your life; it will all be fun that<br />

you’re being paid to do.”<br />

Luck plays its part, too: “In many ways I<br />

was fortunate in that I found the people<br />

who believed in me. That’s important.”<br />

“There are many different pathways to<br />

get to where you want to be. The first job I<br />

applied for was in marketing at the<br />

University of Nottingham, where I’d just<br />

graduated with a history degree. I missed<br />

out on the job to someone with more<br />

experience. It upset me at the time but<br />

looking back, it feels like everything<br />

happens for a reason. You have to learn<br />

to roll with life; it’s a wave of emotions,<br />

but the negative feelings we all<br />

experience do come and go. Trust that.”<br />

Be prepared to be bold, too. “I said<br />

before, I always thought of myself as risk<br />

averse but looking back, I’ve made two<br />

big leaps that ultimately, paid off.<br />

“If you really want something, ask<br />

yourself, if you go for it and fail, what’s the<br />

worst that can happen?”<br />

“Trust in your own instincts and your<br />

ability. You will have moments of stress<br />

and anxiety, but it all works out in the<br />

long run.”<br />

As far as he’s concerned, James still<br />

says he’s “ambitious and eager to see<br />

where my career takes me, but at<br />

moment I love my role.”<br />

“I’ve grown in confidence. I feel<br />

comfortable in my role on BBC Midlands<br />

Today. I understand where I’m going with<br />

stories and can relate to the people I’m<br />

talking to. I know my job. I have a new<br />

confidence.<br />

“If there’s anything to be taken from my<br />

career it’s that you must never be afraid<br />

to go for something and fail; never live<br />

your life wishing, ‘if only I’d taken a<br />

chance and gone for it’.”<br />

“Failure will help you as much as<br />

success in the long run. It’s the knockbacks<br />

that helped me understand where I<br />

wanted to go and developed me most as<br />

a person. They boosted my resilience and<br />

helped build the person I am today.”<br />

Perhaps a classic case of ‘whatever<br />

doesn’t kill you...’<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 39


HS2: What’s in it for me?<br />

While it was hugely disappointing to<br />

learn of the cancellation of the<br />

northern leg of HS2, there are still<br />

significant benefits and funding<br />

promises to consider. <strong>Prosper</strong> takes<br />

a look at some of the benefits...<br />

The highlights:<br />

n £2.7 billion investment for the<br />

region’s transport infrastructure secured<br />

by Transport for West Midlands.<br />

n Immediate £100 million for existing<br />

metro extensions.<br />

n £1.75 billion allocated for<br />

development of the Midlands Rail Hub.<br />

n Additional funding secured, including<br />

£250 million for transport network<br />

stability, £700 million for various<br />

transport infrastructure improvements,<br />

and a share of £100 million for expanding<br />

contactless smart ticketing.<br />

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM)<br />

has secured more than £2.7 billion<br />

investment for the region’s transport<br />

infrastructure. This funding, to be<br />

disbursed over the next decade, comes<br />

as a response to the cancellation of HS2<br />

Phase 2. TfWM, part of the West Midlands<br />

Combined Authority (WMCA), will receive<br />

an immediate £100 million for existing<br />

metro extensions, including completing<br />

the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro<br />

extension and advancing development<br />

work at Arden Cross, near the HS2<br />

Interchange Station.<br />

One of the most noteworthy projects is<br />

the Midlands Rail Hub, with £1.75 billion<br />

allocated for its development. This<br />

initiative aims to enhance capacity,<br />

introduce new services, and improve<br />

journey times on rail lines connecting<br />

Birmingham to key locations like Bristol,<br />

Cardiff, Leicester, and Nuneaton. This<br />

includes the construction of new links,<br />

the Bordesley Chords, which will open up<br />

more platforms at Moor Street Station<br />

and enable new stations on the Sutton<br />

Park line.<br />

The region has also secured additional<br />

funding, including £250 million for<br />

transport network stability, £700 million<br />

for various transport infrastructure<br />

improvements, and a share of £100<br />

million for expanding contactless smart<br />

ticketing.<br />

Furthermore, there is a commitment<br />

to nationwide schemes which will benefit<br />

the West Midlands. These include<br />

significant investments in roads and the<br />

extension of the £2 single bus fare cap.<br />

While there is disappointment on the<br />

cancellation of high-speed rail links to<br />

Manchester and the East Midlands<br />

Parkway, regional leaders are focused on<br />

alternative solutions. The Mayor, Andy<br />

Street, is working in close collaboration<br />

with the private sector and other UK<br />

regional leaders.<br />

Acknowledging the significance, he<br />

says, “This nearly £3billion investment<br />

commitment secured from Government<br />

will help to significantly transform and<br />

upgrade our region’s transport<br />

infrastructure in the months and years<br />

ahead.<br />

“We’ve not hidden our disappointment<br />

with regards to the HS2 announcement,<br />

but it’s good news that this funding will<br />

enable us to bring forward various<br />

projects - including metro extensions,<br />

walking, and cycling routes and, of<br />

course, the game-changing Midlands Rail<br />

Hub. We also remain committed to<br />

advancing alternative future high-speed<br />

rail proposals.<br />

“The West Midlands economy remains<br />

resilient and – aided by our region’s<br />

diverse business community – is in a<br />

strong position in terms of economic<br />

stability, skills provision, and job<br />

prospects for our residents. The WMCA<br />

will continue to engage with local<br />

businesses to ensure they are made<br />

aware of the opportunities available to<br />

them.”<br />

Investment in public transport and<br />

active travel networks is a central part of<br />

WMCA’s strategy to connect people to<br />

jobs and leisure opportunities and<br />

achieve a net-zero carbon region by 2041.<br />

Local leaders emphasise the<br />

importance of local businesses seizing<br />

the opportunities offered by the wider<br />

economic and social benefits. The region<br />

is on track to achieve significant job<br />

creation, new housing development, and<br />

improvements in public transport<br />

infrastructure. This growth allows<br />

regional companies to innovate, diversify,<br />

and become industry leaders.<br />

What’s more, the West Midlands is<br />

determined to continue pushing for HS2<br />

phases 2A and 2B, and to capitalise on<br />

the opportunities and benefits that<br />

remain available to the region,<br />

emphasising the wider growth<br />

opportunities and development in various<br />

sectors.<br />

Want to know more?<br />

If you would like to find out how your<br />

business can make the most of this<br />

once-in-a-lifetime opportunity contact<br />

Kirstie Blakeman, HS2 Delivery Manager<br />

at West Midlands Combined Authority<br />

(kirstie.blakeman@tfwm.org.uk) or visit<br />

https://www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/<br />

hs2-what-s-in-it-for-me/.<br />

40 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Rise of cyber warfare: The<br />

growing threat of attacks –<br />

and the impact on business<br />

In our increasingly digital world, safeguarding your business<br />

against cyber threats is paramount. With cyber attacks on<br />

the rise, <strong>Prosper</strong> spoke to James Cash, Managing Director<br />

at Superfast IT, the Chamber’s new IT provider, for advice.<br />

The current risk of cyber-attacks in<br />

Western society is, arguably, as high as it<br />

has ever been. Following Russia’s attack<br />

on Ukraine in early 2022, the National<br />

Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) urged UK<br />

organisations to bolster their online<br />

defences. Similarly, the Cybersecurity<br />

and Infrastructure Security Agency<br />

(CISA) and FBI warned of heightened<br />

threats to US organisations.<br />

There is no doubt that during times of<br />

global change and unrest, cyber security<br />

becomes a battlefield of its own and both<br />

state and non-state actors have<br />

increasingly turned to cyber attacks as a<br />

way to gain an advantage in warfare.<br />

Furthermore, with enhanced<br />

technology and an increasing number of<br />

devices connected to the internet, the<br />

scope and complexity for cyber attacks<br />

has grown dramatically.<br />

Cyber warfare can take many forms,<br />

including hacking into enemy state<br />

computer systems, spreading malware,<br />

and launching denial-of-service attacks.<br />

Entire towns and cities could be cut off<br />

from information, services and<br />

infrastructure that has become essential<br />

to the way we live such as electricity,<br />

online banking systems and internet, if a<br />

cyber threat is able to infiltrate the right<br />

systems.<br />

According to the European Union<br />

Agency for Network and Information<br />

Security (ENISA), the threat to critical<br />

infrastructure from cyber warfare is<br />

significant and growing. Its report on the<br />

‘Threat Landscape for Foreign<br />

Information Manipulation Interference<br />

(FIMI)’ highlights that critical<br />

infrastructure, such as energy, transport,<br />

and healthcare, is particularly vulnerable<br />

to cyber-attacks in times of war or<br />

political tension. In addition, cyber attacks<br />

can also disrupt financial systems,<br />

causing immediate economic damage<br />

and impacting individuals.<br />

The report states that although<br />

citizens are not the primary target, they<br />

represented a secondary target in more<br />

than half of the events that were<br />

analysed. Cyber attacks are particularly<br />

useful in manipulating perceptions en<br />

masse through, at the lowest level,<br />

inconvenience, up to the highest level<br />

which could result in the loss of life.<br />

The frequency of attempted cyberattacks<br />

against Ukraine serves to<br />

highlight that cyber threats can have<br />

devastating effects and will play a crucial<br />

role in deciding the outcome of the war.<br />

Another challenge with cyber-attacks is<br />

the threat actor’s ability to remain<br />

anonymous, making it difficult to<br />

attribute the attack to a specific<br />

individual or group.<br />

The use of private companies and<br />

individuals as proxies in cyber-attacks<br />

only serve to further complicate matters<br />

and in the initial stages of an attack, it<br />

may be difficult to fully appreciate the<br />

extent of the risks posed and true<br />

motivations behind it.<br />

The risk to businesses as the use of<br />

cyber warfare increases<br />

War and military conflicts can create a<br />

business environment that is conducive<br />

to cyber-attacks, as adversaries may seek<br />

to target businesses or sectors that are<br />

seen as important to a country’s<br />

economy or infrastructure. They may also<br />

42 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Did you know.... <br />

n There are nearly 4,000 new<br />

cyber attacks per day<br />

n Every 14 seconds a business falls<br />

victim to ransomware<br />

n Circa 500,000 pieces of Malware<br />

detected every day<br />

n Human error accounts for 95% of<br />

all data breaches<br />

n 43% of cyber attacks target small<br />

business<br />

n 75% of cyber attacks start with an<br />

email<br />

n 32% of UK businesses reported<br />

suffering an attack or breach<br />

between 2022 and <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Food for thought!<br />

go for symbolic targets such as media<br />

outlets or high-profile brands associated<br />

with a nation state. Additionally, the use<br />

of cyber attacks in war can also create a<br />

general sense of chaos and uncertainty,<br />

which can be used to exploit<br />

vulnerabilities in businesses’ cyber<br />

defences.<br />

Cyber attacks on a company’s<br />

computer systems, networks and servers<br />

can cause delays and shutdowns, which<br />

can lead to a direct loss of productivity<br />

and revenue. However, they can also<br />

damage reputation, lead to regulatory<br />

action being taken (resulting in the<br />

possible imposition of fines) and result in<br />

loss of customers. The global cost of<br />

cybercrime was estimated at $8.4 trillion<br />

in 2022, and is set to surpass the $11<br />

trillion mark in <strong>2023</strong>. By 2026, annual<br />

cybercrime costs worldwide could exceed<br />

$20 trillion, demonstrating the extent of<br />

the damage caused by such incidents.<br />

Another risk is the potential for a cyber<br />

attack to exfiltrate sensitive information,<br />

such as intellectual property, financial<br />

data, and personal data of employees and<br />

customers. This information can be used<br />

for economic espionage, corporate<br />

sabotage, or even used as leverage in<br />

negotiations. Additionally, cyber attackers<br />

can also use this stolen data to<br />

impersonate the company or its<br />

employees and launch further attacks.<br />

Data and information that is stored by<br />

businesses is at great risk, including for<br />

those businesses which are, or have<br />

previously been, engaged in business<br />

with Ukraine.<br />

At times of unrest, whether political<br />

unrest, or global health challenges such<br />

as Covid-19, businesses should ensure<br />

they are not only vigilant but prepared for<br />

cyber security risks.<br />

To mitigate these risks, businesses<br />

should take proactive steps to strengthen<br />

their cyber defences, including being<br />

self-critical of existing defences through<br />

routine auditing and third-party testing.<br />

Training employees on how to identify<br />

and respond to cyber threats is also<br />

important.<br />

Additionally, businesses should<br />

regularly conduct security assessments<br />

to identify vulnerabilities and implement<br />

mitigation strategies.<br />

The importance of cyber security for<br />

ALL businesses!!<br />

Here are some key tips to consider:<br />

Hackers don’t always target the<br />

business – they will often target the<br />

vulnerabilities of a website. If your<br />

website has vulnerabilities and they<br />

notice, you will be targeted.<br />

You don’t think you will be targeted<br />

– Hackers know you aren’t worrying<br />

about a cyber attack. Because of this they<br />

know it’s likely to be much easier to gain<br />

access to your data than a company<br />

actively investing in their cyber risk.<br />

Data grows quickly – You may only<br />

think that you are a small business, but<br />

your data might tell a different story. The<br />

data you collect snowballs, and it is really<br />

easy to lose track of it. Before you know it<br />

you have thousands of pieces of data and<br />

it will be at risk if your systems are<br />

compromised.<br />

You have big clients – You may not be<br />

a business with seven-figure revenue but<br />

one of your clients may be. If they gain<br />

access to your systems, they may then be<br />

able to find a back door into your biggest<br />

client’s systems.<br />

Protecting your devices and data is<br />

extremely important and if you don’t have<br />

a combination of the right cyber-security<br />

and cyber insurance in place, it could<br />

prove devastating for you, your clients<br />

and your business.<br />

Turn over for more information on why you<br />

need to step up your cyber security, from<br />

the EBC Group<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 43


EBC Group’s cyber security event focuses on<br />

digital security and reducing business risk<br />

EBC Group<br />

Cyber Security Event<br />

Friday, 13th October<br />

On Friday, 13th October, EBC Group<br />

hosted a thought-provoking and<br />

informative cyber security event featuring<br />

a line-up of highly knowledgeable<br />

speakers from various industries.<br />

The event also had the privilege of<br />

hosting special guest speaker, Andy<br />

Gomarsall, a fomer England rugby<br />

international.<br />

Attendees gathered to delve into<br />

pressing topics concerning the world of<br />

cyber security, gaining insights that are<br />

critical to secure the defences of your<br />

business.<br />

There was emphasis on the paramount<br />

importance of maintaining secure<br />

networks, the necessity of implementing<br />

robust security measures, and an<br />

eye-opening statistic in which “there are<br />

soon to be 700 billion devices connected<br />

to the internet.”<br />

These revelations underlined the<br />

urgent need for heightened cyber<br />

security measures.<br />

The audience took a deep dive into the<br />

ever-evolving cyber threat landscape,<br />

gaining valuable insights into the current<br />

state of cyber threats and practical<br />

measures to reduce exposure and risk.<br />

Another particularly alarming statistic<br />

was that “Approximately 42% of ALL<br />

reported crime is cyber crime.” Given that<br />

cyber crimes are often heavily<br />

underreported, this fact proved to be<br />

even more concerning. The anonymity of<br />

cybercriminals, often operating through<br />

VPNs, poses a significant challenge for<br />

law enforcement.<br />

During the event, attendees were also<br />

informed on how businesses can protect<br />

themselves through the power of Cyber<br />

Essentials, and were offered insights into<br />

the process of penetration testing. The<br />

urgency of these measures was put into<br />

perspective when the audience were told<br />

that “60% of small businesses that suffer<br />

a cyber attack go out of business within<br />

six months.”<br />

Cyber threats are continually evolving,<br />

and it has become crucial for businesses<br />

to secure comprehensive insurance<br />

policies to mitigate financial risks in the<br />

event of a cyber-attack.<br />

One of the key questions addressed<br />

was “what Happens in the event of a<br />

Cyber Attack?”, attendees gained an<br />

understanding of how to respond<br />

effectively and minimise the damage<br />

caused, a vital component of any cyber<br />

security strategy.<br />

To bring the afternoon to a close,<br />

special guest speaker Andy Gomarsall<br />

Missed out but want to know more?<br />

This Cyber Security event offered a FREE cyber security risk assessment for<br />

businesses, exclusively for all attendees, and we would now like to extend that<br />

offer to the wider public.<br />

To do so please navigate to the following URL: www.ebcgroup.co.uk/cyber-event<br />

and fill out the form to claim your FREE assessment.<br />

For more information about the event or to enquire about future events and<br />

opportunities, contact EBC Group at hello@ebcgroup.co.uk or 0121 368 0154.<br />

Left, a police<br />

warning of the<br />

prevalence of<br />

cyber crime... and<br />

here’s another<br />

sobering stat:<br />

“60% of small<br />

businesses that<br />

suffer a cyberattack<br />

go out of<br />

business within<br />

six months.”<br />

gave a captivating presentation in which<br />

he showcased the importance of proper<br />

destruction of data, providing a unique<br />

perspective on the intersection of cyber<br />

security and sustainability.<br />

Andy told some captivating stories<br />

from his career as a professional rugby<br />

player, in particular focusing on his time<br />

during the 2003 World Cup in which<br />

England emerged the victors.<br />

EBC Group was thrilled to have hosted<br />

this insightful and dynamic cyber security<br />

event. Its success reaffirms the<br />

commitment to promoting awareness<br />

and an understanding of cyber security in<br />

a world that is becoming increasingly<br />

more digital each and every year.<br />

About EBC Group<br />

EBC Group is an award-winning<br />

managed IT service provider of IT &<br />

Telephony Solutions, Cloud hosting,<br />

Cyber Security, Print & Data Solutions.<br />

As an integrated managed IT service<br />

provider, EBC Group plans, implements<br />

and supports its client’s IT and<br />

technology, enabling them to run their<br />

businesses smoothly and securely. EBC<br />

Group has been providing technology<br />

solutions for 35 years to ensure its<br />

clients’ businesses are running efficiently<br />

at all levels of their operations.<br />

More at www.ebcgroup.co.uk,<br />

via 0121 368 0154<br />

or email: hello@ebcgroup.co.uk<br />

44 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Dementia in the workplace:<br />

it’s an increasing concern<br />

The word dementia conjures up vivid<br />

images in the minds of many – likely to<br />

be of elderly people, perhaps those in<br />

care homes. Certainly not those who are<br />

still going out to work each day.<br />

And yet that’s an increasing likelihood,<br />

says Paycare CEO Anthony Burns, in a<br />

world where not only are diagnoses of<br />

dementia increasing, but the number of<br />

people working past retirement age is<br />

on the rise.<br />

It’s estimated 9% of over 65s currently<br />

have dementia, and more than 1 million<br />

will be living with the condition before<br />

the end of the decade. For workers over<br />

65, that figure is around 12%. That<br />

means in the Black Country, we have<br />

around 19,700 people with dementia,<br />

and around 26,000 older workers.<br />

Which brings us back to the likelihood<br />

that we’ll see more people who start<br />

experiencing the first symptoms of<br />

dementia – including Alzheimer’s,<br />

vascular and dementia with Lewy bodies<br />

(DLB) – before they retire.<br />

And that means it’s something that<br />

employers need to be aware of, because<br />

colleagues and team managers who<br />

work closely with the person on a<br />

day-to-day basis are so well placed to<br />

notice the first signs. And with a<br />

degenerative disease such as dementia,<br />

early diagnosis is extremely helpful.<br />

With slightly different symptoms for<br />

each of the types, it’s important to have<br />

a thorough overview of what the early<br />

symptoms of dementia may look like,<br />

depending whether the person has<br />

Alzheimer’s (thinking and reasoning<br />

problems, changes in mood, and<br />

changes to how they see and hear<br />

things), vascular (difficulties following a<br />

set of instructions, short periods of<br />

sudden confusion, problems making<br />

decisions) or DLB (thinking, movement<br />

and mood), for example.<br />

And it’s also important to be aware<br />

that dementia doesn’t only affect over<br />

65s (although the chance of being<br />

diagnosed doubles roughly every five<br />

years post that age); there’s also<br />

early-onset or young-onset, which could<br />

first present itself with symptoms such<br />

as struggling to judge distances,<br />

problems finding the right word or<br />

behaving in socially-inappropriate ways.<br />

For employers concerned about the<br />

holistic health of their team members,<br />

it’s clear why having an awareness of<br />

dementia is increasingly vital. But<br />

there’s also another reason why<br />

attention on the subject is crucial. Of<br />

those one million people expected to be<br />

living with dementia by 2030, most will<br />

have children, nieces and nephews,<br />

grandchildren, neighbours or friends<br />

who may take on a caring role for them<br />

and who are also likely to experience the<br />

“It’s estimated 9% of over 65s currently have<br />

dementia ... for workers over 65, that figure<br />

stands around 12%. That means in the Black<br />

Country, we have around 19,700 people with<br />

dementia and around 26,000 older workers...”<br />

emotional repercussions of watching a<br />

loved one experience a degenerative<br />

disease.<br />

That means a significant proportion of<br />

employees are likely to know someone<br />

who has dementia, and may need extra<br />

understanding (and flexible working<br />

solutions) while they navigate juggling<br />

their working life with the additional<br />

responsibilities they may be taking on.<br />

This could be involvement in day–to-day<br />

care as the person becomes unable to<br />

dress, feed or wash themselves, it could<br />

involve supporting with medical needs<br />

such as attending appointments, and it<br />

could also involve taking on the role of<br />

Lasting Power of Attorney to deal with<br />

decisions relating to health and/or<br />

finances once the person is deemed<br />

unable to do so themselves.<br />

Whatever ways that person’s life is<br />

affected by knowing someone with<br />

dementia, having an empathetic<br />

employer is going to make a huge<br />

difference: no one needs the stress of<br />

also being worried that their job may be<br />

at risk, or that they can’t disclose what’s<br />

going on because they’re expected to<br />

leave their personal life at the door.<br />

As well as cultivating a working culture<br />

that sees employees feel able to broach<br />

the subject and speak up if they need<br />

support – either because of concerns<br />

around their own health or because<br />

they’re caring for someone with<br />

dementia – there are also many<br />

practicalities which can be implemented<br />

to make life a little easier. Whether it’s<br />

support from a confidential telephone<br />

counselling line, the ability to work<br />

flexible hours or from different locations<br />

(where appropriate), or services which<br />

enable them to speedily access an<br />

effective range of healthcare – there are<br />

many ways having a robust Workplace<br />

Wellbeing strategy is going to make all<br />

the difference in their time of need.<br />

Sadly, dementia and the workplace<br />

are no longer two separate entities – and<br />

increasing numbers of people who have<br />

dementia or care for someone who does,<br />

while also working, means it needs to<br />

move higher up the agenda of employers<br />

who aren’t already dementia-savvy.<br />

Anthony Burns, CEO, Paycare<br />

46 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Working policies: time to think again<br />

flexibly as men; clearly then, flexible<br />

working done well is an opportunity to<br />

grow and to develop talent pools and to<br />

increase accessibility in the workplace.<br />

“But if companies aren’t tracking the<br />

success or the impact of flexible/ hybrid<br />

working then they are operating in total<br />

limbo. This is an opportunity to develop a<br />

workplace of the future – which is being<br />

wasted according to this new data.”<br />

42% of managers don’t know<br />

their company’s flexible<br />

working policy. Do you?<br />

42% of HR managers are not tracking<br />

their flexible or hybrid working policies,<br />

according to new research.<br />

Now, before you gasp too much in<br />

shock, here’s a question: What’s your<br />

company’s flexible working policy?<br />

The research by campaign group<br />

Pregnant Then Screwed surveyed 260<br />

HR managers and found that 41.8% of HR<br />

managers do not monitor the impact of a<br />

flexible working/ hybrid policy at all. And<br />

just 40% of HR managers said that they<br />

have had training for supporting teams in<br />

a hybrid working world.<br />

The Flexible Working Bill received<br />

Royal Assent in June <strong>2023</strong>. Its official<br />

description reads: ‘A Bill to make<br />

provision in relation to the right of<br />

employees and other workers to request<br />

variations to particular terms and<br />

conditions of employment, including<br />

working hours, times and locations.’<br />

Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of<br />

Pregnant Then Screwed said: “A lack of<br />

flexible working is bad for business and<br />

bad for inclusivity.<br />

“Time and time again, research has<br />

shown that flexible working has many<br />

benefits, but if employers don’t track it<br />

then they can’t make impactful and<br />

data-driven decisions about where and<br />

when their employees work, and they are<br />

more likely to revert to less impactful<br />

conventional ways of working.<br />

“We need to start taking flexible<br />

working seriously.’’<br />

Alison Wilde, co-founder of people<br />

transformation consultancy Birdsoup<br />

added that there is a risk of losing staff if<br />

companies don’t begin to get with the<br />

flexible working and hybrid programme.<br />

“If companies don’t want to lose valued<br />

people, then they need to put in a well<br />

thought-out suite of interventions<br />

designed to retain and grow them,” she<br />

said. “Women are twice as likely to work<br />

Three simple steps to understanding<br />

your company’s policy are:<br />

Get yourself informed<br />

First things first: if you don’t know what<br />

your company’s stance on this is, and<br />

what policy is in place, it’s time to find out.<br />

Or be the person who begins to introduce<br />

it in your company. Research the bill, find<br />

out what your company already offers.<br />

This affects you, as well, after all, as you<br />

might want flexible or hybrid working.<br />

Define flexible vs hybrid<br />

These are two different things. Just like<br />

your company has ‘values’, define what<br />

‘flexible’ and ‘hybrid’ means for your<br />

company. This might involve a lot of<br />

research, and setting new values and<br />

standards to working practices. Flexible<br />

could just be the hours people work,<br />

while hybrid could be the place(s) they<br />

work. In theory, you could have someone<br />

working a flexible, hybrid working pattern.<br />

Be the one to drive the change<br />

No policy? Then it’s time to seriously<br />

think about what you offer and how that<br />

needs to change.<br />

It’s not enough to be in that 42%, and if<br />

you are, you’ll be driving change which<br />

will be career defining.<br />

Flexible working highlights<br />

• One study has found that a<br />

staggering 73% of executives surveyed<br />

admitted that their approach to<br />

implementing the return-to-office<br />

policy post Covid had been flawed.<br />

The impulse to revert to pre-pandemic<br />

norms may have overshadowed a more<br />

nuanced understanding of the evolving<br />

needs and preferences of their<br />

workforce.<br />

• Should workers be forced to go<br />

into the office? In a survey by<br />

Censuswide on behalf of flexible office<br />

experts Space32, just over half of Brits<br />

(53%) agreed employers have the right<br />

to ask their teams to return to the<br />

office five days a week. Only 11% of<br />

Brits said that they “disagreed” or<br />

“strongly disagreed” that employers<br />

had the right.<br />

• Brits aged 35-44 were the most<br />

likely to agree that employers could<br />

enforce full-time office work; 61% of<br />

this age group agreed that bosses<br />

were within their rights to impose this.<br />

• The survey found that working<br />

from home is the number one perk for<br />

office workers, with more than half of<br />

respondents (51%) saying they would<br />

sacrifice other benefits to keep it.<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 47


New Business Council ushers<br />

in exciting partnership era<br />

<strong>Prosper</strong> spoke to Baroness Martha Lane Fox, President at the British<br />

Chambers of Commerce, about the newly launched Business Council and the<br />

Chamber’s work with politicians to ensure the voice of business is heard.<br />

The clock is ticking to a General Election,<br />

with the economy likely to be front and<br />

centre of the campaign to come.<br />

Now more than ever, it’s crucial that<br />

the voice of business is heard.<br />

The British Chambers of Commerce is<br />

working every day to make sure<br />

politicians understand what firms in the<br />

Black Country and across the UK need.<br />

Our unique Chamber network allows the<br />

BCC to advocate on behalf of the<br />

businesses of all shapes and sizes in all<br />

parts of the country.<br />

We now have an extra tool in our<br />

armoury – the Business Council. It held<br />

its inaugural meeting in September at<br />

the House of Lords. It brings together<br />

some of the most prominent British firms<br />

to work in partnership with politicians to<br />

drive the future of the economy.<br />

Aviva, Heathrow and Intuit are among<br />

the companies already signed up to this<br />

important new venture. These<br />

businesses want to be part of a<br />

framework that’s rooted in local<br />

communities, but with the ability to<br />

shape the national and international<br />

debate. We’re only at the start of the<br />

long-term Business Council project –<br />

we’re well on track to hit our target of 25<br />

firms by the end of the year.<br />

Meeting regularly, the Business<br />

Council is focusing on five key<br />

challenges. They are the issues we know<br />

all businesses, whether large or small,<br />

are facing right now.<br />

They are:<br />

n the digital revolution<br />

n people and work<br />

n green innovation<br />

n global Britain; and<br />

n local economy of the future.<br />

The council will make recommendations<br />

that feed directly into a policy document<br />

published early next year aimed at<br />

Baroness Martha Lane Fox<br />

influencing the party manifestos ahead<br />

of the election.<br />

After the UK has gone to the polls,<br />

whenever that might be, the council will<br />

work to help the next Government, from<br />

whichever party, to set a business-backed<br />

agenda from day one – and establish a<br />

long-term strategy for growth. We’ll<br />

making sure the voice of commerce is<br />

heard.<br />

There’s no time to waste. All the BCC’s<br />

data shows the economy is stuck in first<br />

gear with almost no growth. We’re<br />

predicting less than 1% of economic<br />

growth for each of the next three years.<br />

Faced with unprecedented headwinds of<br />

high inflation, rising interest rates,<br />

challenging trading conditions and a tight<br />

labour market, businesses are not<br />

“The economy is stuck in first gear with almost no<br />

growth... faced with unprecedented headwinds,<br />

businesses are not investing. They need clarity,<br />

certainty and confidence about the future...”<br />

investing. They need clarity, certainty and<br />

confidence about the future. The<br />

expertise and experience that our<br />

Business Council members bring to the<br />

table allows for a powerful debate about<br />

the problems. But it also helps identify<br />

the practical solutions.<br />

The Business Council is already having<br />

an impact – politicians are engaged. At<br />

the first meeting members were joined<br />

by the Levelling Up Secretary Michael<br />

Gove for the Government – and Labour’s<br />

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves. Two<br />

senior politicians getting round the table<br />

listening to the voice of business, thanks<br />

to the BCC. In recent weeks, smaller<br />

groups have started discussing the five<br />

challenges.<br />

In the Black Country<br />

So how will the Business Council help<br />

Chamber members in the Black Country?<br />

It strengthens the BCC’s voice and<br />

profile with national politicians at this<br />

crucial time for the economy. The big<br />

firms understand the power of the<br />

Chamber network – many of them have<br />

been local members for many years.<br />

A strong BCC means a strong<br />

Chamber network and businesses up<br />

and down the country.<br />

Alongside the Business Council work,<br />

we will also campaign hard for policy<br />

changes on a range of issues we know<br />

really matter to the tens of thousands of<br />

SMEs in our membership. Whether that’s<br />

calls for reform of the apprenticeship<br />

levy, improvements to the energy grid,<br />

strengthened UK-EU relations to help<br />

trade and investment, or major<br />

48 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

Michael Gove chaired the first meeting of the<br />

BCC Business Council at the House of Lords,<br />

which was also attended by Shadow Chancellor<br />

for Labour, Rachel Reeves (inset)<br />

improvements to the planning system,<br />

we’re focused on the crucial issues that<br />

matter to you.<br />

Everything we do as an organisation is<br />

about making the UK the best place to<br />

start and grow a business. The Business<br />

Council is all about partnership. We know<br />

that the economy thrives when business<br />

and politicians work together.<br />

For over 160 years, we’ve been serving<br />

British business – that’s all because of<br />

our local roots, national influence and<br />

global reach. Despite the ongoing<br />

economic challenges we’re all facing at<br />

the moment, I’m always heartened by the<br />

can-do entrepreneurial attitude of British<br />

business.<br />

As an organisation we’re committed to<br />

creating and sustaining local<br />

communities and economies.<br />

The Business Council is a major new<br />

initiative for the BCC. We’re determined it<br />

will help influence policymakers at the<br />

highest level. The benefits will be felt by<br />

businesses across the country in these<br />

challenging times.<br />

Thanks to the Chamber network, we<br />

are part of your community in the Black<br />

Country, and you are part of ours.<br />

Working in partnership, British<br />

businesses can continue to flourish.<br />

For more on the BCC’s new<br />

Business Council, see https://<br />

www.britishchambers.org.uk/<br />

partner-with-us/businesscouncil/<br />

“Our five priority areas include green<br />

innovation... we will make recommendations<br />

that feed directly into a policy document<br />

published early next year aimed at<br />

influencing the party manifestos...”<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 49


Family touch keeps the region’s<br />

businesses spick and span<br />

Ever wondered how the Wolverhampton<br />

Grand Theatre stays so tidy and clean –<br />

even during the busy panto season?<br />

Or how the Severn Valley Railway keeps<br />

its stations in tip-top condition?<br />

The thing that these and dozens of<br />

schools, doctors’ surgeries, factories and<br />

offices across the West Midlands have in<br />

common is that they work with Lawrence<br />

Cleaning Ltd.<br />

This year Lawrence Cleaning celebrates<br />

its 40th anniversary, and founder Winnie<br />

Lawrence said she couldn’t be prouder of<br />

the business that has been created.<br />

“It brings tears to my eyes when I see<br />

how hard my family have worked to make<br />

the business a success,” said Winnie, 85.<br />

“They haven’t sat back and let it drift<br />

along, they’ve continued with our core<br />

values of quality and integrity to make the<br />

business a resounding success.<br />

“One thing that has always set us apart<br />

is that we look after our staff and never<br />

ask our cleaners to do anything we<br />

wouldn’t do ourselves. It’s one of the<br />

reasons why we have cleaners that have<br />

stayed with us for decades, and tell us<br />

they love coming to work every day.”<br />

Winnie started the business in 1983<br />

after she took on a part-time job with a<br />

cleaning company in Wolverhampton,<br />

and found herself running it.<br />

“My children, Wendy and Paul, had<br />

started at school and I was looking for a<br />

part-time job to bring in some extra<br />

money,” said Winnie, who had grown up in<br />

Wolverhampton. “From the age of seven<br />

I’d gone out cleaning with my mum<br />

Elizabeth, and I just loved it – there’s<br />

nothing more satisfying than leaving<br />

somewhere sparkling clean and tidy.<br />

“I got a job as a cleaner and ended up<br />

becoming supervisor and manager. I was<br />

so hands-on that everyone thought I was<br />

the boss, so when the chance came to<br />

buy the business I snapped it up.”<br />

To begin with, Lawrence Cleaning<br />

operated out of the garage at Winnie and<br />

her husband Arthur’s house in<br />

Stourbridge, but it wasn’t long before the<br />

business began to grow and they moved<br />

to their own offices.<br />

Winnie’s son Paul took over as<br />

“Our professional<br />

approach with a<br />

personal touch<br />

sets us apart from<br />

our competitors...”<br />

managing director in 2001 and this year<br />

he handed over the reins to his son, Alex.<br />

Paul said, “From the beginning my<br />

mother instilled values of quality,<br />

reliability, and honesty into the business,<br />

knowing that these would be essential for<br />

establishing trust with clients.<br />

“We were able to expand the business<br />

and take on bigger contracts, while still<br />

maintaining the high standards that had<br />

been established.<br />

“One thing that sets Lawrence<br />

Cleaning apart from other businesses is<br />

our commitment to supporting local<br />

communities.<br />

“This extends to our staff recruitment<br />

policies, with all our cleaners being<br />

employed within close proximity to our<br />

clients’ premises. This not only benefits<br />

the communities we serve, but it also has<br />

a positive impact on the local economy as<br />

staff are likely to spend their salaries in<br />

the area.”<br />

As well as their commitment to social<br />

responsibility, the Lawrence family also<br />

puts great emphasis on upholding<br />

professional standards. This includes a<br />

rigorous training programme that all<br />

cleaners must go through before joining<br />

the team.<br />

They only use environmentally friendly<br />

cleaning products that are safe for the<br />

client’s premises. They also invest in the<br />

latest equipment to ensure that they are<br />

using the most efficient techniques.<br />

The company’s new managing director,<br />

Alex Lawrence, said they have become<br />

stronger thanks to their family-centered<br />

approach. “Our professional approach<br />

with a personal touch is what sets us<br />

apart from our competitors,” said Alex.<br />

“By being involved in all aspects of the<br />

business, from staff training to client<br />

meetings, we have created an<br />

environment where clients are treated<br />

like friends, and staff feel like they are a<br />

part of one big family.<br />

“My grandmother started a legacy that<br />

has been expanded and developed by my<br />

dad. To be taking over as managing<br />

director is very exciting and I will continue<br />

with the company’s core values, while<br />

building on the incredible success of the<br />

last four decades.”<br />

50 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Tech intervention helps<br />

Thomas Dudley work smarter<br />

A well-established Dudley manufacturer<br />

with over 100 years of history has<br />

boosted its productivity after being<br />

helped by a major initiative to help SMEs<br />

in the Midlands to improve their digital skills.<br />

Chamber Platinum Group member<br />

Thomas Dudley Group has been trading<br />

for more than a century across several<br />

generations, supplying merchants and<br />

wholesalers not only in the UK, but as far<br />

away as Africa and the Caribbean.<br />

Under its umbrella are six companies<br />

working in different areas of<br />

manufacturing: TDF Foundry, McDonald<br />

Diecasting, Waterfit, Rugby Plastics,<br />

Thomas Dudley Works, and TYDE. But<br />

the business began to experience<br />

bottlenecks in its production facility that<br />

manufactures products for TYDE.<br />

Performance data from the plastic<br />

production machines could only be<br />

manually extracted and could not be<br />

collected in real time, meaning issues<br />

could be left undetected which could<br />

negatively affect the production line.<br />

Through the Black Country Growth<br />

Hub, Peter Devine, production unit<br />

director, and Martin Dudley, CEO of<br />

Thomas Dudley, heard about Made<br />

Smarter West Midlands which was<br />

introduced in 2021 to help manufacturing<br />

and engineering businesses access<br />

match-funded grant funding and digital<br />

experts to take the next step forward to<br />

drive growth.<br />

Peter contacted Made Smarter and<br />

was put in touch with Jit Gatcha, Made<br />

Smarter’s digital transformation<br />

specialist for the Black Country.<br />

Jit organised a meeting with Peter and<br />

Martin alongside Tomas Novais, senior<br />

research engineer at Made Smarter<br />

strategic partner, the Manufacturing<br />

Technology Centre (MTC).<br />

Made Smarter approved a £20,000<br />

grant to help purchase a manufacturing<br />

execution system (MES) to allow TYDE’s<br />

machines to collect performance data in<br />

real time, alerting workers to any issues<br />

instantly.<br />

Peter Devine said productivity has<br />

increased by around five to seven per<br />

cent as a result of the MES.<br />

He told <strong>Prosper</strong>, “We knew the issues<br />

we were facing, but we needed<br />

reassurance that we were making the<br />

right decision and the grant money that<br />

Made Smarter offered was very<br />

attractive.<br />

“If we could remove the bottleneck, it<br />

would allow us to be significantly more<br />

productive and reliably fulfil orders much<br />

faster for our customers.<br />

“The new system has meant we can<br />

spot issues with our machines as soon as<br />

they happen, which has made a huge<br />

difference to our productivity.<br />

“Receiving the grant from Made<br />

Smarter helped make the decision to<br />

purchase the software that much easier.<br />

“For a business like ours, that extra five<br />

to seven per cent increase in productivity<br />

will make such a difference in the long run.<br />

“Our staff have realised how much<br />

easier their jobs are as result. We are<br />

52 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


“We knew the issues we were<br />

facing... if we could remove the<br />

bottleneck, it would allow us to<br />

be significantly more<br />

productive... the new system has<br />

meant we can spot issues with<br />

our machines as soon as they<br />

happen, which has made a<br />

huge difference...”<br />

becoming more proactive rather than<br />

reactive.<br />

“We are also devoting more of our time<br />

to training our staff in digital technologies<br />

like MES systems so we can adapt in the<br />

future.<br />

“Made Smarter was fantastic to deal<br />

with throughout the process. They made<br />

everything simple and, if we had any<br />

queries, Jit was just a phone call away.”<br />

Coventry and Warwickshire Growth<br />

Hub has led the Made Smarter West<br />

Midlands scheme alongside fellow<br />

support organisations Business Growth<br />

West Midlands and Worcestershire, The<br />

Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent &<br />

Staffordshire Growth Hubs, on behalf of<br />

the West Midlands Combined Authority<br />

and the Department for Business and<br />

Trade.<br />

Jit Gatcha said installing smart<br />

software on TYDE’s manufacturing<br />

machines has made a major difference to<br />

its future growth plans.<br />

“Productivity is vital to businesses and<br />

our economy here in the West Midlands<br />

which is why Made Smarter’s help is<br />

boosting efficiency and taking companies<br />

to the next level,” he said.<br />

“It can be daunting and difficult to find<br />

the time to research the digital<br />

technology your business needs.<br />

“Our analysis showed an MES was<br />

indeed a viable solution for Thomas<br />

Dudley, and we took them through the<br />

grant application process step by step to<br />

help pay for it.<br />

“It now means Thomas Dudley can fulfil<br />

bigger orders for its customers after<br />

increasing its capacity and can cope with<br />

any future technological advances<br />

knowing they have the skills in place to<br />

use the new technology to its full<br />

potential.”<br />

Jit has urged SMEs in the Black Country<br />

and the wider Midlands interested in<br />

finding out more about Made Smarter<br />

West Midlands to express their interest at<br />

www.madesmarter.uk.<br />

BCIMO hosts first demonstration<br />

of exciting CVLR project<br />

The Black Country Innovative<br />

Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO)<br />

hosted a successful demonstration of<br />

the pioneering Coventry Very Light Rail<br />

(CVLR) technology at its unique Rail<br />

Development and Test Site in Dudley.<br />

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West<br />

Midlands, was among interested<br />

observers, alongside MPs Penny<br />

Mordaunt and Nicola Richards and<br />

Cllrs Patrick Harley and Simon Phipps<br />

from Dudley Council.<br />

The CVLR project has achieved a major<br />

milestone as the vehicle is now able to<br />

be tested on its own track at the Very<br />

Light Rail National Innovation Centre<br />

(VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre<br />

for rail innovation.<br />

The project has been developed by<br />

Coventry City Council, Transport for<br />

West Midlands (TfWM), WMG at the<br />

University of Warwick and BCIMO, who<br />

operate the VLRNIC.<br />

College facility taking shape<br />

The steel framework has begun to<br />

take shape on a new £8.1 million City<br />

of Wolverhampton College training<br />

facility.<br />

It is another major step forward in<br />

the development of the<br />

college’s Advanced Technology and<br />

Automotive Centre on its Wellington<br />

Road campus in Bilston, as part of<br />

the City Learning Quarter vision.<br />

Andy Street,<br />

MPs Penny<br />

Mordaunt<br />

and Nicola<br />

Richards<br />

and other<br />

guests at<br />

the CVLR<br />

demo<br />

Due to be completed in July 2024,<br />

it will secure hundreds of jobs and<br />

create learning opportunities for<br />

thousands of students specialising in<br />

engineering and automotive,<br />

including electric vehicles.<br />

It is phase one of the Council’s City<br />

Learning Quarter masterplan and will<br />

be funded by £7.7 million from the<br />

West Midlands Combined Authority<br />

(WMCA), with the remainder<br />

from the Black Country LEP.<br />

The centre will offer<br />

courses in fabrication,<br />

manufacturing, welding,<br />

CAD and robotics and will<br />

deliver a multi-skilled<br />

workforce addressing skills<br />

shortages in the city.<br />

Almost 5,500 learners<br />

and 954 apprenticeships<br />

are forecast over the first 10<br />

years of the centre.<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 53


Meet the team: The people<br />

behind the Chamber<br />

Senior Management Team<br />

Sarah Moorhouse<br />

Chief Executive<br />

Officer<br />

Lorna Taylor<br />

Finance Director<br />

Siân Roberts<br />

Sales & Marketing<br />

Director<br />

Membership Team<br />

Alison Trinder<br />

Start-up Business<br />

Manager<br />

Business Relationship<br />

Managers<br />

Gemma Shakespeare<br />

Richard Hobbs and<br />

Steve Salt<br />

Commercial Team<br />

Gail Arnold<br />

Head of Premium<br />

Membership<br />

Laila Hudson<br />

IGNITE Hub Customer<br />

Service Advisor<br />

Siân Roberts, our Director of Sales<br />

& Marketing, joined the Chamber in<br />

June, tasked with building valued<br />

partnerships with members and the<br />

broader business community.<br />

Her other goals include maximising<br />

the value of Chamber membership,<br />

as well as increasing commercial<br />

activities. She is also determined to<br />

enhance the Chamber’s reputation,<br />

ensuring it continues to deliver<br />

outstanding customer advice and<br />

support to our members.<br />

External Affairs Team<br />

Lauren Shepherd<br />

Content Officer<br />

Daniel Parkes<br />

IGNITE Hub Customer<br />

Service Advisor<br />

Tracey Jovicich<br />

Membership<br />

Administrator<br />

Sarah Thompson<br />

Press/PR and<br />


Magazine Editor<br />

Finance & Export<br />

Documentation Team<br />

Andrew Wells<br />

Assistant<br />

Accountant<br />

Malcolm Reid<br />

Export<br />

Documentation<br />

Assistant<br />

Mandy Perry<br />

Finance & Export<br />

Assistant<br />

Owenia Francis<br />

Apprentice content<br />

creator / digital<br />

illustrator<br />

Gemma Edwards<br />

Policy, Impact &<br />

Public Affairs Officer<br />

54 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Black Country Chamber is proud of the people who provide the great service to our members.<br />

Here we introduce you to some of our latest newcomers: Gemma Edwards, Steve Salt,<br />

Gemma Shakespeare, Richard Hobbs and our first apprentice, Owenia Francis<br />

Experienced policy analyst to lead Chamber’s response<br />

Experienced policy analyst Gemma<br />

Edwards, who previously worked for the<br />

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education,<br />

joined the Chamber in August to head up<br />

its policy and public affairs department.<br />

Gemma, who had been advising senior<br />

education ministers and leading stakeholders<br />

within the tertiary education<br />

sector since 2018, moved back to the UK<br />

to settle in Wolverhampton.<br />

An alumnus of University of Sheffield,<br />

where she read classical and historical<br />

archaeology, netball-loving Gemma<br />

brings a wealth of experience of policy<br />

reviews, briefings and analytical<br />

reporting, along with an insight into the<br />

workings of government.<br />

Gemma told <strong>Prosper</strong>, “My role is to<br />

showcase, celebrate and champion the<br />

Black Country business community.<br />

“I know that the region has so much to<br />

offer and being new to the Black<br />

Country, I’m looking forward to<br />

discovering more and meeting new<br />

businesses.”<br />

Sarah Moorhouse, Black Country<br />

Chamber CEO said, “Gemma brings a<br />

wealth of policy-driven experience with<br />

her, along with an abundance of energy.<br />

“This role is pivotal to the Chamber<br />

and our members and Gemma will be<br />

responsible for leading the Chamber’s<br />

research activities, member<br />

engagement on policy matters,<br />

communications on policy issues and<br />

the delivery of evidence-led campaigns.<br />

“As a lynchpin of the local economy,<br />

the Chambers’ work will further amplify<br />

the voice of members to showcase,<br />

celebrate and champion the Black<br />

Country business community.<br />

“My aim, alongside Gemma, is to build<br />

on this work and continue to be a<br />

powerful delivery vehicle for our<br />

members’ interests and needs.<br />

“Gemma is working with our<br />

membership, stakeholders and<br />

policymakers to deliver compelling<br />

activities which influence, inform and<br />

tackle the barriers limiting growth and<br />

productivity.”<br />

Trio of newcomers to boost member links<br />

Gemma Shakespeare has joined the<br />

Black Country Chamber as one of three<br />

new business relationship managers in<br />

the Membership Team.<br />

A former senior in-house recruiter at<br />

Wolverhampton Council and linguistics<br />

graduate from the University of<br />

Wolverhampton, Gemma said: “I am<br />

excited to meet Chamber members and<br />

forge strong and long working<br />

relationships with them, as well as get<br />

involved in future Chamber projects.”<br />

Also joining is Richard Hobbs, a<br />

former account manager with Made in<br />

The Midlands and business development<br />

co-ordinator at Wolverhampton College.<br />

Young Apprentice joins Chamber team<br />

Apprentice content creator and digital<br />

illustrator, Owenia Francis, has joined<br />

the external affairs team at the Black<br />

Country Chamber from the BBC’s<br />

Apprentice Hub in Birmingham, to take<br />

care of our digital content.<br />

Berkshire-born Owenia, a graduate of<br />

English Literature at the University of<br />

Birmingham and an avid instigator and<br />

supporter of social action campaigns,<br />

brings a wealth of multimedia<br />

experience to the team despite her<br />

relatively young age. She will work<br />

closely with content officer Lauren<br />

Richard, an avid Wolves fan and sports<br />

science graduate of Aberystwyth<br />

University, is producer of the awardwinning<br />

podcast, Wolves Fancast and<br />

also a STEM ambassador in his spare<br />

time.<br />

Richard said, “I’m really pleased to be<br />

part of the Chamber. It’s an exciting time<br />

with many initiatives and events line up<br />

to support employers in the region. With<br />

my background in supporting businesses<br />

in the region, being a member of the<br />

team feels like a natural fit.”<br />

Gemma and Richard join Steve Salt,<br />

who joined the Chamber in the summer.<br />

Steve, who spent time as a Covid<br />

Shephard, who will oversee Owenia’s<br />

learning.<br />

Owenia said: “I’m very happy to be<br />

joining the team at the Chamber. I’ve<br />

already had the opportunity to attend<br />

Chamber events and meet some of the<br />

amazing businesses across the region.<br />

Chamber CEO Sarah Moorhouse said,<br />

“We are huge supporters of<br />

apprenticeships and encouraging the<br />

workforce of the future. The BBC<br />

Apprentice Hub is a great way for<br />

individuals to begin their career in the<br />

creative sector, and we are delighted to<br />

administrator and induction manager<br />

working at the Perry Barr Residential<br />

Scheme project in Birmingham, said:<br />

“I’m enjoying working with my<br />

colleagues and helping businesses<br />

thrive, and I’m excited with the<br />

opportunity to support and ‘fly the flag’<br />

for our region.”<br />

Chamber Sales and Marketing<br />

Director Sian Roberts said: “Our new<br />

relationship managers bring a wealth of<br />

experience gained through many years<br />

working across several business<br />

sectors, including membership<br />

organisations. They have all hit the<br />

ground running.”<br />

welcome our first-ever apprentice.<br />

“Owenia is already a valuable member<br />

of the team, and will help us further<br />

amplify the Chamber name and the<br />

services we offer to our members and<br />

the wider Black Country community.”<br />

The BBC Apprentice Hub is a Flexi-Job<br />

Apprenticeship Agency (FJAA) where the<br />

BBC acts as host employer, arranging<br />

placements for aspiring creatives with<br />

local businesses. It’s an exciting<br />

initiative that plugs a much-needed<br />

skills gap in the region’s creative,<br />

cultural, gaming and digital sectors.<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 55


Shevaun Haviland, Director-General of<br />

the British Chambers of Commerce hit<br />

the Black Country last month to meet<br />

business leaders at a lunch organised by<br />

the Chamber.<br />

Patrons and Platinum Group members<br />

gathered at the Mercure Hotel in West<br />

Bromwich to hear Shevaun, former head<br />

of business engagement in Downing<br />

Street and a previous head of the<br />

Inclusive Economy Partnership, discuss<br />

her own career, including previous<br />

consultancy roles in London and New<br />

York and a strategic planning role for the<br />

Walt Disney Company at Disneyland<br />

Paris, and give an insight into her work as<br />

head of the country’s longest established<br />

business support organisation.<br />

Her talk covered everything from the<br />

recent developments around HS2 to<br />

economic policy and the need for an<br />

industrial strategy, while taking the<br />

audience through the work of the<br />

collective Chamber network, along with<br />

an insight into her lobbying activities at<br />

the highest level of government and<br />

meetings with cabinet ministers.<br />

Skills, recruitment, productivity, energy<br />

prices, green innovation and international<br />

trade were, as ever the hot topics on the<br />

lips of leaders from across the region, all<br />

eager to hear Ms Haviland’s take on the<br />

current economic climate and the<br />

challenges facing business.<br />

Shevaun concluded that the Chamber<br />

network is under no illusion on how<br />

challenging times have been, and<br />

continue to be, for firms in every sector,<br />

but confirmed, as ever, the collective<br />

network of 53 Chambers will continue to<br />

Shevaun Haviland,<br />

(left of banner) with<br />

Chamber CEO<br />

Sarah Moorhouse<br />

and representatives<br />

of the Chamber’s<br />

Platinum members<br />

and Patrons<br />

Tough times but BCC has your back, says D-G<br />

lobby government, whatever colour it<br />

may be in the coming months, while<br />

continuing to champion and support<br />

businesses across the country.<br />

Black Country Chamber CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse, who welcomed Shevaun on<br />

stage, said: “We were delighted to<br />

welcome and host Shevaun. Meeting and<br />

engaging with over 60 of the region’s<br />

business leaders from key sectors,<br />

representing the breadth of our regional<br />

economy, was incredibly useful for both<br />

ourselves and her.<br />

“This meeting with our members gave<br />

Shevaun a real insight into this region’s<br />

diverse business sector while allowing<br />

many leaders to voice their concerns<br />

about some of the issues and challenges<br />

they continue to face in the current<br />

economic climate.”<br />

Chamber puts mental health in<br />

focus at Women in Leadership<br />

Black Country Chamber’s Women in<br />

Leadership group hosted another<br />

hugely successful event, this time in<br />

connection to World Mental Health<br />

Day.<br />

Held at the offices of Higgs LLP,<br />

the event, entitled, ‘Success<br />

Without Sacrifice - How to Progress<br />

in Your Career Without Sacrificing<br />

Your Wellbeing Along the Way’, was<br />

attended by over 50 professional<br />

women who heard all about the<br />

impact on women’s wellbeing while<br />

working in leadership positions.<br />

Raising funds for the Chamber’s<br />

chosen charity, Black Country<br />

Mental Health, Diane Asbury from<br />

Crowe UK was the luck recipient of a<br />

personalised Global Leadership<br />

Wellbeing Survey report and debrief<br />

coaching session from the day’s<br />

keynote speaker, Nicky Lowe.<br />

See pg 59 for details of our next<br />

Women in Leadership event, to be<br />

held on March 8 2024, to coincide<br />

with International Women’s Day.<br />

56 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

EVENTS<br />

Chamber AGM<br />

Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce AGM<br />

Date: December 1<br />

Venue: Marston Room, Technology<br />

Centre, University of<br />

Wolverhampton Science Park,<br />

Glaisher Drive WV10 9RU<br />

Cost: Free to members<br />

Notice is hereby given that the<br />

Annual General Meeting of Black<br />

Country Chamber of Commerce &<br />

Industry will be held at Marston<br />

Room, Technology Centre, University<br />

of Wolverhampton Science Park,<br />

Glaisher Drive, Wolverhampton,<br />

WV10 9RU at 12.30pm on Friday, 1st<br />

December <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

The meeting will be held to hear the<br />

Chair’s review and the Chief<br />

Executive’s report and to transact<br />

the following business:<br />

1. To receive the report of the<br />

directors and the accounts for the<br />

year ended 31st March <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

2. To re-appoint CKCA Limited as<br />

auditors from the conclusion of this<br />

meeting until the conclusion of the<br />

next general meeting, before which<br />

accounts are laid and to authorise<br />

the directors to fix the auditors’<br />

remuneration.<br />

3. To elect two directors from the<br />

shortlisted candidates, being Paul<br />

Hull and Jatinder Sharma.<br />

4. To consider and if thought fit pass<br />

the following resolution as a special<br />

resolution: ‘That the draft articles of<br />

association produced to the<br />

meeting and for the purposes of<br />

identification initialled by the Chair<br />

be adopted as the articles of<br />

association of the Company in<br />

substitution for and to the exclusion<br />

of the Company’s existing articles of<br />

association.’<br />

Networking will commence at 12pm<br />

until 12.30pm. Following the AGM a<br />

buffet lunch and drinks will be<br />

served until 3pm.<br />

Any questions please email<br />

lornataylor@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

Bookings will close at 12.30pm on<br />

Wednesday, 29 November.<br />

Further details, and to book, see<br />

www.blackcountrychamber<br />

ofcommerce.co.uk/events<br />

Exclusive networking opportunities<br />

at the Black Country Business Club<br />

Exclusive closed networking club for<br />

businesses across the region<br />

The Black Country Business Club<br />

provides a platform where individuals<br />

can build business relationships and<br />

promote their products and services<br />

within a friendly and supportive<br />

environment.<br />

The event is live, face-to-face and<br />

meets every fortnight on a Thursday<br />

morning from 9.30am until 11.30am.<br />

Chamber members and non-members<br />

are welcome to come along and visit to<br />

see how everything works before<br />

committing to the Club. There is an<br />

additional annual cost to be part of the<br />

Business Club network.<br />

At each meeting, one delegate has the<br />

opportunity to co-host and use a<br />

10-minute slot to promote their business,<br />

while every other delegate gets the<br />

opportunity to provide a short<br />

60-second pitch, to share their latest<br />

news or highlight a key product/service.<br />

Rules of Engagement!<br />

Members of the club agree to the<br />

following principles:<br />

• Only two businesses per sector/<br />

industry will be allowed to join<br />

• There will be a maximum of 50<br />

members<br />

• Membership is on a first-come,<br />

first-served basis with a final decision on<br />

a membership application made by the<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce<br />

• Each business is expected to deliver<br />

a minimum of one 10-minute<br />

‘presentation’ each year at their Club,<br />

and all businesses deliver a 60-second<br />

pitch at every meeting<br />

The Club will meet once a fortnight.<br />

Cost*. There is an additional cost for<br />

the club dependent upon which<br />

Chamber membership you hold.<br />

Only one representative from a<br />

business can attend each session.<br />

Across 25 meetings, a no show at<br />

three consecutive Clubs will mean that a<br />

member has forfeited their right to be<br />

part of the Club and will be barred from<br />

future Clubs with no refund given.<br />

Dates For Your Diary 2024<br />

Jan: 11th and 25th<br />

Feb: 8th and 22nd<br />

March: 7th and 21st<br />

April: 4th and 18th<br />

May: 2nd, 16th and 30th<br />

June: 13th and 27th<br />

July: 11th and 25th<br />

August: 8th and 22nd<br />

Sept: 5th and 19th<br />

Oct: 3rd, 17th and 31st<br />

Nov: 14th and 28th<br />

Dec: 12th<br />

For further information:<br />

Email membership@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk or<br />

contact Alison Trinder on 07980<br />

906921 for a free guest pass*<br />

to the next meeting, we would love<br />

to meet you.<br />

See you TWW – Third Week Wednesday<br />

Each third week Wednesday, Chamber members and non-members meet for their<br />

FREE monthly networking session.Meet at Walsall College in the Littleton<br />

Restaurant, Wisemore Campus, Littleton Street West, Walsall, WS2 8ES<br />

From 9.45am through to 11.30am.There’s a short introduction from the college,<br />

followed by ‘Open Networking’ which kicks off at 9.45am.<br />

For more details on these networking events and how you can join in, email<br />

membership@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

58 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

EVENTS<br />

Wolverhampton Wednesday<br />

Hosted by the City of Wolverhampton<br />

College and powered by the region’s<br />

longest running business support<br />

organisation, join us for a Wolverhampton<br />

Wednesday!<br />

It’s an open networking session<br />

enjoyed over a complimentary breakfast,<br />

courtesy of the college.<br />

Meetings take place on the last<br />

Wednesday of the month at the college’s<br />

Wellington Road Campus.<br />

Big Business @B63 Breakfast Event<br />

The Chamber’s monthly breakfast<br />

networking event takes place on the<br />

first Wednesday of the Month.<br />

Providing a fantastic opportunity to<br />

network with like-minded businesses<br />

each month, the Big Business @B63<br />

Black Country Chamber has joined forces<br />

with Sandwell Council and Sandwell<br />

College to host a FREE regular breakfast<br />

networking event. The ‘Get Connected in<br />

Sandwell’ initiative kicked off over<br />

breakfast earlier this year at Sandwell<br />

College in West Bromwich.<br />

The regular event provides business<br />

owners with a host of speakers talking<br />

through everything from how to connect<br />

as a business, save money and grow,<br />

through to improving the local business<br />

environment, advocacy, campaigning,<br />

community action and networking.<br />

Next Event: December 13 on CSR<br />

Corporate & Social Responsibility<br />

The presentation will cover the three<br />

Open to members and non-members,<br />

this breakfast event is FREE of charge for<br />

one person from each business. With<br />

numbers limited, it has already proved to<br />

be a very popular event, so book on well<br />

in advance to secure your place.<br />

Email membership@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

for further details.<br />

‘breakfast event’ is hosted by<br />

Halesowen College, sponsored by The<br />

Halesowen Bid and powered by The<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce.<br />

It starts at 7.45am, running until<br />

9.15am.<br />

Calling all Sandwell businesses<br />

aspects which provide the basis for the 3<br />

Ps relating to CSR: People, Planet &<br />

Profit.<br />

• Environmentally Friendly – Eco<br />

Conscious<br />

• Promote equality, diversity and<br />

inclusivity in the workplace<br />

• Giving back to the community<br />

• Volunteering<br />

For more information contact<br />

Alison Trinder 07980 906921 or<br />

email alisontrinder@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />


WIL event<br />

Black Country Chamber’s<br />

Women in Leadership roup<br />

is holding its next event on<br />

March 8 2024, to mark International<br />

Women’s Day.<br />

Our guest speakers at what is<br />

always a superb event will be Amber<br />

Sandhu, a radio/TV presenter and<br />

sports reporter; and Jade Linton,<br />

director of HR at Thursfields<br />

Solicitors.<br />

About our speakers:<br />

Amber Sandhu,<br />

born and raised in<br />

Wolverhampton,<br />

presents a national<br />

show every Saturday<br />

afternoon on the BBC<br />

Asian Network and<br />

has presented across BBC Radio WM.<br />

She has reported and worked across<br />

BBC Cricket, 5 Live Sport and was the<br />

face of the Commonwealth Games<br />

across Midlands Today. Amber is one<br />

of the UK’s most exciting and<br />

charismatic presenters who has<br />

worked across events such as The<br />

Hundred, Women’s Ashes, FA Cup<br />

Games,<br />

Commonwealth<br />

Games and many<br />

more.<br />

Jade Linton is an<br />

industry-renowned<br />

and respected<br />

solicitor and people<br />

leader known for providing thoughtful,<br />

clear, solution focused and technically<br />

robust legal advice.<br />

She joined Thursfields Board in<br />

2020, where she is responsible for the<br />

strategic and operational guidance<br />

and direction of all people matters.<br />

She is passionate about inclusion and<br />

belonging, and is regularly invited to<br />

inspire others through training,<br />

feedback and coaching, aspiring<br />

lawyers and businesses on matters of<br />

diversity, equality and inclusion.<br />

Further event details coming<br />

soon…<br />

To find out more about the Black<br />

Country Women in Leadership<br />

visit www.blackcountrychamber.<br />

co.uk/campaigns<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 59


Training events<br />


Date: December 13<br />

Time: 09:00 - 13:00<br />

Location: Online<br />

Cost: Members £200 ex VAT<br />

Non Members: £250 ex VAT<br />

This Letters of Credit training<br />

course has been devised for<br />

companies/departments that are<br />

regularly receiving or handling<br />

Letters of Credit. It will help you to<br />

reduce risks, bank charges and<br />

improve efficiency of administrators.<br />

This course will cover:<br />

n Careful credit checking<br />

n The export quotation<br />

n A review of other payment<br />

methods<br />

n What is a Letter of Credit, Letter<br />

of Credit administration and<br />

Letter of Credit Procedure?<br />

n Letter of Credit types and levels<br />

of security<br />

Tips to ensure you get it right at<br />

all stages of the Letter of Credit<br />



Date: February 1, 2024<br />

Time: 09:00 - 13:00<br />

Location: Online<br />

Cost: Members £200 ex VAT<br />

Non Members £250 ex VAT<br />

Since leaving the EU more<br />

businesses are now responsible for<br />

declaring goods to customs for<br />

import and export. This has resulted<br />

in more businesses receiving a<br />

HMRC Customs Audit. This<br />

workshop helps businesses in<br />

understanding what they need to<br />

prepare for.<br />

n The purpose of the audit<br />

n The different types of audit that<br />

HMRC may undertake<br />

n What the auditors will be looking<br />

for regarding imports and exports<br />

n Practical and effective recordkeeping<br />

n Checking declarations for<br />

accuracy and validity<br />

Aimed at importers, exporters,<br />

finance, logistics, procurement,<br />

sales, supply chain managers/<br />

directors and those with<br />

responsibility for auditing records.<br />

For more information, contact<br />

training@blackcountry<br />

chamber.co.uk<br />

‘Project Success: Managing<br />

Change Successfully – To<br />

Implement Renewables’<br />

Black Country Manufacturing Community (BCMC)<br />

Sponsored by Crowe UK LLP<br />

Date: January 16, 2024<br />

Time: 8am-9.30am<br />

Venue: The Black Country Living<br />

Museum<br />

Tipton Road, Dudley<br />

West Midlands DY1 4SQ<br />

Cost Members: Free<br />

An exclusive event for<br />

manufacturing companies<br />

Manufacturing companies in the Black<br />

Country are invited to attend this Black<br />

Country Manufacturing Community<br />

(BCMC) meeting organised by Black<br />

Country Chamber, sponsored by Crowe<br />

UK LLP<br />

As a manufacturer based in the Black<br />

Country you will have the opportunity to<br />

collaborate with like-minded<br />

manufacturers and share information<br />

with other manufacturers<br />

Johnathan Dudley, the Managing<br />

Partner & Head of Manufacturing at<br />

Crowe (pictured above), will discuss how<br />

to manage change successfully and<br />

improve processes, in order to<br />

implement renewable energy into your<br />

business<br />

The meeting runs from 8.00am to<br />

9.30am.<br />

The meeting is open to manufacturing<br />

Events diary<br />

companies only. If you are a not a<br />

manufacturing business and book onto<br />

this event, your booking will be cancelled.<br />

Spaces are limited so an early booking<br />

is advisable.<br />

A breakfast sandwich and<br />

refreshments are included (please advise<br />

dietary/allergy requirements on booking<br />

using the special request area)<br />

Bookings for this event will close at<br />

2pm on Monday, 15th January<br />

Due to catering booking for this event<br />

is essential so please book your place on<br />

the Chamber website.<br />

For further information please<br />

email gailarnold@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

November 22: <strong>Autumn</strong> Statement<br />

Join us and our panel of experts from Crowe UK LLP, to find out what the <strong>Autumn</strong><br />

Statement will mean for you and your business. Put your questions to our panel<br />

of experts. FREE to attend for Chamber members only, with lunch supplied.<br />

January<br />

11: Quarterly Economic Survey Event (Quarter 4)<br />

Why not join us at our QES breakfast meeting as we reveal the results from our<br />

Q4 <strong>2023</strong> Quarterly Economic Survey. Be the first to hear how businesses in the<br />

Black Country are feeling as 2024 begins.<br />

Venue: University of Wolverhampton Science Park, Marston Room, Technology<br />

Centre, Glaisher Drive, Wolverhampton WV10 9RU<br />

Time: 8.30am-10am. Cost: Free to members<br />

60 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Chamber’s Start-Up Business Club<br />

goes from strength to strength<br />

Start-Up Business Club<br />

The Black Country Chamber’s Start Up<br />

Business Club is celebrating five years<br />

this year, having helped dozens of<br />

businesses to launch and grow, while<br />

working hand-in -hand with the club’s<br />

business partner, the Black Country and<br />

Marches Institute of Technology.<br />

The major education site in Dudley<br />

plays host to the business club’s regular<br />

meetings and the many experienced<br />

business professionals who are invited<br />

along to share their skills and expertise<br />

with new business owners.<br />

The Start-Up Business Club, led by<br />

Alison Trinder, provides much-needed<br />

help and support with all aspects of<br />

running a new business.<br />

The employer-led Institute of Technology<br />

has formed strong relationships with<br />

many organisations of all sizes, including<br />

the Chamber, and many businesses are<br />

now benefiting from the state-of-the-art<br />

facilities available in the multi-millionpound<br />

facility.<br />

From networking opportunities to<br />

one-to-one business advice, marketing<br />

support and savings on essential<br />

business tools, the Start-Up Business<br />

Club helps small businesses to the next<br />

level and offers a one-stop-shop for<br />

business advice, personal development<br />

training and marketing, all as part of a<br />

vibrant networking community.<br />

The club also delivers a number of<br />

events and masterclasses where<br />

entrepreneurs and new business owners<br />

can meet and network and hear from<br />

experienced businesspeople. In addition,<br />

it also provides two years’ worth of<br />

business support.<br />

The driving force behind the Start-Up<br />

Business Club is the Black Country<br />

Chamber’s highly experienced business<br />

relationship manager, Alison Trinder.<br />

Black Country & Marches<br />

Institute of<br />

TechnologyZoological<br />

DriveDudleyWest<br />

MidlandsDY1 4AL<br />

2024 Workshops Planned<br />

Jan: Access to Finance<br />

Feb: Intellectual Property<br />

March: Press & PR<br />

April: Public Speaking<br />

Alison has more than 30 years’ experience<br />

in establishing and maintaining strong<br />

business relationships. She said: “Small<br />

businesses are the beating heart of the<br />

UK economy, bringing in around half of<br />

the turnover in our country’s private<br />

sector We go all out to support them.”<br />

To find out more about our Start-Up<br />

Business Club, get in touch with<br />

Alison Trinder on 07980 906921 or<br />

email alisontrinder@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk, or see<br />

https://www.blackcountry<br />

chamber.co.uk/training-courses/<br />

start-up/<br />



Date: November 28<br />

Time: 10am-12 noon<br />

We’re delighted to have secured a double session<br />

with Peter the Speaker - a Dragons’ Den victor<br />

who’ll be exploring effective communication and<br />

teaching how to network anywhere and how to<br />

pitch to anyone.<br />

Session One: Value & Pitching<br />

Session Two: Influencers & Networking<br />

Free to Start-Up Business Club Members Only<br />

One free visitor pass available to Start-Up<br />

companies upon request.<br />

Please email: alisontrinder@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />


Date: December 5<br />

Time: 10am-12 noon<br />

Start-Up Member Rate: Free<br />

FREE to Start-Up Business Club members only<br />


Join us for our annual social mix and mingle, enjoy<br />

networking with the group and have a<br />

complimentary mince pie on us...<br />

Free to Start-Up Business Club Members Only;<br />

one free visitor pass available to Start-Up<br />

companies upon request.<br />

Please email: alisontrinder@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

What members<br />

say about the<br />

Start-Up<br />

Business Club<br />

“Attendees benefit<br />

from listening to<br />

experts in their field<br />

... I thoroughly<br />

enjoyed all the<br />

workshops and found<br />

content informative<br />

... it gave me the<br />

opportunity to<br />

network and chat<br />

with other local<br />

business owners...”<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 61


Training & developing your teams<br />

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that continuous<br />

learning and performance management are no longer just<br />

desirable qualities, but essential prerequisites for nurturing your<br />

team’s growth and success.<br />

Achieving success involves encouraging their career<br />

progression and development, yielding mutual benefits, and<br />

cultivating a thriving work environment.<br />

Jenny Stevens, a manager at Chamber Patron member, ASSA<br />

Abloy who completed the Chamber’s Management<br />

Development Programme couldn’t agree more. She told<br />

<strong>Prosper</strong>, “The MDP course was probably the best training and<br />

development course that I have completed in my career to date.<br />

“Each session had a distinct purpose to it, and I feel that I<br />

have been given an extensive toolkit to help me become a better<br />

manager. The activities completed each month were perfectly<br />

pitched and were engaging throughout.”<br />

International trade workshops<br />

Getting to grips with exporting<br />

Since the Brexit vote, the end of the<br />

transition period and now the<br />

introduction of the UK and EU Trade &<br />

Co-operation Agreement, there are now<br />

many more procedures, protocols and<br />

systems businesses need to be aware of.<br />

Black Country Chamber has been<br />

involved in the delivery of trade skills<br />

workshops for many years and has an<br />

established reputation for the quality and<br />

relevance of these workshops and their<br />

contribution to the up-skilling of British<br />

exporters.<br />

International trade workshops are<br />

delivered by our professionally registered<br />

trainers and held virtually. They can also<br />

be made more bespoke to your business<br />

and delivered in-house.<br />


Benefits:<br />

In-house delivery – Meaning less time<br />

away from the office<br />

Delivered by experts – Experienced<br />

trainers with extensive business insights<br />

Fresh and agile content – Focused on<br />

current challenges and tailor-made to<br />

your business<br />

Cost-effective – Training programmes<br />

are open to teams, groups or individuals<br />


To ask any questions please contact our<br />

training team by email:<br />

training@blackcountrychamber.co.uk or<br />

call 0330 024 0820<br />

Export procedures and documentation<br />

Date: December 7<br />

Time: 09:30 - 13:00<br />

Location: Online<br />

Cost: Members: £200 ex VAT<br />

Non Members: £250 ex VAT<br />

Have you experienced delays and<br />

incurred costs due to incorrect export<br />

documentation? Do you want to save<br />

time and reduce export risk…?<br />

Export documentation problems often<br />

lead to delays in getting goods to<br />

customers, increased costs and charges,<br />

not to mention a breakdown of goodwill<br />

between seller and buyer.<br />

On this course we will take you through<br />

a detailed look at export documents, with<br />

a practical approach to why and when<br />

documents are needed. Includes<br />

background, uses and key requirements<br />

for different countries.<br />

Participants will:<br />

• Understand how to produce the<br />

necessary documents for an international<br />

shipment<br />

• Prepare a price build up for an export<br />

quotation<br />

• Identify the appropriate documents<br />

from the 3 categories required to<br />

expedite the shipment<br />

• Describe any additional special<br />

requirements or documentation for<br />

particular markets/sectors<br />

• Gain an overview of Incoterms 2020<br />

• Identify modes of transport<br />

• Identify where to go for sources of<br />

international information<br />

What clients say about the<br />

Chamber’s training courses<br />

Hill and Smith –<br />

Bespoke Export Course<br />

“We contacted the Chamber to set up<br />

some export training. The process was<br />

incredibly easy as the Chamber<br />

organised the entire training from start<br />

to finish; they accommodated us on the<br />

dates requested and delivered a<br />

bespoke course to us virtually over the<br />

two days.<br />

“The course was structured in such a<br />

way that the fundamentals of export<br />

were covered first, it then later flowed<br />

into specific topics that were requested<br />

by different members of staff.<br />

“The course has helped our business<br />

substantially as we all feel so much more<br />

confident about how to export products,<br />

under different payment terms, correctly<br />

and without any discrepancies.<br />

“A great course delivered by fantastic<br />

and highly-experienced tutors.”<br />

H & R ChemPharm (UK) Ltd -<br />

Bespoke Import & Export Course<br />

“Myself and two other colleagues had a<br />

bespoke training course organised by<br />

the Black Country Chamber. This<br />

included various beneficial topics,<br />

export / import procedures, customs<br />

data, commodity codes, rules of origin,<br />

CDS and numerous others.<br />

“We also supplied David Hooper, our<br />

trainer, with some live issues that we<br />

had come across at H & R.<br />

“Thus was we were all able to interact<br />

and associate some live instances and<br />

were able to relate to live instances in<br />

the work place.<br />

“We would highly recommend this one<br />

very informative bespoke training<br />

course.”<br />

62 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


An alternative route to<br />

finding funding<br />

by Dr Steve Walker,<br />

Chief Executive,<br />

ART Business Loans<br />

After the avalanche of Governmentsupported<br />

funding to assist SMEs to<br />

survive, recover and, hopefully, prosper<br />

during Covid, it is not at all surprising that<br />

access to the right finance now re-emerges<br />

as an issue, with difficult economic<br />

conditions and increased interest rates.<br />

Some businesses prospered in Covid, and<br />

some small businesses even used the highly<br />

advantageous terms of the Bounce Back<br />

scheme as a means of retaining funds for the<br />

inevitable rainy day, or to build a war chest<br />

to take opportunities for growth.<br />

However, businesses that needed the<br />

funds to survive and have also used their<br />

reserves, both from the business and<br />

personally, are finding life searching for<br />

funds more difficult. Part of that difficulty<br />

stems from the fact that there is less funding<br />

around, and the banks are, as usual when<br />

the economy tightens, reducing their<br />

appetite for lending at low debt levels of<br />

below £250,000.<br />

Some of the main reasons why small and<br />

emerging businesses are unable to obtain<br />

support are:<br />

n They are at an early stage and have a<br />

limited trading account<br />

n The borrower has few assets to offer<br />

as security<br />

n Small loans are not profitable for major<br />

lenders<br />

n They are unable to meet lenders’ initial<br />

requirements for financial information.<br />

For businesses that used their reserves to<br />

come through Covid and the economic<br />

downturn, obtaining fresh funds is now far<br />

more complex, and slower. It’s no longer as<br />

simple as putting in a self-certification and<br />

seeing the funds in the bank account the<br />

next day.<br />

Those who borrowed simply to survive<br />

lockdown face a sterner challenge, as many<br />

lenders now demand forecasts rather than<br />

making decisions on past performance –<br />

future figures that many businesses struggle<br />

to produce.<br />

For a while it seemed like peer-to-peer<br />

lenders and alternative funders might offer a<br />

solution to those refused by the banks:<br />

however, most of these have raised the bar<br />

on the amounts they are prepared to lend,<br />

and escalated interest rates on smaller loans.<br />

Other facts are also now emerging as a<br />

difficulty in seeking appropriate access to<br />

finance. Businesses, according to recent<br />

surveys, look for a very speedy response in<br />

seeking funding support. This is usually<br />

found online but from my own practical<br />

experience, many businesses do not spend<br />

enough time looking at the terms of the<br />

loans that they are offered. Too many do not<br />

take any advice on the serviceability of the<br />

loans, which in many cases are offered over<br />

terms that are far too short, and in some<br />

cases, at eye-watering interest rates.<br />

Examples of Wonga loans are emerging in the<br />

business sector at 35 per cent > 45 per cent.<br />

So where does a small, ambitious<br />

business turn for funding? One answer has<br />

to be Community Development Funding<br />

Institutions (CDFIs). They are prepared to<br />

lend where other lenders say ‘No’. About 99<br />

per cent of businesses supported have been<br />

declined by another lender. They can say<br />

‘Yes!’ because they take a person-centred<br />

approach when supporting businesses.<br />

Find out more<br />

Details of CDFIs across the country, many operating<br />

in targeted geographic areas, can be found at<br />

www.findingfinance.org.uk<br />

AREAS<br />

WE COVER<br />

Cheshire | Shropshire | Herefordshire | Worcestershire<br />

Warwickshire | West Midlands | Staffordshire | Derbyshire<br />

Northamptonshire | Leicestershire | Oxfordshire | Gloucestershire<br />


n BUSINESS LOANS FROM £10k - £150k<br />





www.artbusinessloans.co.uk • 0121 359 2444<br />

PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong> 63


Unleash the potential<br />

of your managers<br />

Management development programmes<br />

with the Chamber<br />

Exploring new approaches, insights and taking part in an<br />

outstanding<br />

professional journey is in order for the Black Country to<br />

remain competitive and thrive, great business leaders and<br />

dynamic managers are needed more than ever.<br />

There are many who find themselves in management<br />

positions or elevated to roles who feel they have missed<br />

out on essential training which allows them to be effective<br />

and deliver success for themselves and their business.<br />

For the last six years the Black Country Chamber has<br />

worked with Lotus Flower Consultancy in order to help those<br />

individuals who want to challenge themselves to develop new<br />

insights, explore different approaches and share invaluable<br />

development experiences.<br />

Hundres of individuals have taken this learning back to their<br />

businesses to help navigate challenges, embrace the opportunities<br />

and help their teams and businesses grow.<br />

In recent months, these leaders and managers have stepped up to lead<br />

through the most turbulent of times, and whilst utilising the invaluable lessons<br />

learned, they have led from the front and will continue doing so during the uncertain<br />

months ahead.<br />

Designed to stretch and challenge participants, programmes are run with participants from different<br />

backgrounds, experiences and industries creating a diverse environment where individuals can test<br />

and apply learning and developing together.<br />


n What is a manager? Introduction to management<br />

and the manager’s role<br />

n Using your time effectively and efficiently<br />

n Communication and delivery of the right messages<br />

at the right times<br />

n Styles and dynamics which create a good team<br />

n Getting the most from meetings<br />

n Delivering a great presentation which gets the right results<br />

n Building commercial awareness and acumen<br />

n Preparation and successful management of change<br />

n Stakeholder and relationship mapping and management<br />

n How to run and deliver a project well<br />

n Clarify the purpose and principles or project<br />

management and review roles and responsibilities<br />

n Getting the best from your team and helping them to<br />

perform better<br />

n Coach and develop your teams and people<br />

n Consider development aims for the next six months<br />

which include reflection on this Programme’s learning outcomes<br />

For more details, please contact<br />

training@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

or call 0330 024 0820<br />

COST:<br />

Take the full 12-month programme or pick<br />

and choose modules.<br />

Full 12-month programme: Chamber<br />

members – £1,595.00 + VAT<br />

Non-members – £1,995.00 + VAT<br />

Per module: Chamber members – £250 + VAT<br />

Non-members – £295 + VAT<br />


(15 participants max.)<br />

18 March 18 April<br />

16 May 13 June<br />

11 July 22 August<br />

19 September 17 October<br />

14 November 12 December<br />

2025<br />

6 February 6 March<br />

64 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>


Chamber People<br />

Pertemps named one of<br />

the best places to work<br />

For the 17th consecutive year,<br />

Pertemps has continued to lead the<br />

way for the recruitment sector by<br />

being named in the Best Companies<br />

To Work for Top 100 list.<br />

The specialist recruiter is one of<br />

only three organisation who can boast<br />

such an enduring run in the rollcall of<br />

Britain’s best employers.<br />

At a ceremony in London, it was<br />

placed 38th on the large companies<br />

list following extensive polling with<br />

colleagues around leadership,<br />

workplace environment and support<br />

for employees. It was also confirmed<br />

that the West Midlands-based<br />

business has maintained its three-star, world-class rating for staff<br />

engagement.<br />

Pertemps Network Group CEO Steve West said: “I am immensely<br />

proud of this company, my colleagues and the work that we do. We<br />

invest in our people – always our biggest asset – and we have a strong<br />

moral compass and do all we can to exceed the expectations for our<br />

clients and candidates. This award is testimony to our approach.”<br />

London calling<br />

for Chamber CEO<br />

Chamber CEO Sarah Moorhouse<br />

and our head of premium<br />

membership, Gail Arnold, visited<br />

the House of Lords in October<br />

following an invite from the Rt<br />

Hon Lord Paul of Marylebone,<br />

PC, Chancellor of the University<br />

of Wolverhampton, to an event held to celebrate the significant impact<br />

the university has had on the lives of hundreds of thousands of<br />

students and alumni. In the past two years, Wolverhampton has been<br />

ranked in the top 10 UK universities for nurturing social mobility, and<br />

this is borne out by our current student body where almost half are<br />

“mature” students, 55% are from global majority backgrounds, and two<br />

thirds are the first in their family to attend a university.<br />

n Platinum Group<br />

Member and Queen’s<br />

Award-winning freight<br />

forwarder KMB<br />

Shipping has just<br />

celebrated its 36th<br />

birthday – an incredible<br />

voyage from humble<br />

beginnings, filled with<br />

unforgettable<br />

moments as the team<br />

gathered to celebrate<br />

at their Dudley offices.<br />

Steve West<br />

Welcome to<br />

the Chamber<br />

The following business have joined Black Country<br />

Chamber in the past few months. Welcome to you all.<br />

Airguard Envirocare Ltd<br />

Airtime Solutions Ltd<br />

Azets UK<br />

Beechwood House Healthcare Ltd<br />

Birchills Automotive Presswork Ltd (Oliver Wellings Designs)<br />

Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation<br />

Black Lodge Potions Ltd<br />

Building Pathways CIC<br />

Darvick Ltd<br />

Dear Emily Designs<br />

Diversity Music Community 1st CIC<br />

Dudley Group NHS Charity<br />

Eighty3 Creative Limited<br />

Elite Dragon Martial Arts<br />

Enterprise MG Ltd T/A Auditel<br />

Glass Pen Studios<br />

Godiva Bearings (Southern) Ltd<br />

Goldilock Secure Ltd<br />

GTG Training Academy & Conference Centre (West Mids)<br />

HQA<br />

HR Dept - Birmingham Central & Wolverhampton<br />

Industrial Valves Limited<br />

JCML Collections Ltd<br />

Jireh Support Services<br />

KDR Resin Systems Limited<br />

Leap Business Solutions Limited<br />

Levant Perfumes<br />

Lloyds Banking Group<br />

MacLellan Rubber Ltd<br />

Marcegaglia UK Ltd<br />

Marshall Harmony Ltd<br />

Neal Energy Solutions Ltd<br />

Neil Malone<br />

Nelson Development<br />

Pinnacle Business Finance<br />

Plum Ideas Ltd<br />

Repository Wealth Ltd<br />

Resource Worldwide Ltd<br />

RJT Conveyors (International) Ltd<br />

Shades of Reality<br />

Simpila Mental Health<br />

Six Wands Aspects Limited<br />

Smart Culture Ltd<br />

Spotbuyer Ltd<br />

Tettenhall College<br />

Thandi’s Touch<br />

The Unda Dog<br />

TS Healthcare<br />

UKO Serviced Offices<br />

Walsh Funeral & Memorials Ltd<br />

Wealth-interventions Ltd<br />

Wolves Foundation<br />

YMCA Black Country Group<br />

Zanzo - Facilities Services<br />

ZinZino<br />

66 PROSPER AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong>

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