Black Country Chamber of Commerce membership magazine; business advice and information

Black Country Chamber of Commerce membership magazine; business advice and information


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<strong>PROSPER</strong><br />

<strong>SPRING</strong> 2024<br />

Aiming for the top<br />

How training has boosted four young professionals’ careers

WELCOME TO <strong>PROSPER</strong><br />

We are ready for future opportunities<br />

With Black Country businesses reporting greater confidence than the national average, the enhanced<br />

Chamber of Commerce team will be supporting members in more ways than ever before as they capitalise<br />

on the opportunities ahead despite the surrounding economic challenges, says Sarah Moorhouse, CEO<br />

Welcome to the first Prosper magazine<br />

of 2024, a year that will see the Black<br />

Country Chamber of Commerce play a<br />

leading role in supporting members and<br />

growing the local economy.<br />

No doubt there will be challenges<br />

ahead, but the Chamber is here for you.<br />

We are working to represent you, support<br />

you in unlocking new opportunities and to<br />

help you build on our region’s proud<br />

heritage to generate future economic<br />

success.<br />

Ready for 2024<br />

The optimism of Black Country<br />

businesses for the future is encapsulated<br />

by the responses to our Ready for 2024<br />

campaign, which you can read about in<br />

these pages.<br />

Companies that took part revealed<br />

plans for growth and investment in<br />

technology, innovation and colleague<br />

development, so there is a lot to feel<br />

positive about.<br />

We want to celebrate our member firms<br />

of all sizes who are looking to build<br />

success in the 12 months ahead, with<br />

many of you wanting to make the most of<br />

Chamber support to do so.<br />

It was noticeable how many of you<br />

wanted to prioritise working with other<br />

Black Country businesses when choosing<br />

suppliers and partners, which really<br />

highlights the importance of collaboration<br />

between our members.<br />

The optimism felt in our region in the<br />

face of the adversity we are all<br />

experiencing with the economic<br />

backdrop, was seen clearly when the<br />

Chamber hosted its first ever Quarterly<br />

Economic Survey data reveal event in<br />

January. The key takeaway from the QES<br />

was that Black Country firms were viewing<br />

2024 with greater confidence than the<br />

national average; 71% believe that their<br />

turnover will improve in the next 12<br />

months, well above the UK average of<br />

56%.<br />

We strongly encourage all businesses,<br />

whether Chamber members or not, to<br />

complete the Quarterly Economy Survey, as<br />

it is closely watched by national<br />

policymakers, including the Treasury, the<br />

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

Responsibility. At a local level, we use the<br />

data when meeting with MPs and council<br />

leaders to develop economic strategies<br />

and policies to promote growth and<br />

enterprise. So why not make a note to join<br />

our next QES event in April? It will be an<br />

excellent opportunity to gain valuable<br />

insight into local and national data, hear<br />

from guest speakers and network.<br />

A year of change?<br />

One thing is clear: 2024 will be a year<br />

where voters decide the future course for<br />

the country and its businesses, with the<br />

economy a key focus. Not only is a<br />

General Election on the horizon, but we<br />

have the West Midlands mayoral election<br />

coming up in May.<br />

Among the frontrunners, Andy Street<br />

has a huge following, but with Richard<br />

Parker promising fresh ideas, it will be<br />

interesting to see whether it is loyalty or<br />

the appeal of something new that wins<br />

over the voters.<br />

New services<br />

Just as change is a constant for our<br />

member businesses, we are enhancing<br />

our offering to give you the best possible<br />

support for 2024 and beyond.<br />

We have a new team dedicated to<br />

supporting our members. Strong,<br />

purposeful and enthusiastic, we want to<br />

do our best to deliver what you want from<br />

us, so please reach out – we are ready to<br />

help.<br />

Two new appointments will help us<br />

deliver even more fantastic events this<br />

year. Stephanie Sullivan has joined the<br />

Chamber as Head of Marketing and<br />

Communications, while Marie Shuker has<br />

been appointed our new Events and<br />

Project Officer.<br />

As we mark International Women’s Day<br />

on March 8, it is great to see how many<br />

women we have taking up senior roles<br />

within the organisation.<br />

The arrival of Prosper means we are<br />

nearly a quarter of the way into 2024.<br />

Despite the challenges, we know our<br />

members are ready to embrace the<br />

many opportunities ahead, and as you<br />

will see in the following pages, the<br />

Chamber is committed to supporting<br />

you in more ways than ever before.<br />

As I have said consistently, we have<br />

your back and will work with you as we<br />

shape a new future.<br />

Contact Sarah via<br />

sarahmoorhouse@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 03


Editor<br />

Osborn Communications<br />

prosper@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

Membership<br />

Sian Roberts<br />

Sales and Marketing Director<br />

07714 740818<br />

sianroberts@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

Publisher<br />

Chamber Media Services<br />

4 Hilton Road, Bramhall<br />

Stockport, Cheshire<br />

SK7 3AG<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 />

Young professionals plot their way to<br />

the top. See page 26.<br />

Photographers: Cover, Shahida Shah.<br />

Inside feature photos on pg 26-28 by<br />

Paul Gallagher.<br />

with thanks to Dr Euripides Altintzoglou,<br />

FHEA, Course Leader (Photography),<br />

Senior Lecturer (Fine Art) University of<br />

Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton School<br />

of Art ; and Sam Wood.<br />


<strong>PROSPER</strong><br />


26 Aiming<br />

for the top<br />

Black Country Prosper 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 />

Prosper 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<br />

throughout the region and further afield.<br />

To find out more about advertising in Prosper, 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 Prosper 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 />

54<br />

BWCM to review<br />

regional transport<br />

links in bid to<br />

boost economy<br />

O4 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024



11<br />

Helping<br />

hand for<br />

start-ups<br />

10<br />

Chamber<br />

celebrates<br />

two major<br />

tender<br />

wins with<br />

local<br />

authorities<br />

36<br />

Landmark for Paycare<br />

60<br />

Academy’s social<br />

media training<br />

success story<br />

25<br />

Dare to<br />

dream<br />

- and<br />

don’t<br />

be<br />

afraid<br />

to have<br />

a go<br />

50<br />

INSIDE...<br />

Chamber Awards 2024 launched<br />

What’s in store: ‘Ready for 2024’?<br />

Members’ News<br />

The Platinum Group, Patrons and<br />

the Start-Up Business Club<br />

Events – Training – Professional Development<br />

Cadent is<br />

fired up by<br />

Chamber<br />

Platinum<br />

link<br />

19<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 05


Andy Street: We are investing in skills and<br />

training, driven by input from business<br />

The Quarterly Economic Survey (QES)<br />

carried out by the Black Country<br />

Chamber provides a valuable barometer<br />

of its members’ views, and the latest<br />

results show encouraging signs around<br />

business confidence.<br />

However, it also indicates that<br />

concerns remain over how skills may be<br />

impacting on recruitment plans, a<br />

long-standing issue in our region which<br />

we continue to work to improve.<br />

Businesses are right to flag this up. As<br />

someone who spent decades in business,<br />

I understand just how vital a skilled and<br />

trained workforce is.<br />

I thought I would use this column to<br />

outline what has been achieved in terms<br />

of skills and training in our region, and<br />

some of the initiatives that continue to<br />

drive improvements.<br />

Concerns over skills here date back<br />

decades, but it’s important to recognise<br />

that we have come a long way. In 2007,<br />

the West Midlands was considered to be<br />

the worst qualified UK region, with a fifth<br />

of young people leaving school with no<br />

qualifications.<br />

However, since 2019, the West<br />

Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)<br />

has had devolved control of the region’s<br />

£130m adult education budget – funding<br />

further education providers and working<br />

with them to equip people with the skills<br />

actually needed by employers.<br />

Investment in Level 3 training here has<br />

increased from £4.4m to £37m a year.<br />

In 2020, the number of people with<br />

NVQ Level 3+ qualifications across our<br />

seven boroughs increased by 120,000 to<br />

1,444,000. At the same time, the number<br />

of people with no qualifications reduced<br />

by 66,700 to 223,800 – down 23 per cent.<br />

More people are attaining NVQs than<br />

ever before. Backed with £150 million<br />

from the Government, courses provide<br />

training in everything from clean energy<br />

and construction to digital skills and HGV<br />

driving.<br />

Perhaps the best example has been<br />

our ‘bootcamp’ concept, which provides<br />

funded flexible courses of up to 16 weeks,<br />

giving people the opportunity to build up<br />

sector-specific skills and launch a new<br />

career.<br />

Last year, we launched our most<br />

comprehensive scheme yet, increasing<br />

the threshold for free job training by<br />

£12,000 – which means that anyone on or<br />

below the average regional wage of<br />

£30,000 can access free Level 3 training.<br />

This is the most generous free job<br />

training offer in the UK.<br />

All of this progress has been informed<br />

by input from the business community.<br />

However, as the QES testifies, the<br />

impact of years of underinvestment in<br />

skills here persist. The wider West<br />

Midlands still has over a million people<br />

with no qualifications, at a higher<br />

proportion than the national average.<br />

This is unacceptable.<br />

There remains much to be done. Our<br />

trailblazing Deeper Devolution Deal will<br />

give us more power over nonapprenticeship<br />

adult skills and Post-16<br />

technical education, another piece in the<br />

jigsaw.<br />

We are also making a £7.5m investment<br />

into ‘Path 2 Apprenticeships’, to provide<br />

young adults from 19-29 with the<br />

knowledge and skills they need to secure<br />

good apprenticeship jobs. This will create<br />

3,300 training places to help tackle the<br />

issue and encourage more young people<br />

into apprenticeships that lead to a job.<br />

For years, our region suffered from<br />

chronic underinvestment in training. With<br />

the valuable input of businesspeople, we<br />

are making real progress in creating a<br />

workforce that has the skills that<br />

employers need.<br />

Find out how the WMCA can help<br />

with apprenticeship training costs<br />


06 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Your Chamber,<br />

working for you<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce has made a number of strategic<br />

appointments to enhance the way it communicates with the full range of<br />

target audiences. New team members have joined to deliver our marketing,<br />

communications and events, all in line with our overarching goal of adding<br />

real value to business leaders across the Black Country and beyond.<br />

In 2024 we will continue to amplify the voice of members to showcase,<br />

celebrate and champion the Black Country business community.<br />

Experienced marcomms<br />

professional to lead on<br />

Chamber messaging<br />

Stephanie Sullivan:<br />

Joins the Chamber<br />

with extensive<br />

experience of<br />

marketing large<br />

membership<br />

organisations<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce<br />

has appointed an experienced new Head<br />

of Marketing & Communications to play a<br />

leading role in our drive to re-energise the<br />

local economy in 2024.<br />

Stephanie Sullivan joins the Chamber<br />

having recently worked in marketing for<br />

National Trust.<br />

Drawing upon extensive experience<br />

with membership organisations,<br />

Stephanie will support the Chamber in<br />

delivering on its mission to promote and<br />

meet the needs of business and industry<br />

across the Black Country, and to help<br />

create the best community in which to<br />

live, work and do business.<br />

Stephanie brings a wealth of marketing<br />

and communications experience,<br />

including more than five years with the<br />

National Trust, the UK’s second largest<br />

membership organisation.<br />

In her new Chamber role she will draw<br />

upon her wider marcomms experience<br />

from her time working for Yale UK and<br />

Finning UK.<br />

Chamber CEO Sarah Moorhouse said:<br />

“We are pleased to welcome Stephanie to<br />

the Chamber to take up a role which will<br />

enhance the its visibility and help grow<br />

our membership portfolio.<br />

“With strong experience in marketing<br />

membership organisations, we have<br />

recruited a new colleague who meets our<br />

brief of adding a dynamic individual who<br />

is a pro-active, creative and highly<br />

experienced in leading marketing and<br />

communications.<br />

“We are proud of the positive impact<br />

which the Chamber has upon local<br />

business life. Our latest recruitment drive<br />

shows we are always striving to bring in<br />

talented people, to strengthen our<br />

growing team and expertise.”<br />

Stephanie said: “I am pleased to be<br />

joining the Chamber at an exciting time in<br />

its history as it builds on its heritage to<br />

help members by making the process of<br />

doing business easier and helping the<br />

local economy by removing barriers<br />

limiting growth.<br />

“It is an exciting role in which I believe I<br />

can add value based on my previous<br />

experience and my understanding of the<br />

value which members place on being part<br />

of a network like the Chamber. I look<br />

forward to working with the team to<br />

achieve the goals ahead of us.”<br />

The Chamber is delivering on a brief to<br />

promote its work as a modern business<br />

membership organisation. As part of this<br />

drive, the Chamber is updating its<br />

marketing and communications to reach<br />

target audiences across a growing<br />

number of platforms including its website<br />

and social media channels, events and<br />

external media including press.<br />

“We are proud of the positive impact the Chamber has<br />

upon local business life. Our latest recruitment drive<br />

shows we are always striving to bring in talented people,<br />

to strengthen our growing team and expertise.”<br />

Chamber CEO Sarah Moorhouse<br />

Stephanie can be contacted at<br />

stephaniesullivan@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

08 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Chamber strengthens news and content offer<br />

The Chamber has enhanced its offering<br />

around news and content as part of its<br />

refreshed drive to re-energise marketing<br />

opportunities for Black Country members<br />

in 2024.<br />

Having joined the Chamber in early<br />

2023 to co-ordinate our web and social<br />

media output, Lauren Shepherd has<br />

been promoted to Digital Marketing and<br />

Communications Manager.<br />

Lauren, a former University of<br />

Wolverhampton graduate, was promoted<br />

in recognition of the impact of her<br />

creativity and digital marketing expertise<br />

upon the work of the external affairs<br />

team, who lead on all member and<br />

external communications for the region’s<br />

longest running business support<br />

organisation.<br />

Sian Roberts, Sales and Marketing<br />

Director, said: “Lauren’s promotion is well<br />

deserved and reflects her fantastic work<br />

and contribution to the Chamber in her<br />

first 12 months.”<br />

In addition, Osborn Communications<br />

has been appointed to handle press and<br />

public relations work, promoting the<br />

Chamber as a positive membership<br />

group for Black Country businesses while<br />

celebrating member success stories.<br />

As well as securing front page news for<br />

the Chamber over Christmas, Osborn has<br />

helped the leadership team reach radio<br />

audiences as part of its brief to deliver<br />

news to be shared via our website and<br />

social media, as well as member channels<br />

such as emails and external media. The<br />

agency has also helped to produce the<br />

Chamber’s well-established business<br />

publication, Prosper.<br />

Chamber CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse with<br />

Chris Leggett and the<br />

team from Osborn;<br />

above, Lauren<br />

Shepherd<br />

CEO Sarah Moorhouse said: “We are<br />

delighted to work with Osborn, which has<br />

grown since winning our Start-up Award<br />

in 2021 and has helped a range of our<br />

member companies to grow their profile.”<br />

Submit stories for Prosper to<br />

prosper@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

or upload them to<br />

www.blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

Marie aims to take Chamber events to next level<br />

Black Country Chamber has appointed a<br />

new Events & Projects Officer to play a<br />

leading role in co-ordinating our full range<br />

of annual events.<br />

Marie Shuker is joining the Chamber to<br />

help deliver everything from the annual<br />

Chamber Awards night through to<br />

breakfast briefings, the Economic<br />

Conference and member exhibitor shows.<br />

Marie brings a wealth of event<br />

management, customer service and<br />

stakeholder engagement experience<br />

from her time as Events Manager at the<br />

University of Wolverhampton and also<br />

BMet College.<br />

Marie said: “I am delighted to be joining<br />

the Chamber for what promises to be an<br />

exciting year for events.<br />

“Knowing the region and the business<br />

community well, the opportunity to join<br />

the Chamber to bring together a diverse<br />

range of companies through our events<br />

was very appealing. I look forward to<br />

helping the Chamber celebrate the best<br />

of the region, establish opportunities for<br />

networking and support the growth of the<br />

local economy.”<br />

High on Marie’s agenda will be the 23 rd<br />

annual Black Country Chamber<br />

Business Awards, a dazzling celebration<br />

of the businesses shaping our vibrant<br />

economic landscape. This year’s event<br />

will be held at the newly<br />

relaunched The Halls<br />

Wolverhampton, on<br />

November 21.<br />

Sian Roberts said:<br />

“We are pleased to<br />

welcome Marie to our<br />

team to help us<br />

deliver our vibrant and<br />

diverse events<br />

Marie Shuker<br />

programme.<br />

“Our events generate excellent<br />

feedback from members and partners so<br />

we look forward to delivering a varied<br />

programme in the year ahead.”<br />

Each year the Chamber brings together<br />

a variety of corporate partners and<br />

stakeholders to create impactful events<br />

and experiences.<br />

As well as flagship events such as the<br />

Economic Conference and the annual<br />

awards, which saw 500 people attend a<br />

black tie dinner in November, the<br />

Chamber delivers a growing<br />

number of briefings, forums<br />

and knowledge sharing<br />

sessions.<br />

More on awards: see pg 30<br />

Click for full detail of<br />

the Chamber events<br />

programme<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 09


Black Country Chamber wins two<br />

tenders to support start-ups<br />

As part of our drive to boost the region’s economy, the Chamber has secured two<br />

tenders to help new businesses and shape the success stories of tomorrow.<br />

The Chamber of Commerce is to deliver support services for start-up businesses to<br />

grow economic prosperity and employment opportunities in Walsall and<br />

Wolverhampton. These build on our track record of helping fledgling firms to grow, by<br />

providing support which helps young companies to take their next steps.<br />

Far left, Chamber<br />

CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse with City<br />

of Wolverhampton<br />

Council Leader, Cllr<br />

Stephen Simkins<br />

and left, with Cllr<br />

Adrian Andrew,<br />

Deputy Leader and<br />

Portfolio Holder for<br />

Regeneration at<br />

Walsall Council<br />

The Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce is to deliver support services<br />

for start-up businesses to grow<br />

economic prosperity and employment in<br />

Walsall and Wolverhampton.<br />

Following two successful tender<br />

applications, the Chamber will provide<br />

services for new and growing<br />

businesses on behalf of Walsall Council<br />

and City of Wolverhampton Council as<br />

part of their drive to build their local<br />

economies.<br />

The Chamber plans to deliver both<br />

programmes of support through its<br />

current Start-up provision. The<br />

Chamber launched the Start-Up<br />

Business Club in 2018 to provide<br />

platforms and opportunities for<br />

businesses looking to grow, connect<br />

and become part of a thriving network.<br />

The Club contributes to the growth of<br />

a new business by providing a<br />

supportive environment and valuable<br />

connections including a dedicated<br />

business relationship manager.<br />

Under the City of Wolverhampton<br />

Council’s ‘Our City Our Plan’ strategy,<br />

the Chamber of Commerce team will<br />

offer local firms in the early stages of<br />

development a suite of activity to help<br />

them start up, scale up and thrive.<br />

With funding from the Government<br />

through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund,<br />

the start-up programme, which will run<br />

until March 2025, will support<br />

Wolverhampton residents as they<br />

engage with and access skills that allow<br />

them to launch new businesses that will<br />

go on to grow and thrive.<br />

The scheme aims to increase the<br />

number of new enterprises, ranging<br />

from sole trader and micro business to<br />

SMEs and large enterprises, including<br />

social enterprises.<br />

Following the successful Walsall<br />

tender application, the Chamber will<br />

help new and growing businesses<br />

through the Business Growth Walsall<br />

programme.<br />

Chamber CEO Sarah Moorhouse said<br />

the contract wins would enable the<br />

Chamber to create more prosperity<br />

among start-up businesses in both<br />

areas. She said: “We are delighted to<br />

have secured these contracts; this is a<br />

vital service provision for new and<br />

growing companies looking for expert<br />

support to transition from start-up<br />

stage to being a fully-fledged business<br />

set up for success.<br />

“The Chamber has a proud history of<br />

supporting new businesses to grow by<br />

creating an environment conducive to<br />

success and improving business<br />

“The Chamber has a proud history of supporting new businesses to<br />

grow by creating an environment conducive to success ....<br />

We will look to engage with the full range of Wolverhampton and<br />

Walsall start-ups, particularly those in growth sectors such as<br />

technology, creative and digital, as well as those emerging markets<br />

such as the green economy.”<br />

10 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Start-Up<br />

business<br />

leaders at the<br />

first training<br />

session at<br />

IGNITE<br />

performance through training,<br />

information, networking and support.<br />

“We will look to engage with the full<br />

range of Wolverhampton and Walsall<br />

start-ups, particularly those in growth<br />

sectors such as technology, creative and<br />

digital, as well as those emerging<br />

markets such as the green economy.”<br />

Councillor Stephen Simkins, City of<br />

Wolverhampton Council Leader, said:<br />

“We are pleased to be working with the<br />

Chamber to deliver a programme which<br />

will make a tangible contribution to the<br />

economic future of Wolverhampton.<br />

“We appreciate that getting the right<br />

advice and support is key to business<br />

success and, with our partners, it is vital<br />

we help businesses access the tools they<br />

need.<br />

“Our overarching priorities include<br />

building a thriving economy in all parts of<br />

the city, so we look forward to seeing<br />

more start-ups grow and create<br />

employment opportunities through this<br />

scheme.”<br />

Councillor Adrian Andrew, Deputy<br />

Leader and Portfolio Holder for<br />

Regeneration at Walsall Council said:<br />

“We are looking forward to working with<br />

the Black Country Chamber to deliver a<br />

programme that will help provide<br />

start-up businesses with the essential<br />

skills and support they need to thrive.<br />

“Supporting start-up businesses will<br />

help Walsall build a modern and<br />

competitive economy, create<br />

employment opportunities and<br />

encourage regeneration in the town.”<br />

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a<br />

central pillar of the UK government’s<br />

Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6<br />

billion of funding for local investment by<br />

March 2025. The Fund aims to improve<br />

pride in place and increase life chances<br />

across the UK investing in communities<br />

and place, supporting local business,<br />

and people and skills.<br />

To find out more about our start-up provision<br />

contact Alison Trinder, Start-Up Business -<br />

Account Manager & Membership<br />

Relationship Manager via email<br />

alisontrinder@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

or visit<br />

www.blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

First cohorts take part in<br />

Chamber start-up sessions<br />

Start-up businesses in Walsall and<br />

Wolverhampton have taken the first<br />

steps in their journey by completing the<br />

initial Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce training sessions (see left).<br />

The Chamber’s in-depth support<br />

through its Start-Up Business Club will<br />

help start-ups grow and boost the<br />

economy and job opportunities in<br />

Walsall and Wolverhampton.<br />

The first Wolverhampton business<br />

owners joined an event at IGNITE, the<br />

business workspace and start-up<br />

centre supported by the University of<br />

Wolverhampton and the Chamber of<br />

Commerce, on February 19.<br />

Alison Trinder, our Start-Up Business<br />

Account Manager & Membership<br />

Relationship Manager, said: “We were<br />

pleased to see so many businesses<br />

express an interest in joining the first<br />

cohort, which will be among five to be<br />

held over the next year.<br />

“The first session covered the choice<br />

of going self-employed or forming a<br />

limited company, and its impact on<br />

insurance, legal responsibilities and tax<br />

considerations.<br />

“We have been delighted with the<br />

range of companies in the first cohort.<br />

Further cohorts are coming soon so<br />

with around 20 businesses in each, we<br />

are keen to hear from entrepreneurs<br />

who would like to join later groups.”<br />

Fledgling companies looking to join<br />

the next two cohorts, which will begin<br />

in April and July, should contact the<br />

Chamber to register.<br />

The first sessions for the Business<br />

Growth Walsall programme were held<br />

on February 6, with more meetings<br />

planned for mid-March.<br />

The programme will allow Walsall<br />

residents to get specialist support to<br />

engage and access skills to plan, begin<br />

and thrive in business.<br />

Alison added: “It has been great to<br />

engage with new businesses in Walsall<br />

through delivery of the programme on<br />

behalf of Walsall Council.<br />

“Although the economic picture is<br />

challenging, many people want to run<br />

their own business but can be daunted<br />

by the new skills needed and the range<br />

of responsibilities.”<br />

Previous Start-Up Club members<br />

have praised Alison for her efforts. One<br />

wrote: “I have seen firsthand how she<br />

takes the time to understand your<br />

business so that she can tailor the<br />

support she offers. She goes above<br />

and beyond to support us and has<br />

connected us with other companies<br />

who have helped develop our business.”<br />

To join the future cohorts, contact<br />

Alison Trinder (see left)<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 11


Meet the team: The people<br />

behind the Chamber<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 />

Gail Arnold<br />

Head of Premium<br />

Membership<br />

Sales & Business<br />

Relationship Managers<br />

Gemma<br />

Shakespeare<br />

Finance & Export<br />

Documentation Team<br />

Andrew Wells<br />

Assistant<br />

Accountant<br />

Malcolm Reid<br />

Export Documentation<br />

Assistant<br />

Marketing and<br />

Communications<br />

Stephanie Sullivan<br />

Head of Marketing<br />

and Communications<br />

Lauren Shepherd<br />

Digital Marketing and<br />

Communications<br />

Manager<br />

Steve Salt<br />

Mandy Perry<br />

Finance & Export<br />

Assistant<br />

Owenia Francis<br />

Apprentice<br />

Content Creator<br />

Richard Hobbs<br />

Alison Trinder<br />

Start-up Business<br />

Manager<br />

Tracey Jovicich<br />

Membership<br />

Administrator<br />

IGNITE Hub<br />

Laila Hudson<br />

IGNITE Hub Customer<br />

Service Advisor<br />

Daniel Parkes<br />

IGNITE Hub Customer<br />

Service Advisor<br />

Marie Shuker<br />

Events & Project<br />

Officer<br />

Gemma Edwards<br />

Policy & Impact<br />

Officer<br />

Osborn Communications<br />

Press, PR and Prosper<br />

Contact Us: 0330 024 0820<br />

Membership: membershipteam@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

12 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


The importance of backup<br />

and recovery<br />

We live in an ever-increasing, techoriented<br />

world, in which the importance<br />

of backup and recovery cannot be<br />

overstated.<br />

No matter the size of your business,<br />

establishing robust strategies for<br />

safeguarding data against unforeseen<br />

events is crucial in order to keep it<br />

running.<br />

For example, small businesses rely on<br />

digital records for daily operations,<br />

making backup measures a lifeline<br />

against disruptions. Medium and<br />

large-sized businesses, have a larger pool<br />

of digital data for financial transactions,<br />

customer information, and operational<br />

intricacies.<br />

“90% of businesses close<br />

their doors 2 years after<br />

suffering a data emergency”.<br />

The implementation of comprehensive<br />

backup measures is not just<br />

precautionary, but a strategic imperative<br />

for these enterprises. Recognising the<br />

significance of backup and recovery is<br />

key to navigating the dynamic landscape<br />

of technology and ensuring your business<br />

is prepared for the unexpected.<br />

Protecting against data loss<br />

The data a business holds can be<br />

vulnerable to a wide range of threats,<br />

stemming from hardware failures,<br />

software glitches, cyberattacks, and even<br />

human errors. Without a comprehensive<br />

backup solution, the loss of critical<br />

information can have severe<br />

consequences. Imagine losing important<br />

documents, financial records, or even<br />

irreplaceable memories due to a system<br />

crash or accidental deletion. A robust<br />

backup system ensures that data is<br />

preserved, allowing for a swift recovery in<br />

the face of adversity.<br />

Mitigating the impact of cyber threats<br />

Cyber threats are becoming<br />

increasingly more sophisticated as time<br />

goes on, making the importance of<br />

backup and recovery solutions vital<br />

components of a businesses<br />

comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.<br />

Ransomware attacks, in particular,<br />

have become more prevalent, holding<br />

data hostage until a ransom is paid. With<br />

a reliable backup in place, businesses<br />

and users can restore their systems to a<br />

pre-attack state, rendering ransomware<br />

attempts futile.<br />

Financial losses, reputational damage<br />

& business continuity<br />

For businesses, downtime can<br />

translate to significant financial losses<br />

and damage to reputation. Unexpected<br />

disruptions, such as natural disasters or<br />

system failures, can bring operations to a<br />

standstill. A well-designed backup and<br />

recovery plan ensures minimal downtime<br />

by swiftly restoring critical systems and<br />

data, allowing businesses to resume<br />

operations with minimal disruption.<br />

Compliance and legal requirements<br />

In many industries, there are strict<br />

regulatory requirements regarding data<br />

storage, protection, and retention. Failure<br />

to comply with these regulations can<br />

result in legal consequences and financial<br />

penalties. Implementing a robust backup<br />

and recovery strategy not only helps<br />

businesses comply with these regulations<br />

but also demonstrates a commitment to<br />

data integrity and security.<br />

Preserving your businesses history<br />

Losing personal things to us like<br />

photos on our phones, videos, and other<br />

cherished memories can be heartbreaking.<br />

Similarly, businesses<br />

accumulate years of work, achievements<br />

and milestones that are then captured in<br />

digital formats and these things can be<br />

irreplaceable. Regular backups serve as a<br />

safety net to ensure these valuable<br />

assets can be recovered even in the face<br />

of unforeseen events.<br />

Scalability and flexibility<br />

Backup solutions are not one-size-fitsall.<br />

They should be scalable and adaptable<br />

to the evolving needs of the business and<br />

their users. Whether you’re dealing with a<br />

growing business or expanding personal<br />

data, a flexible backup and recovery<br />

system can accommodate increased<br />

storage demands and technological<br />

advancements.<br />

Conclusion<br />

It is no longer a precautionary measure<br />

to have backup and recovery plans in<br />

place, instead it is now a fundamental<br />

aspect in order for a business to remain<br />

resilient in this day and age.<br />

Whether you’re protecting sensitive<br />

client information or safeguarding<br />

business data, investing in a reliable<br />

backup and recovery solution is an<br />

investment that ensures you can take<br />

care of your business in the long run to<br />

withstand any hurdles along the way.<br />

Integrating a backup and recovery plan<br />

establishes comprehensive security<br />

measures for your business, delivering<br />

peace of mind for both employees and<br />

business owners.<br />

Find out more at<br />

www.ebcgroup.co.uk,<br />

via 0121 368 0154<br />

or email EBC Group at:<br />

hello@ebcgroup.co.uk<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 13


Our first ever Quarterly Economic Survey Data Reveal event saw 50 business representatives join us to<br />

hear the exclusive insights on the local economy from the results of our most recent member research.<br />

The data, based on surveys completed by a record number of member businesses, showed the<br />

improvement in confidence on growing turnover in the Black Country was above the national average.<br />

As we stage these events throughout this year, you can play your part by completing the survey and<br />

attending our data reveal events to hear the results first and network with leading lights from our region.<br />

Almost three-quarters of Black Country<br />

businesses believe their turnover will<br />

improve in the next 12 months despite<br />

the economic challenges they face, the<br />

most recent economic survey by the<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce<br />

has shown.<br />

The data, based on surveys completed<br />

by a record number of local Chamber<br />

member businesses, showed the<br />

improvement in the Black Country was<br />

above the national average.<br />

The Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey<br />

(QES) for Quarter 4 gave an up-to-date<br />

picture of the performance of the Black<br />

Country business community.<br />

The results showed 71 per cent of<br />

businesses believed turnover will improve<br />

in the next 12 months, up from 55 per<br />

cent three months earlier.<br />

This contrasts with national results<br />

from the British Chamber’s QES, which<br />

showed 56 per cent of firms were<br />

expecting an increase in turnover. That<br />

was the highest level since Quarter 1 of<br />

2022 when Covid restrictions were lifted.<br />

The last Black Country survey of 2023<br />

found 58 per cent of respondents said<br />

they expected profitability to improve in<br />

2024, compared with 45 per cent in the<br />

previous quarter, yet the survey showed<br />

recruitment, wage inflation and rising<br />

energy costs are the biggest pressure<br />

points for businesses.<br />

The results were announced at the<br />

Chamber’s first ever Quarterly Economic<br />

Survey Data Reveal event, at the<br />

University of Wolverhampton Science<br />

Park on January 11.<br />

The event was led by Gemma Edwards,<br />

Black Country Chamber’s Policy and<br />

Impact Officer.<br />

The key findings:<br />

n Business confidence had grown<br />

with 71 per cent of respondents believing<br />

turnover will improve in the next 12<br />

months, compared to 55 per cent in<br />

Quarter 3.<br />

n Profitability hopes were high: 58 per<br />

cent thought their profitability will<br />

Challenges remain<br />

but QES reveals<br />

boost in business<br />

confidence<br />

improve, compared to 45 per cent in the<br />

previous quarter.<br />

n Sales were also up, 36 per cent of<br />

firms reported, an increase from 26 per<br />

cent in the last survey.<br />

n Recruitment was still a struggle<br />

though fewer firms were looking at hiring:<br />

just over half (57 per cent) attempted to<br />

recruit over the past quarter, down from<br />

71 per cent in Quarter 3.<br />

Gemma Edwards said: “We had our<br />

biggest response yet from members for<br />

this survey, and they have given us a<br />

snapshot of the feeling across the Black<br />

The Chamber’s<br />

Gemma Edwards<br />

reveals the QES data<br />

Country. Different sectors raised the<br />

same concerns around labour costs,<br />

utility costs, and struggles to find<br />

sufficiently trained staff.<br />

“Business confidence remains high,<br />

and it was encouraging to hear that our<br />

members were investing in new operating<br />

systems and technology to improve<br />

efficiencies, increase the workforce and<br />

expand services on offer.”<br />

Black Country Chamber CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse said: “It is encouraging to see<br />

our local members feel more positive<br />

than the national average, although the<br />

14 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Left, pictured at the event are, from left,<br />

Lesley Holland, Juniper Training, Sian<br />

Roberts and Sarah Moorhouse, Black<br />

Country Chamber, Daniel Degg, City of<br />

Wolverhampton College, and Gemma<br />

Edwards, Black Country Chamber<br />

75%<br />

50%<br />

Save the date for QES<br />

Quarter 1 report<br />

Date: Thursday, April 4<br />

Time: 10am-11:30am<br />

Venue: Black Country and Marches<br />

Institute of Technology,<br />

Zoological Drive, Dudley DY1 4AE.<br />

Cost: Free for members.<br />

Join us at our second QES breakfast<br />

meeting, where we will reveal the<br />

results from our Q1 2024 Quarterly<br />

Economic Survey.<br />

You will be the first to hear how peers<br />

in the Black Country business<br />

community are feeling about their<br />

prospects as 2024 gets under way.<br />

We will also exclusively reveal Black<br />

Country data, alongside the national<br />

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

local and national economy.<br />

25%<br />

0%<br />

Q4 Q3 Q4 Q3 Q4 Q3 Q4 Q3<br />

Business Confident that Sales increases Recruitment<br />

confidence in Profitability planned<br />

turnover rising improving<br />

For further details,<br />

and to book,<br />

click here<br />

Below, Daniel Degg delivers his<br />

presentation on the current situation<br />

around recruitment and skills<br />

difficulties firms are facing across<br />

recruitment, wage inflation and price<br />

increases for raw materials are still<br />

concerning.<br />

“However, it is good to see signs of<br />

positivity in business confidence of<br />

improving profitability and turnover in the<br />

next twelve months, and that businesses<br />

are looking to invest in training and<br />

equipment.”<br />

The survey event also included a<br />

discussion with Daniel Degg, Head of<br />

Employer Engagement and Business<br />

Development at City of Wolverhampton<br />

College, around the upskilling<br />

opportunities to retain staff provided by<br />

local college training courses.<br />

Lesley Holland, Managing Director at<br />

Juniper Training, shared best practice on<br />

the ways the apprenticeship training<br />

business had adapted to support staff<br />

and improve their skills.<br />

See overleaf for full QES data<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 15


The full Black Country Chamber of Commerce QES<br />

Quarter 4 2023 summary findings included:<br />

Business Confidence - turnover to<br />

grow next 12 months<br />

Sales Trends: Domestic and Export<br />

n 36 per cent of firms reported an increase in domestic sales, up<br />

from 26 per cent in Quarter 3, while 42 per cent reported no<br />

change and 14 per cent reported a decrease.<br />

n 6 per cent of firms reported an increase in overseas sales while 14<br />

per cent reported no change. 13 per cent reported a decrease.<br />

n 31 per cent of businesses saw an increase in domestic orders this<br />

quarter while 5 per cent of businesses reported an increase in<br />

overseas orders.<br />

Recruitment<br />

n Just over half (57 per cent) of Black Country firms attempted to<br />

recruit over the past quarter, down from 71 per cent in Quarter 3.<br />

n 62 per cent of firms across the Black Country experienced<br />

recruitment difficulties in Quarter 4 compared to 71 per cent in<br />

Quarter 3.<br />

n The majority of firms in the region found it difficult to recruit<br />

skilled/ technical staff.<br />

Black Country<br />

% response<br />

Profitability to grow<br />

next 12 months<br />

National<br />

% response<br />

Business Resilience<br />

n Rising labour costs are rivalling the rise of utility prices as a<br />

pressure point for businesses this quarter.<br />

n Labour costs and utilities are among the highest concerns for<br />

firms across all sectors in the region at 43 per cent and 47 per<br />

cent, respectively.<br />

n Cashflow has increased for 26 per cent of firms while investment<br />

plans have increased for equipment and training for 20 per cent<br />

and 24 per cent of Black Country businesses, respectively.<br />

Black Country<br />

% response<br />

Sales increases expected in<br />

next 12 months<br />

National<br />

% response<br />

Business Confidence<br />

n 71 per cent of Black Country businesses believe turnover will<br />

improve over the next 12 months compared with 55 per cent in<br />

Quarter 3.<br />

n 58 per cent of Black Country businesses believe profitability will<br />

improve over the next 12 months compared to 45 per cent in Q3.<br />

Black Country<br />

% response<br />

National<br />

% response<br />

National trends: Confidence returns – just<br />

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce results were<br />

released after the latest British Chamber of Commerce’s<br />

Quarterly Economic Survey, the UK’s largest independent<br />

survey of business sentiment and a leading indicator of UK GDP<br />

growth, showed a small rise in business confidence.<br />

The national results showed the percentage of firms<br />

expecting an increase in turnover over the next year (56 per<br />

cent) had risen to the highest level since Q1 2022 when Covid<br />

restrictions were lifted. The data also revealed that more firms<br />

expect price hikes, ending the downward trend of the last two<br />

years.<br />

The survey, conducted in November, of over 5,000 firms<br />

across the UK – 91 per cent of whom are SMEs (fewer than 250<br />

employees) – showed:<br />

n Business confidence improved in Q4, with 56 per cent of<br />

UK businesses expecting an increase in turnover in the next<br />

twelve months.<br />

n Sales: Despite this boost, most firms continue to report no<br />

improvement to sales, cash flow or investment.<br />

n Downward trend in price growth expectations ends with<br />

more expecting their prices to rise over the next three months.<br />

n The hospitality sector continues to struggle<br />

disproportionately, with nearly a third (32 per cent) of firms<br />

reporting a decrease in investment.<br />

16 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Broadcast and<br />

production<br />

company joins<br />

Platinum group<br />

The Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce has welcomed training,<br />

broadcast and production specialists<br />

BlackRook to its Platinum Group.<br />

The Platinum Group is the Chamber’s<br />

exclusive platform which sees senior<br />

leaders come together to tackle the<br />

challenges which impact their<br />

organisation and to explore opportunities<br />

to improve the region’s prospects.<br />

The BlackRook Academy team of<br />

industry trainers run digital skills<br />

bootcamps funded by the West Midlands<br />

Combined Authority.<br />

Working in partnership with City of<br />

Wolverhampton College, BlackRook’s<br />

social media content creator training is<br />

free for the unemployed and is offered at<br />

heavily subsidised rates for employers<br />

wanting to upskill members of their team.<br />

BlackRook works with businesses to<br />

build online audiences across B2C and<br />

B2B platforms in a budget-friendly way,<br />

including coaching on creating highquality<br />

video and stills using a<br />

smartphone.<br />

It has trained all the BBC’s UK digital<br />

apprentices over the last six years, as well<br />

as spokespeople at BMW.<br />

The award-winning BlackRook Media<br />

production team works in broadcast,<br />

events, and documentary corporate<br />

video, serving clients across industry<br />

sectors in the UK and overseas too – with<br />

extensive work across the EMEA and<br />

APAC regions.<br />

The BlackRook companies are run by<br />

Managing Directors Alan Rook and Lucy<br />

Rook. Academy MD Lucy said: “We are<br />

proud to base our operations in the Black<br />

Country. In all parts of our business we<br />

prioritise building our project teams using<br />

local talent – whether the services we<br />

deliver are here in the region or abroad.<br />

“Joining the Chamber’s Platinum Group<br />

was an easy decision for us. We are<br />

ambitious and are certain we can learn a<br />

great deal from Chamber colleagues. We<br />

also hope to share knowledge that will<br />

help promote our region’s amazing<br />

success stories.”<br />

Black Country Chamber’s head of<br />

premium membership, Gail Arnold added:<br />

“I’m thrilled to welcome BlackRook to the<br />

Platinum Group.<br />

“The Group provides positive impact<br />

for its member businesses, providing<br />

regular meetings and confidential<br />

peer-to-peer discussions enabling<br />

strategic leaders to expand their<br />

networks, tackle business challenges and<br />

work together to promote the region<br />

locally and nationally.”<br />

For more information<br />

on the Platinum<br />

Group, click right<br />

The Chamber’s Gail<br />

Arnold with Alan<br />

Rook and Lucy Rook.<br />

New businesses sign up to the Chamber<br />

Black Country Chamber has welcomed a<br />

diverse range of businesses on board<br />

since the previous issue of Prosper was<br />

published in December.<br />

The members are drawn from across<br />

business sectors and locations across<br />

the Black Country, from Start-Up to<br />

Platinum members, covering<br />

everything from a leading regional gas<br />

distribution company, to a saddlemaking<br />

business and an education<br />

college.<br />

New arrivals in January included<br />

Albion Saddlemakers Limited;<br />

BlackRook (BlackRook Media Limited<br />

/ BlackRook Academy Limited); Caico<br />

Candles and Crafts; Kidderminster<br />

College; Nobeel; and Seymour John<br />

Recruitment Ltd.<br />

New members in December<br />

included Cadent; Digital Office Ltd;<br />

Fives Bronx Limited; and Halcyon Care<br />

(West Midlands) Ltd.<br />

Sales and Marketing Director Sian<br />

Roberts commented: “I am thrilled to<br />

welcome all our new members and<br />

look forward to our team working with<br />

each of them in 2024.<br />

“It is great to see so many<br />

organisations recognising the many<br />

benefits of Chamber membership,<br />

which include business guidance and<br />

support, networking and marketing<br />

opportunities, training and<br />

development and financial savings.<br />

“With our new members spanning<br />

across so many sectors, from<br />

manufacturing all the way to<br />

education, they will bring a wealth of<br />

skills and expertise to the Chamber<br />

that will benefit all members.”<br />

Sian added: “We would encourage<br />

members to connect on social media<br />

and via our networking events to<br />

build links for future positive<br />

relationships.”<br />

Keep up to date with<br />

the latest arrivals by<br />

visiting the Chamber<br />

website, right, where<br />

full details can be found<br />

18 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


New appointments to Chamber board at AGM<br />

The new-look Black Country<br />

Chamber of Commerce board<br />

was appointed at our Annual<br />

General Meeting as part of<br />

the drive to re-energise and<br />

refocus.<br />

Paul Hull, Director and<br />

co-owner of KMB Shipping<br />

Group, based in Tipton, has<br />

joined the board, while Jatinder<br />

Sharma, Principal and Chief Executive of<br />

Walsall College, has been reappointed.<br />

Named the Black Country Chamber’s<br />

Business Person of the Year at our 2022<br />

awards, Paul Hull leads Queen’s Awardwinning<br />

KMB Shipping Group, a freight<br />

forwarding company that has provided<br />

global import and export transportation<br />

solutions for more than 35 years.<br />

In a 27-year career with KMB Shipping,<br />

Paul has progressed from apprentice to<br />

managerial then director roles, before<br />

becoming co-owner after leading a<br />

management buyout in 2018.<br />

A qualified accountant and highly<br />

experienced leader, Jatinder Sharma has<br />

held a number of senior positions in both<br />

the private and public sectors and is a<br />

passionate champion of the vital role that<br />

skills and training play in the<br />

development of the West Midlands<br />

economy.<br />

Jatinder was awarded a CBE in the<br />

2023 New Year Honours for his services<br />

to further education. With a workforce of<br />

more than 1,000 staff, Walsall College is<br />

Jatinder Sharma<br />

currently engaging with over<br />

800 employers in the design,<br />

development and delivery of<br />

apprenticeship provision to<br />

1,300 learners.<br />

Speaking after the AGM,<br />

Chamber CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse said: “I am delighted to<br />

have board members with the calibre of<br />

Paul and Jatinder as we shape an exciting<br />

future.<br />

“After my first year as CEO I was<br />

pleased to report to the AGM on the<br />

progress made by the Chamber to<br />

promote and meet the needs of<br />

businesses across the Black Country.”<br />

The AGM received the report of the<br />

directors and the accounts for the year<br />

ended 31st March 2023.<br />

The report summary statement looking<br />

back on the previous year’s performance<br />

said: “This Is The Black Country was our<br />

2022/2023 campaign designed to<br />

champion the region as a great place for<br />

business.<br />

“It concluded in March<br />

2023 following 12 months of<br />

activity and has become a<br />

template for co-ordinated,<br />

focused lobbying and<br />

communications.”<br />

Other milestones<br />

featured in the statement<br />

included exceeding budget<br />

Paul Hull<br />

Cadent’s hot on Platinum benefits<br />

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce has welcomed Cadent, the UK’s<br />

largest gas distribution network provider, to its Platinum Group.<br />

Cadent supplies gas to 11 million UK homes and businesses across the UK<br />

and manages the National Gas Emergency Service on behalf of the gas<br />

industry.<br />

Elliott Nelson, Network Director for Cadent in the West Midlands, said:<br />

“Joining the Platinum Group will help us grow connections within the<br />

region’s business community and to play our part in shaping the local<br />

economy.<br />

“We recognise the opportunities which being part of the Chamber will<br />

bring and look forward to working with fellow members on areas of common<br />

interest to make the most of the opportunities ahead.”<br />

Black Country Chamber’s Gail Arnold said: “I’m delighted such a wellestablished<br />

business as Cadent has joined this successful and expanding<br />

group. It’s a pleasure to see fantastic businesses such as Cadent work with<br />

other members, sharing best practice meetings and ultimately forging<br />

strong and trusted business relationships.”<br />

“during a year of many changes”,<br />

maintaining membership retention level<br />

at 90 per cent and holding a successful<br />

2022 awards evening after years of Covid<br />

restrictions.<br />

In total, the Chamber logged 392,551<br />

individual engagements with businesses.<br />

“The Black Country is one of<br />

the most remarkable places<br />

on the planet, full of inspiring<br />

people and breath-taking<br />

businesses...”<br />

The focus for the current year, the<br />

summary said, includes re-energising the<br />

Chamber’s value proposition,<br />

reinvigorating the membership offer,<br />

refocussing the commercial approach<br />

and revitalising its marketing and<br />

communications.<br />

The annual report added: “The Black<br />

Country is one of the most remarkable<br />

places on the planet, full of inspiring<br />

people and breath-taking<br />

businesses. Thank you to our<br />

members – we are simply<br />

nothing without you.”<br />

The AGM, attended by the<br />

Chamber board and member<br />

businesses, was held at the<br />

Technology Centre at the<br />

University of Wolverhampton<br />

Science Park on December 1.<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 19


Start-up Club ready to build on<br />

first five years of success<br />

Fresh from celebrating its fifth<br />

anniversary, the Black Country Chamber<br />

of Commerce Start-Up Club is ready to<br />

help the next generation of new<br />

businesses launch.<br />

The Start-Up Club is the place for<br />

owners of fledgling businesses to make<br />

new connections, learn from industry<br />

experts and develop the skills and<br />

understanding required to take a<br />

business to the next level.<br />

The challenges faced by new<br />

enterprises can be daunting. In the UK,<br />

recent research by Fundsquire, a global<br />

start-up funding network, showed 20% of<br />

small businesses fail in their first year,<br />

and around 60% closed within the first<br />

three years.<br />

Against this backdrop, the Club limits<br />

its intake to be able to provide<br />

concentrated support for each company<br />

and as a result has helped more than 300<br />

people to begin trading since 2018.<br />

The impact of the Club has helped the<br />

Chamber win two successful tender<br />

applications to provide services for new<br />

businesses on behalf of Walsall Council<br />

and City of Wolverhampton Council to<br />

support the local authorities’ drive to<br />

build their local economies (see pg 10).<br />

The Start-Up Business Club provides<br />

platforms and opportunities for<br />

businesses looking to grow, connect and<br />

become part of a thriving network.<br />

It contributes to their growth by<br />

providing a supportive environment and<br />

valuable connections with the local<br />

business community. All activity is led by a<br />

dedicated business relationship manager,<br />

with workshops addressing start-ups’<br />

specific needs and providing networking<br />

opportunities to meet peers also taking<br />

their first steps.<br />

Start-up Business Manager Alison<br />

Trinder said feedback from members is<br />

consistently positive, as each intake see<br />

the benefit of the Chamber’s support.<br />

One business owner recently posted<br />

on social media: “You do amazing work,<br />

Alison. I’m proud to be part of the<br />

Start-Up Club Alumni!” Another said<br />

Alison had helped her business with<br />

“incredible work”.<br />

The Club celebrated its fifth<br />

anniversary when members past and<br />

present attended a Christmas networking<br />

event in Dudley (below).<br />

Representatives attended from a range<br />

of business sectors, including financial<br />

services through to facilities<br />

management and creative teaching.<br />

As well as enjoying mince pies and<br />

refreshments, attendees had the chance<br />

to look back on the growth of the club for<br />

new businesses over the last five years.<br />

Alison Trinder said: “It was fantastic to<br />

see so many businesses join us to<br />

celebrate the Start-Up Club’s fifth<br />

birthday and to look back on the progress<br />

we have made to date.<br />

“Since we launched, new businesses<br />

have had to cope with the pandemic,<br />

dramatic shifts in the economy and a<br />

major conflict.<br />

“To all those who have not only<br />

survived but thrived, I say they should be<br />

proud of their achievements.<br />

“People can join at any time and at any<br />

stage of their start-up journey.<br />

Membership lasts for two years, during<br />

which we will provide tailored support<br />

and services.”<br />

For more information<br />

on the Start-Up Club,<br />

click right<br />

“You do amazing<br />

work, Alison. I’m<br />

proud to be part<br />

of the Start-up<br />

Club Alumni!”<br />

1420<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Trek partners donate<br />

digital kit to end<br />

Morocco’s IT desert<br />

Chamber Platinum Group member<br />

employment support specialist Steps<br />

To Work has announced a partnership<br />

with a training company to donate<br />

laptops to boost education in<br />

Morocco.<br />

The initiative was born out of the<br />

Acorns Hospice Trust’s Sahara Trek,<br />

which Steps To Work CEO Paul<br />

Cadman took part in, and aims to<br />

provide technological resources to<br />

those in Morocco who are most in<br />

need.<br />

During the charitable expedition,<br />

which raised an impressive £105,570<br />

for Acorns Hospice, Prof Paul Cadman<br />

met up with Matt Jones, founder and<br />

MD of Oxbridge, leading to a<br />

partnership that extends the spirit of<br />

giving beyond monetary aid.<br />

Steps To Work, in alignment with its<br />

mission to support individuals into<br />

employment and further training, will<br />

now equip communities in Morocco<br />

with the tools necessary for digital<br />

inclusion. Twenty laptops have been<br />

donated to individuals who need<br />

them.<br />

“We are thrilled to be able to<br />

contribute to the advancement of<br />

education in Morocco through this<br />

initiative,” said Paul Cadman. “Our<br />

Sahara trek was a testament to<br />

human resilience and compassion,<br />

and this partnership with Oxbridge<br />

allows us to extend our impact beyond<br />

the trek itself and to support more<br />

individuals.”<br />

Matt Jones said: “In Marrakech I<br />

spent some time at an educational<br />

centre. They were keen to understand<br />

how things worked in the UK, and it<br />

was clear that their children<br />

were lacking exposure to<br />

digital skills through a<br />

shortage of<br />

equipment.<br />

“This felt like<br />

something we<br />

could help solve,<br />

and after a chat<br />

with Paul, we<br />

made it a reality.”<br />

Prof Paul<br />

Cadman<br />

Merry Hill primed<br />

to build upon<br />

footfall and<br />

sales increases<br />

Merry Hill, one of the UK’s top ten retail<br />

and leisure destinations, is primed to<br />

welcome a string of new additions on the<br />

back of positive results for 2023.<br />

The centre celebrated a landmark 12<br />

months with brand additions and<br />

year-round entertainment driving a 9.4%<br />

rise in footfall and 7% increase in sales<br />

last year compared to 2022. 65 new<br />

brands signed or reconfirmed their<br />

commitment to the centre, and 30<br />

opened new stores, representing more<br />

than 30% of units.<br />

New openings included community<br />

focused concept store Nike Unite, KENJI,<br />

and major fashion brands such as Vanilla,<br />

Suit Direct and schuh Kids.<br />

The leisure offering at the centre also<br />

continued to improve. Visitors were<br />

offered a new entertainment centre by<br />

Hollywood Bowl and dining spots<br />

including pan-Asian restaurant<br />

wagamama, ASK Italian, Starbucks, Big<br />

Smoke Burger, as well as the UK’s first<br />

Sides fried chicken restaurant outside of<br />

London.<br />

Other entertainment highlights<br />

included a retro world of gaming at<br />

Arcade Alley, bringing the community<br />

together to play sport at Play United, an<br />

immersive Halloween pop-up experience<br />

in House on the Hill and a new Christmas<br />

event, The Marvellous Merry Maze.<br />

Looking ahead, community-driven<br />

fitness operator XF Gym Merry Hill will be<br />

making its UK debut this summer.<br />

XF, alongside lifestyle, technology and<br />

entertainment retailer Harvey Norman,<br />

will fill a significant portion of the former<br />

Debenhams space. Chicken wing<br />

restaurant Wingstop will also join Merry<br />

Hill’s food and drink offering in the first<br />

half of this year.<br />

Jonathan Poole, centre manager at<br />

Merry Hill, said: “The past 12 months<br />

have been hugely successful for Merry<br />

Hill as we continue to see major brands<br />

invest and thrive at the centre.<br />

“We’re taking the centre experience to<br />

the next level by introducing exciting new<br />

fashion, food and drink, and leisure<br />

experiences, while delivering hours of<br />

entertainment.<br />

“The quality of the brands coming to<br />

Merry Hill has been made possible by the<br />

hard work of our teams and retailers. It’s<br />

“It’s been a pleasure to see how well<br />

received these new openings have<br />

been, leading to an increase in<br />

footfall and the continued success<br />

of our new and existing retailers,<br />

growing sales...”<br />

been a pleasure to see how well received<br />

these new openings have been, leading<br />

to an increase in footfall and the<br />

continued success of our new and<br />

existing retailers, growing sales year-onyear.<br />

“We are constantly striving to enhance<br />

the centre for customers of all ages and<br />

interests, with more exciting additions<br />

and announcements coming throughout<br />

2024.”<br />

22 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Award-winning digital<br />

agency develops new<br />

planning permission app<br />

Award-winning digital agency VOiD<br />

Applications has developed a unique<br />

new app aimed at assisting users to<br />

achieve permission for planning<br />

applications quickly and cheaply.<br />

The Wolverhampton-based agency, a<br />

2023 Chamber award winner, delivered<br />

PreApp for Lichfield-based town planning<br />

experts NextPhase.<br />

It combines real-time data and<br />

professional experience to help users<br />

through the pre-application stage to<br />

improve the likelihood of consent.<br />

The online system, which covers all<br />

planning authorities in England and<br />

Wales, assesses data in relation to<br />

planning decisions, time frames and<br />

costs in each user’s council area to<br />

accurately determine how often each<br />

council gives planning permission for<br />

each user’s type of proposal, how quickly<br />

they provide the decision and what is<br />

needed to support each case.<br />

The outcome provides users with an<br />

understanding of their chances of gaining<br />

planning permission, the costs expected<br />

for an application, the average expected<br />

time for a decision, the specific<br />

weaknesses and strengths of each case<br />

and what can be done to improve their<br />

chances of permission.<br />

VOiD Applications won the Excellence<br />

in Professional Services award at the<br />

Black Country Chamber Business Awards<br />

in November, and also made the shortlist<br />

for the Excellence in Science, Technology<br />

and Innovation award.<br />

VOiD Applications managing director<br />

Chris Carter commented: “We really<br />

enjoyed working in partnership with<br />

NextPhase to design this app.<br />

“As web and app developers, we<br />

specialise in building bespoke systems<br />

with custom functionality for our clients,<br />

so we were keen to embrace the<br />

challenge of creating a new app from<br />

scratch.<br />

“What is unique about this app is that it<br />

combines data with analysis from town<br />

planning professionals to provide clear,<br />

site-specific advice for each case.”<br />

NextPhase managing director<br />

Christopher Whitehouse commented:<br />

“PreApp provides a solution to a service<br />

provided by local planning authorities<br />

that is often slow and expensive.<br />

“The app has been specially designed<br />

with property developers and home<br />

improvers in mind. Anyone wanting to<br />

achieve planning permission for an<br />

extension, new build or major<br />

development project can benefit from it.<br />

“VOiD Applications did a great job of<br />

collaborating with us to develop the app.<br />

“Listening carefully to our brief at all<br />

times, they managed to transform an<br />

aspirational idea into a very practical<br />

solution.”<br />

Appointments<br />

Experienced property<br />

specialist joins solicitors<br />

Enoch Evans Solicitors has appointed<br />

Natalie Mellors to its commercial<br />

property team.<br />

The law firm – a Gold Chamber<br />

member – said the appointment was<br />

part of a planned growth programme.<br />

Having worked at other law firms,<br />

Natalie has a proven track record of<br />

success in the field of commercial<br />

property law, with extensive experience<br />

advising on complex property<br />

transactions, negotiating leases and<br />

providing legal advice on property<br />

development projects.<br />

Natalie (left) with Enoch<br />

Evans’ Sukhie Shemar<br />

Experienced engineer to<br />

support group growth<br />

Leading security specialist GMS Group<br />

has appointed a new Senior Project<br />

Engineer to support the<br />

commissioning of security systems for<br />

new and existing clients.<br />

Dave Williams (below, left, with CEO<br />

Neil Male) joins Tividale-based GMS<br />

with over 30 years’ experience in the<br />

electrical, fire and security sector.<br />

Dave spent the last eight years of his<br />

career in a similar role, where he<br />

oversaw security installation projects<br />

for a number of corporate and<br />

government contracts.<br />

Dave will be responsible for<br />

providing new and existing clients with<br />

tailored security solutions.<br />

VOiD won the Excellence in Professional<br />

Services award at the Black Country Chamber<br />

Awards last year<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 23


Cybersecurity specialists land<br />

place on NATO scheme<br />

Chamber Gold member Goldilock Secure<br />

has been selected for a prestigious<br />

NATO-backed programme.<br />

Based at University of Wolverhampton<br />

Science Park, Goldilock is joining the<br />

DIANA Accelerator Programme as one of<br />

30 companies taking part, following a<br />

rigorous selection process which saw<br />

1,300 firms apply.<br />

The cybersecurity company’s unique<br />

physical disconnection solution was key<br />

to its selection.<br />

The DIANA accelerator programme is<br />

designed to equip businesses with the<br />

skills and knowledge to navigate the<br />

world of deep tech. It is aimed primarily at<br />

start-ups with business models based on<br />

high-tech innovation in engineering or<br />

significant scientific advances.<br />

Goldilock also qualifies for its dual-use<br />

innovation, a term used to recognise<br />

technologies with applications for civilian<br />

purposes that also have applications in<br />

military.<br />

The six-month programme consists of<br />

ten modules that allow participants to<br />

develop viable dual-use ventures,<br />

building on Goldilock’s innovative<br />

technology which is already available in<br />

the civilian sphere.<br />

The team will gain a comprehensive<br />

understanding of the dual-use landscape,<br />

leveraging insights and experience<br />

gained via Defence and Security<br />

Accelerator, National Cyber Security for<br />

Startups and Department for Business<br />

and Trade programmes.<br />

Companies on the DIANA accelerator<br />

programme can gain access to grants to<br />

support technology development and<br />

demonstration, as well as the chance to<br />

use test centres across the NATO<br />

Alliance. They will also benefit from<br />

mentoring from scientists, engineers,<br />

industry partners, end users and<br />

government procurement experts, along<br />

with access to pathways to market within<br />

the NATO enterprise and 31 Allied<br />

markets.<br />

Goldilock’s Drawbridge solution is<br />

gaining global recognition both within the<br />

defence sector and the cybersecurity<br />

industry more widely, and its acceptance<br />

and other growth opportunities mean it is<br />

planning to expand operations by<br />

doubling the size of its workspace at the<br />

Science Park.<br />

Goldilock CEO and founder Tony Hasek<br />

said: “The global cyber threat theatre is<br />

growing rapidly, fuelled by increasingly<br />

sophisticated and brazen criminal and<br />

nation-state actors. No organisation large<br />

or small, is safe.<br />

“Given the increasingly innovative<br />

cyberattack techniques being used, a<br />

paradigm shift in cyber defence thinking<br />

is required.”<br />

Goldilock strategic advisor for defence,<br />

General Sir Chris Deverell said: “The<br />

global threat landscape is evolving<br />

rapidly, and with the emergence of<br />

state-aligned actors, concerns around AI,<br />

and the continuation of Russia’s invasion<br />

of Ukraine, the threat to critical national<br />

infrastructure is intensifying.<br />

“We will work closely with NATO and<br />

other participants to develop and<br />

implement new and innovative solutions<br />

that will help to protect our nations and<br />

their citizens.”<br />

Clearly, the cap fits...<br />

Bus users are continuing to enjoy discounted single bus<br />

fares after Platinum member National Express West<br />

Midlands confirmed its continued participation in the<br />

Government’s £2 single fare cap scheme until the end of<br />

2024.<br />

The initiative has been warmly received by customers<br />

across the region with over 12.5 million National Express<br />

West Midlands bus passenger journeys made using the<br />

single fare offer since the beginning of the year.<br />

Anybody making three or more journeys a day will<br />

continue to benefit from day tickets at £4.50, providing<br />

unlimited travel within the nBus zone and on all National<br />

Express West Midlands buses.<br />

National Express West Midlands passengers using<br />

contactless can Tap and Cap and will find their fare cap is<br />

automatically applied so they never pay more than they<br />

should – as long as they tap on with the same card or<br />

device.<br />

Alex Jensen, CEO for National Express UK, Ireland and<br />

Germany said: “Bus travel is simple, cheap and easy and<br />

there’s never been a better time to get onboard.”<br />

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:<br />

“Buses are the backbone of public transport in the West<br />

Midlands, which is why it’s so important we keep fares low<br />

and affordable.”<br />

For more information about bus tickets and services, visit<br />

www.nxbus.co.uk.<br />

24 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Another acquisition takes Talbots Law<br />

onto a new high street<br />

Legal firm and Chamber Gold member<br />

Talbots Law has notched its third<br />

acquisition in eight months to continue<br />

its growth journey.<br />

The Stourbridge-based business,<br />

which has boosted its workforce to nearly<br />

450, bought Scaiff in Worcester to<br />

establish its first presence in the city<br />

centre.<br />

All 16 staff were retained, with<br />

ambitious expansion plans in place to<br />

recruit a further 10 solicitors and<br />

administrative employees in the year<br />

ahead, along with significant investment<br />

in sympathetically refurbishing the Grade<br />

II listed offices.<br />

Dave Hodgetts, Talbots Law chief<br />

executive said: “While we have offices in<br />

Kidderminster and Bewdley, we’ve never<br />

had a high street presence in Worcester.<br />

This acquisition gives us an immediate<br />

footprint in a city and area rich in<br />

potential.<br />

“Scaiff LLP has been operating here for<br />

more than 30 years and has a proven<br />

track record of offering family, personal<br />

injury, wills and probate and residential<br />

conveyancing services to local people. All<br />

this expertise is being retained, and will<br />

be supplemented by the additional<br />

services we can offer.”<br />

Scaiff managing partner Simon Shaw,<br />

who will stay on after the deal, said: “Our<br />

existing clients will benefit from having<br />

access to a larger team and new legal<br />

specialisms that we have not been able to<br />

offer before.<br />

“On the flip side, we are bringing<br />

considerable personal injury expertise to<br />

Talbots, which I know is an area it is keen<br />

to grow in.”<br />

Other recent acquisitions by Talbots<br />

Law have included Sarginsons in<br />

Coventry and Wright Solicitors, with<br />

offices in Dudley and Bewdley.<br />

The mergers and acquisitions activity,<br />

combined with strong organic growth,<br />

has seen revenues rise from £22m to<br />

£24m in 2023, with a £30m target set for<br />

2025.<br />

This will be achieved by further deals in<br />

strategically identified parts of the West<br />

Midlands and, longer term, the possibility<br />

of moving into the east of the region.<br />

Lenders combine to back home care agency acquisition<br />

An entrepreneur has completed the<br />

acquisition of a Telford home care agency<br />

after securing £350,000 in funding from<br />

lending specialists UKSE and BCRS<br />

Business Loans – both Chamber<br />

members.<br />

Rick Kaul purchased Supreme Home<br />

Care to become one of the first to<br />

receive investment from the newly<br />

formed West Midlands arm of UKSE,<br />

which joined the Chamber last year.<br />

The Tata Steel subsidiary provided<br />

£200,000 towards the purchase, with a<br />

further £150,000 from Platinum member<br />

BCRS Business Loans.<br />

As a result, 130 jobs have been<br />

safeguarded with a potential to create an<br />

additional 50 new roles.<br />

Supreme Home Care, based in Telford,<br />

provides emergency, rehabilitation and<br />

long-term care to adults with a wide<br />

range of physical and mental needs, as<br />

well as respite at home support.<br />

Providing strategic loan and equity<br />

packages of up to £1m to generate<br />

growth, UKSE’s West Midlands team<br />

creates local job opportunities and<br />

bolsters the economy by supporting<br />

SMEs across the region.<br />

BCRS Business Loans provides<br />

funding to West Midlands and Wales<br />

businesses that are struggling to access<br />

finance from traditional lenders by<br />

offering loans from between £10,000 and<br />

£150,000 to support growth and recovery<br />

From left, Steve Grice of<br />

UKSE, Rick Kaul of Supreme<br />

Home Care and Louise<br />

Armstrong of BCRS<br />

Business Loans<br />

plans. Welcoming the<br />

investment, Rick Kaul<br />

commented: “I plan to create<br />

additional job opportunities<br />

as we expand into complex<br />

critical care support and<br />

specialised care for adults<br />

and children. We will be<br />

working with Telford College<br />

to provide level 3- level 6<br />

health and social care<br />

apprenticeships.<br />

UKSE area manager Steve Grice said:<br />

“Supreme Home Care is a strong<br />

example of a growing company that is<br />

sustaining valuable jobs in the region,”<br />

while Stephen Deakin, Chief Executive at<br />

BCRS Business Loans, said: “It is great<br />

news that the funding will secure the<br />

future of Supreme Home Care.”<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 25


We’re heading<br />

for the top<br />

‘To be able to work<br />

while learning was<br />

attractive to me. ...’<br />

Georgie Newport<br />

Future business stars vouch for<br />

the benefits of on-the-job training<br />

As businesses across the Black Country equip the next generation of employees with<br />

the skills to capitalise on future opportunities, young people are making a positive<br />

impact across a range of industries as they grow.<br />

In this issue’s cover story, we celebrate the progress of the future stars who have<br />

joined in entry level roles and are now established as team members with greater<br />

responsibilities.<br />

The Black Country Chamber is promoting training as the way forward for our<br />

businesses as they adjust to the changes in their markets, impact of new<br />

technology and the challenging economic environment. Our first ever Quarterly<br />

Economic Survey Data Reveal event saw business representatives hear the<br />

exclusive insights on the local economy from our most recent member research.<br />

The survey showed skills and recruitment remain a challenge for members. Just over<br />

half (57 per cent) of Black Country firms surveyed attempted to recruit during the last<br />

quarter of 2023, down from 71 per cent in Quarter 3. A further 62 per cent of firms<br />

across the Black Country experienced recruitment difficulties in Quarter 4, while<br />

investment plans for training have increased for 24 per cent of Black Country businesses.<br />

But as our four cover stars show, young people are ready to make the most of the<br />

opportunities ahead of them. When given a chance, the next generation can play a<br />

significant role in a business where they are offered the opportunity to grow and learn as<br />

they earn.<br />

Meet our four talented colleagues:<br />

ABBIE DANKS, apprentice solicitor<br />

with Talbots Law, based in<br />

Stourbridge, is two years into a six<br />

year apprenticeship with the law firm,<br />

which has offices across the West<br />

Midlands and Worcestershire, having<br />

first joined in 2020. One of the first to take up a Level 7<br />

Solicitor Apprenticeship with the firm, Abbie is client<br />

facing and working on cases alongside colleagues,<br />

making her a valued team member.<br />

MATT JEAVONS, planning manager at<br />

JJX Logistics in Kingswinford,<br />

completed a Business Administration<br />

Level 3 apprenticeship with the<br />

leading haulage company in 2022.<br />

Having started in the warehouse office<br />

he has progressed to become a transport planner and<br />

then a planning manager at the company, which serves<br />

customers across the UK and all around Europe.<br />

JOSEPH MOSELEY, engineer at Thomas<br />

Dudley in Dudley, started with the<br />

company in 2019 as a CNC pattern maker,<br />

producing tooling for the foundry while<br />

completing a Level 3 Metal Casting,<br />

Foundry, and Patternmaking Technician<br />

apprenticeship. He has moved up to a<br />

degree-level apprenticeship and is working<br />

towards becoming a Level 6 manufacturing engineer.<br />

GEORGIE NEWPORT is employed by<br />

Wolverhampton-based water safety and<br />

legionella specialist Nant as scheduling<br />

and communications manager, working<br />

with field engineers serving sites across<br />

the UK. She joined the business in 2017 as<br />

a technical Level 3 Business Administration<br />

apprentice and has since taken up training<br />

opportunities to progress her career with the company.<br />

26 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024

What made you consider an<br />

apprenticeship as an entry to<br />

employment?<br />

Abbie Danks, Talbots Law: I never<br />

really saw the ‘university experience’ as<br />

something that excited me or was<br />

essential. I was more motivated by<br />

getting into the workplace as soon as<br />

possible and having that crucial firsthand<br />

experience of working in a law firm.<br />

The apprenticeship route allowed me to<br />

do just that.<br />

Matt Jeavons, JJX Logistics: I was not<br />

enjoying college and wanted to start<br />

working. I have always preferred being<br />

more hands-on and learning on the job,<br />

so an apprenticeship seemed the perfect<br />

solution for me.<br />

Joseph Moseley, Thomas Dudley:<br />

Apprenticeships offer fantastic<br />

opportunities by supporting the<br />

transition from full-time education to the<br />

working world. You can continue to<br />

develop academically through your<br />

college- or university-based studies and<br />

develop hands-on skills that can only be<br />

gained in the workplace at the same time.<br />

This experience is vital within industries<br />

such as engineering, as there is no<br />

substitute for getting involved and getting<br />

your hands dirty.<br />

Georgie Newport, Nant: To be able to<br />

work while learning was attractive to me. I<br />

previously worked for Sainsbury’s so had<br />

limited admin experience and wanted a<br />

new challenge. I liked that I could<br />

complete my apprenticeship during<br />

working hours and have the freedom<br />

to gain a qualification whilst carrying<br />

out my role.<br />

How has your career<br />

progressed and<br />

what does your role<br />

today involve?<br />

Abbie, Talbots Law: I<br />

joined in 2020 straight<br />

out of sixth form college<br />

as an administrator in the<br />

dispute resolution<br />

department, assisting<br />

with file management. I<br />

progressed to being a<br />

paralegal, undertaking<br />

tasks to assist with members<br />

of my team. I was able to take<br />

ownership of debt recovery cases<br />

and manage and assist with<br />

those from the beginning to the<br />

end.<br />

I now assist with contentious<br />

probate cases. I manage my<br />

own small case load under<br />

supervision, which has given me<br />

the opportunity to push myself by<br />

researching new legislation and<br />

processes, as well as developing my<br />

legal drafting.<br />

Matt, JJX Logistics: I started off in the<br />

warehouse office doing picks and<br />

bookings in. I was also giving a helping<br />

hand in the warehouse. I then moved into<br />

the main office where I was involved in<br />

managing the unloading systems and<br />

customer services. I quickly discovered<br />

my desire to work in transport and<br />

started to pick it up. I became a transport<br />

planner which led to me becoming<br />

planning manager.<br />

Joseph, Thomas Dudley: Since<br />

completing my first apprenticeship, my<br />

development has been continuously<br />

supported. I’ve enrolled in a four-year<br />

university course at Aston University and<br />

completed training days that aid my<br />

“I have already preferred being<br />

more hands-on and learning on<br />

the job, so an apprenticeship<br />

seemed the perfect solution for<br />

me...”<br />

Matt Jeavons<br />

“I manage my own small case load<br />

under supervision, which has<br />

given me the opportunity to push<br />

myself by researching new<br />

legislation and processes, as well<br />

as developing my legal drafting.”<br />

Abbie Danks<br />

day-to-day work.<br />

I have moved into a technical role,<br />

supporting new product introductions<br />

across the foundry. By doing this, my<br />

exposure to the overall casting process<br />

has vastly increased and allowed me to<br />

develop strong relationships with<br />

colleagues across the business.<br />

Other exciting opportunities have<br />

arisen, such as attending overseas<br />

industry events and mentoring.<br />

Georgie, Nant: My career has changed<br />

massively. I started as a technical<br />

apprentice and then quickly progressed<br />

to senior administrator, help desk team<br />

leader, help desk supervisor and finally to<br />

the role I have today, which is scheduling<br />

and communications manager.<br />

My apprenticeship has helped me<br />

experience a great deal within the<br />

business; it opened my eyes to the<br />

potential of my role and now I have a<br />

greater depth and knowledge of the<br />

company. I am looking at how I can<br />

support my team to progress through an<br />

apprenticeship route. When I speak to<br />

potential new recruits it is great to be<br />

able to share my journey with them.<br />

Continued on page 28<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 27


Continued from page 27<br />

What has vocational training taught you<br />

that a full-time college or university<br />

course could not have done?<br />

Georgie, Nant: University or college is<br />

more structured, and learning based with<br />

no guarantee of a job at the end of it. I like<br />

that I have been able to gain an additional<br />

qualification while having the security and<br />

stability of a full-time job. I developed<br />

vital skills such as time management,<br />

confidence, accountability for my<br />

workload and teamwork.<br />

Joseph, Thomas Dudley: There are<br />

social aspects that cannot be taught in<br />

full-time academic environments as well<br />

as skills for self-management and<br />

time-keeping. Running both training and<br />

full-time work simultaneously is certainly<br />

not without its challenges but without<br />

application, a large amount of knowledge<br />

gained in a full-time college or university<br />

course is lost. Apprenticeships are<br />

tailored to your industry and knowledge is<br />

reinforced by seeing things live every day.<br />

Abbie, Talbots Law: My apprenticeship<br />

has provided me with the chance to excel<br />

in the legal profession and develop real<br />

life skills and confidence that I did not<br />

have previously. In a classroom you do<br />

not get the hands-on experience of<br />

dealing with clients and managing and<br />

progressing their case in real time.<br />

Matt, JJX Logistics: I have been given<br />

hands-on experience; everything I<br />

learned came with practical outcomes and<br />

solutions that I could actually see the<br />

effect of, rather theoretical scenarios. It<br />

was proper ‘real life’.<br />

What are the biggest misconceptions<br />

about apprenticeships?<br />

Georgie, Nant: That apprenticeships<br />

are just for school leavers! It was a<br />

misconception I had myself, and it is not<br />

true. At Nant we have had a range of<br />

apprentices from different ages and<br />

stages in their career. It is great to have<br />

that diversity of experience and opinion.<br />

The course tutors are great at<br />

understanding your learning style and<br />

adapting their approach based on how<br />

you learn best. This could be through<br />

recorded interviews, observations in the<br />

workplace or annotated images to<br />

evidence your learning.<br />

Joseph, Thomas Dudley: It felt like<br />

apprenticeships were discouraged at<br />

school and almost regarded as an inferior<br />

option to the academic route. This is<br />

wrong; there are huge benefits and perks<br />

as an apprentice, and paths open as a<br />

direct result.<br />

Abbie, Talbots Law: People don’t<br />

realise the level of education available<br />

through apprenticeships. Degree level<br />

apprenticeships are still relatively new, so<br />

many still think particular careers are only<br />

achievable by obtaining a degree, but the<br />

qualifications through an apprenticeship<br />

are the same as undergraduate degrees.<br />

If you were recruiting, would you be<br />

keen to take on an apprentice and what<br />

value do you feel they add?<br />

Matt, JJX Logistics: Definitely! It gives<br />

the apprentice a chance to explore the<br />

business and see which area they are<br />

best suited to, as well as learn about the<br />

world of work, the company and the<br />

industry at a manageable pace.<br />

Abbie, Talbots Law: Apprentices add<br />

significant value to a workplace. Not only<br />

do apprenticeships nurture the next<br />

generation of lawyers, they diversify the<br />

workplace, bringing in new and fresh<br />

ideas and contributions.<br />

Apprenticeships give employers the<br />

opportunity to produce and retain quality<br />

employees, who will not only have the<br />

necessary qualifications and theoretical<br />

knowledge, but will also have essential<br />

work skills that can only be obtained<br />

through experience.<br />

Georgie, Nant: Nant has had many<br />

apprentices join and progress into<br />

different roles. The company sees the<br />

value of apprenticeships, and it’s<br />

rewarding to watch that person grow and<br />

develop. The company is looking to take<br />

on an additional three apprentices over<br />

the next few months. We have a great<br />

relationship with our apprenticeship<br />

provider, In-Comm Training.<br />

Joseph, Thomas Dudley:<br />

Apprenticeships are the starting point for<br />

passing on knowledge and experience,<br />

and create the future force that will one<br />

day be managers and<br />

directors. Without<br />

apprentices,<br />

generations of<br />

knowledge will be<br />

lost through ageing<br />

workforces and a<br />

lack of<br />

progression<br />

planning.<br />

“Apprenticeships are the starting<br />

point for passing on knowledge and<br />

experience... without apprentices,<br />

generations of knowledge will be lost”<br />

Joseph Moseley<br />

Do you have any advice for individuals<br />

considering following your route into<br />

work?<br />

Abbie, Talbots Law: You may think that<br />

you are missing opportunities and<br />

experiences by deciding not to go to<br />

university full time but you are presented<br />

with even more opportunities and<br />

experiences. Plus, there is the obvious<br />

bonus that apprenticeships come with no<br />

student debt, and you are earning a<br />

salary!<br />

Joseph, Thomas Dudley:<br />

Communication is key. Reach out to<br />

companies and start seeking relevant<br />

experience in the industry in which you<br />

see yourself wanting a career. Setting<br />

yourself apart from the crowd can be<br />

especially challenging, particularly at a<br />

young age, but is a necessity when<br />

hunting for a good apprenticeship with<br />

reputable businesses.<br />

Matt, JJX Logistics: The sooner you<br />

start the better. It gives you chance to get<br />

an understanding of a lot of things and<br />

slowly gain confidence both personally<br />

and professionally instead of being<br />

thrown in at the deep end.<br />

Georgie, Nant: Bite the bullet and go<br />

for it. If you are passionate about<br />

embarking on a rewarding career path, it<br />

is the best route.<br />

28 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024

NEWS<br />

The countdown to the 2024 Black<br />

Country Chamber of Commerce Awards<br />

has begun. Every business should save<br />

the November 21 date...<br />

Last year’s winners:<br />

Will you be in the<br />

spotlight this<br />

November?<br />

Celebrate the best<br />

of business with the<br />

Black Country<br />

Chamber Awards<br />

The best of the Black Country’s<br />

business trailblazers, innovators and<br />

community champions will be honoured<br />

when the 23rd annual Chamber of<br />

Commerce Awards are held in<br />

November.<br />

The date for the Black Country<br />

Chamber Business Awards 2024, a<br />

dazzling celebration of the businesses<br />

shaping our vibrant economic landscape,<br />

has been set for November 21.<br />

A glittering black tie dinner and awards<br />

ceremony will take place at The Halls<br />

Wolverhampton, operated by AEG<br />

Presents, to honour the very best of our<br />

region’s business scene.<br />

As the leading regional support agency<br />

for firms in the region, the Black Country<br />

Chamber of Commerce stages these<br />

annual awards as part of its drive to<br />

provide platforms and opportunities for<br />

businesses looking to grow, connect and<br />

become part of a thriving network.<br />

Last year’s sell-out awards night saw an<br />

audience of more than 500 guests gather<br />

to celebrate a range of winners.<br />

This year we are shining a brighter light<br />

than ever before on the remarkable<br />

achievements and unwavering dedication<br />

that drive our local economy.<br />

From dynamic start-ups to established<br />

powerhouses, every business has a story<br />

to tell, and the Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce is eager to amplify their<br />

voices.<br />

CEO Sarah Moorhouse said: “We are<br />

delighted to look forward to another<br />

fantastic evening of celebration in which<br />

we will honour the innovative, successful<br />

and resilient businesses that can be<br />

found throughout the Black Country.<br />

“The Black Country Chamber Business<br />

Awards is not just an awards ceremony<br />

but a positive gathering of the brightest<br />

minds and most influential figures in our<br />

business community to network, connect<br />

and forge new partnerships under one<br />

roof.<br />

“Winners will receive widespread media<br />

coverage, social media buzz, and the<br />

chance to take up exclusive networking<br />

opportunities.”<br />

The 2024 awards will build on the<br />

successful 2023 event which saw a host<br />

of companies honoured. Among the<br />

winners were YMCA Black Country<br />

Group’s Kellie Simcox, who was named<br />

employee of the year, Burke Bros Moving<br />

Group who landed the Family Business of<br />

the year prize and JJX Logistics, who<br />

scooped Medium or Large Business of<br />

the Year.<br />

Sarah added: “Our awards are always<br />

one of the highlights of the region’s<br />

business calendar. Last year we received<br />

the highest number of applications in<br />

every category, achieved a complete sell<br />

out for the night and we had a long<br />

waiting list for tickets.<br />

“Our wide range of categories will again<br />

give recognition to the full range of<br />

30 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Award categories<br />

and sponsorship<br />

Get on board as a Black Country<br />

Chamber Business Awards sponsor!<br />

Now is the time for your business to<br />

get the full benefit of our entire<br />

2024 Awards campaign by coming<br />

on board as a sponsor.<br />

Association with the Chamber<br />

Business Awards will not only<br />

enhance your company’s brand, it<br />

will give you access to a range of<br />

profile-raising opportunities across<br />

some of the largest B2B platforms<br />

and outlets in the region while<br />

demonstrating your commitment to<br />

supporting and championing<br />

businesses in the Black Country.<br />

Sponsorship opportunities<br />

Companies can now take up the<br />

opportunity to align their brands with<br />

the cream of our region’s businesses<br />

by sponsoring individual categories or<br />

taking up one of a number of<br />

packages to support the event.<br />

See page 32<br />

sectors and sizes of business, to<br />

celebrate the work of all those who drive<br />

forward growth and investment by<br />

capitalising upon the region’s talent and<br />

tenacity.<br />

“Entries will open later in the spring so<br />

we encourage all companies to speak to<br />

their membership managers about how<br />

they can put forward submissions. We are<br />

also looking to work with sponsors who<br />

want to make the most of the marketing<br />

opportunities from our range of<br />

packages.” (see panel right and page 32)<br />

Full details of the Black Country<br />

Chamber Business Awards 2024 will be<br />

published on the Chamber website over<br />

the coming weeks and featured in the<br />

next edition of Prosper.<br />

For more information<br />

on the awards, click<br />

right<br />

There will be 14 award categories on<br />

the night.<br />

n Business in the Community<br />

n Employer of the Year<br />

n International Trade<br />

n Manufacturing and Engineering<br />

n Consultancy and Professional<br />

Services<br />

n Science, Technology and<br />

Innovation<br />

n Family Business of the Year<br />

n Business of the Year (more than<br />

10 employees)<br />

n Small Business of the Year<br />

(1-9 employees)<br />

n Start-Up of the Year<br />

n Young Employee or Apprentice<br />

of the Year<br />

n Business in Schools Award<br />

n Not for Profit Organisation<br />

n Employer Apprentice of the Year.<br />

There are opportunities to sponsor<br />

all of these awards.<br />


Align your brand with excellence<br />

- shape the narrative - get exclusive<br />

access to high-profile influencers<br />

and decision makers - amplify your<br />

reach.<br />

Become a category sponsor and be<br />

part of a night to remember! See<br />

page 32 for more details.<br />

Email us at awards@<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

or call us: 0330 024 0820<br />

for more details<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 31


Honour the region’s<br />

success stories by<br />

sponsoring our awards<br />

We are excited to offer businesses the<br />

chance to align their brands with the<br />

very best of the Black Country’s<br />

business scene by sponsoring the<br />

Chamber’s awards for 2024.<br />

The Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce delivers the region’s longest<br />

running awards, the biggest and best<br />

celebration in the local business<br />

calendar. Every year they attract the<br />

widest possible range of entrants,<br />

covering everyone from start-up<br />

successes to the big brands known the<br />

world over.<br />

Sponsorship opportunities<br />

As a category sponsor, you will receive<br />

the following benefits from your<br />

sponsorship of £4,250 (plus VAT):<br />

n A table of 10 guests for the black tie<br />

dinner awards event on November 21 at<br />

The Halls Wolverhampton<br />

n Two invitations to the winners’ lunch<br />

(March 2025)<br />

n Social media posts across all award<br />

notifications relating to your award of<br />

choice<br />

n A photo with the category winner in<br />

our Prosper December 2024 issue.<br />

To enter you must be a registered<br />

business here in the Black Country OR<br />

be a member of the Black Country<br />

Chamber. We will have a maximum of<br />

four finalists per category.<br />

All we ask of you is that you have<br />

someone on hand to present the award<br />

on the night, and you have a colleague<br />

available to assist with the judging in<br />

October.<br />

Award Categories<br />

n Business in the Community. This<br />

award is for the business which<br />

demonstrates a significant and positive<br />

commitment in the community.<br />

n Employer of the Year: The award to<br />

recognise employers who excel in<br />

developing their workforce and engaging<br />

employees in company values.<br />

n International Trade: For businesses<br />

of all sizes and sectors, with sound<br />

financial management, you will excel as<br />

an exporter or in assisting others to<br />

export goods across international<br />

borders.<br />

n Manufacturing and Engineering:<br />

For businesses of all sizes within the<br />

manufacturing and engineering sectors.<br />

n Consultancy and Professional<br />

Services: This award recognises a<br />

company that has demonstrated<br />

exceptional performance and impact in<br />

delivering value to its customers,<br />

bringing quantifiable improvement in<br />

client performance.<br />

n Science, Technology and<br />

Innovation: The award to celebrate<br />

businesses demonstrating exceptional<br />

advancements in science, technology,<br />

and innovation, who contribute to<br />

positive societal impact.<br />

n Family Business of the Year:<br />

Celebrating the best, established family<br />

business across any sector, you will<br />

need to show how you work together to<br />

achieve ambitions for growth.<br />

n Business of the Year (more than 10<br />

employees): Achieving high customer<br />

satisfaction, the winner will have<br />

leadership excelling in vision,<br />

communication and strategic planning.<br />

n Small Business of the Year (1-9<br />

employees): Honouring a small<br />

company with consistent revenue<br />

growth and profitability, your company<br />

will punch above its weight with<br />

innovative products, services or<br />

processes, while creating employment<br />

opportunities in a positive workplace<br />

culture.<br />

n Start-Up of the Year: Open to<br />

businesses registered since January<br />

2023, your business will have made a<br />

positive impact growing revenues and<br />

customer satisfaction.<br />

n Young Employee or Apprentice of<br />

the Year: Aged 25 or under and working<br />

in a Black Country business, we are<br />

looking for a young employee or<br />

apprentice who has used an<br />

apprenticeship to boost their career and<br />

make a real difference.<br />

n Business in Schools Award: This<br />

category is open to all businesses<br />

regardless of size, sector or type, who<br />

work with education partners and can<br />

show a significant positive impact on<br />

students, their school community and<br />

the wider community.<br />

n Not for Profit Organisation: This<br />

award recognises an outstanding<br />

non-profit organisation that can<br />

demonstrate exceptional impact,<br />

innovation and commitment to its<br />

mission.<br />

n Employer Apprentice of the Year:<br />

Recognising the commitment employers<br />

undertake to train staff under a<br />

recognised apprenticeship scheme,<br />

entrants must have taken on<br />

apprentices in the last three years.<br />

Become an Awards<br />

category sponsor!<br />

Email us here<br />

Call us: 0330 024 0820<br />

32 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Chamber announces membership<br />

fee will be frozen for 2024-25<br />

The Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce has announced<br />

membership fees will be frozen for the<br />

forthcoming financial year to help firms<br />

during a time of economic uncertainty.<br />

Member companies, ranging from<br />

fledgling firms which sign up to the<br />

Start-Up group through to the top level<br />

Patron organisations, will pay the same<br />

price as the current year for April 2024<br />

until March 2025.<br />

CEO Sarah Moorhouse said the<br />

decision had been taken in recognition of<br />

the challenges faced by Chamber<br />

members. She said: “At a time when<br />

inflation, the cost of living and increased<br />

energy tariffs, are just a few of the<br />

pressures faced by businesses, we were<br />

keen to support our members by holding<br />

prices for the next financial year at the<br />

current levels.<br />

“After some challenging years, money<br />

is understandably still at the forefront of<br />

people’s minds and many are tightening<br />

budgets, so we have taken this decision<br />

on the back of the resounding message I<br />

have shared since becoming CEO, that<br />

Chamber members should be assured<br />

‘we’ve got your back’.<br />

“While this step will help businesses<br />

financially, we are sure that the enhanced<br />

Chamber team will build stronger<br />

relationships than ever before as we help<br />

member companies through our drive to<br />

‘Member to<br />

Member’ offers<br />

Special Chamber ‘Member to<br />

Member’ offers can be<br />

accessed through the<br />

Chamber website, for fellow<br />

members to take advantage<br />

of. This is a great way to<br />

showcase your products<br />

and services.<br />

“We have taken this decision on<br />

the back of the resounding<br />

message I have shared since<br />

becoming CEO, that Chamber<br />

members should be assured<br />

‘we’ve got your back’. “<br />

re-energise the local economy in 2024.<br />

“We know many businesses value<br />

Chamber membership and the<br />

opportunities it generates, and we look<br />

forward to supporting local firms to<br />

realise their potential.”<br />

The Black Country Chamber acts as a<br />

powerful engine for local businesses to<br />

market themselves to the region and<br />

further afield, giving members access to<br />

a wealth of resources, including<br />

networking opportunities, support with<br />

trade documentations, training<br />

programmes and marketing platforms.<br />

Sarah Moorhouse added: “In the next<br />

12 months we will be amplifying our<br />

unique role as a dynamic and forwardthinking<br />

not-for-profit organisation which<br />

understands and helps tackle the<br />

challenges faced by firms operating in<br />

today’s modern marketplace.<br />

“Our organisation is based upon the<br />

concept of partnership, so we will be<br />

doing everything we can to promote<br />

opportunities for Black Country<br />

businesses.”<br />

Save money through<br />

your membership, too...<br />

We have teamed up with several<br />

Black Country Chamber members<br />

and partners to offer a range of<br />

discounts and savings for your<br />

business and the people you employ.<br />

Find out more on the facing page.<br />

Now more than ever businesses are<br />

finding ways to save money and<br />

Chamber membership can help you<br />

do just that!<br />

According to our latest Quarterly<br />

Economic Survey (Q4 2023), rising<br />

labour costs are rivalling the rise of<br />

utility prices as a pressure point.<br />

Labour costs and utilities are amongst<br />

the highest concern for firms across<br />

all sectors in the Black Country – at<br />

43% and 47% respectively.<br />

Our commercial partner offers are<br />

available to all Chamber members for<br />

the duration of their membership –<br />

allowing you and your employees to<br />

save money and access advice and<br />

support from a variety of.<br />

Find out more about<br />

Chamber benefits by<br />

clicking right<br />

Long-term discounts<br />

We have also teamed up with eight of our members to offer long-term discounts to<br />

fellow Chamber members. These are available until Friday, 7th June, and include:<br />

• Free financial health check from Central Business Finance<br />

• Fitness programme discounts from Fitness Studio Forty Six<br />

• 40% Discount on key holding services from GMS Group<br />

• 40% rates on tail lift servicing LOLER examinations and weigh testing from JC Payne<br />

• Simple risk management software from MoRServ<br />

• Health cash plan with immediate benefit and pre-existing cover from Paycare<br />

• Business insurance and financial planning support from Timmins Whittaker<br />

• 20% discount on raceday and tickets from Wolverhampton Racecourse<br />

To find out more about Chamber membership, please submit an enquiry form<br />

via our website or give the team a call on 0330 024 0820.<br />

34 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Members save money<br />

with our partners<br />

Barclaycard Payments<br />

– Discounted Rates<br />

Quest – HR, Legal, Tax and<br />

Health & Safety<br />

Quest Cover provides a wide range of access to<br />

qualified legal expertise, including HR, Tax and<br />

Health & Safety. This gives Black Country Chamber<br />

members access to legal advice helplines and an<br />

extensive document library with hundreds of<br />

downloadable documents that can be used in<br />

business, as well as providing £1M legal expenses<br />

cover.<br />

Whether customers are paying online or in<br />

person, a secure and reliable payment<br />

solution could give them and your business<br />

added peace of mind. That’s why we’re<br />

teaming up with Barclaycard Payments to<br />

offer you a specially negotiated discount on<br />

merchant service charges from one of the<br />

UK’s leading small business payment<br />

solution partners.<br />

APH – Airport<br />

Parking & Hotels<br />

Black Country Chamber<br />

members receive a range of<br />

discounts for airport parking<br />

and hotels.<br />

AA – Roadside Assistance<br />

The AA’s business breakdown cover will make sure<br />

your drivers get back on the road quickly – and with a<br />

minimum of disruption – if the worst happens.<br />

All you need to do is choose the right level of cover for<br />

you. Our members can save up to £300 on breakdown<br />

cover through Chamber membership.<br />

Swoop Funding – Chamber<br />

Finance Finder<br />

The Chamber Finance Finder simplifies and speeds up<br />

the funding process, matching members’ businesses with<br />

the right funding opportunities across loans, equity<br />

investment, grants and commercial mortgages.<br />

Control Energy Costs –<br />

Commercial Energy<br />

Discover how to best manage your business’s<br />

energy costs, both in terms of negotiating<br />

ongoing supply contracts and exploring<br />

opportunities for retrospective refunds. Halo Financial –<br />

Foreign Exchange<br />

Access all of these benefits through the member dashboard.<br />

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

Or give the team a call on 0330 024 0820.<br />

Halo Financial provides a better<br />

way for the most globally active and<br />

ambitious companies to transfer<br />

money across borders, helping your<br />

business trade successfully and<br />

grow with confidence.<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 35


Anthony (front left) with<br />

the Paycare team as they<br />

mark the organisation’s<br />

150 years<br />

Chamber Patron celebrates<br />

150th anniversary in style<br />

Black Country-based not-for-profit<br />

organisation Paycare has had a busy<br />

start to 2024 as it marks its 150th year in<br />

operation.<br />

Paycare, a Chamber Patron which<br />

provides a range of health cash plans to<br />

individuals, employees, and their families,<br />

was originally formed in 1874 to support<br />

factory workers with everyday healthcare<br />

costs.<br />

Initially named the Patients’ Aid<br />

Association, the organisation has since<br />

helped millions of people claim back cash<br />

on everything from optical and dental<br />

appointments to physiotherapy,<br />

diagnostic tests, and wellbeing<br />

treatments.<br />

Anthony Burns, Paycare’s CEO, said<br />

“Our 150th year is such a momentous<br />

milestone for us as an organisation, and<br />

one that the whole Paycare team is<br />

exceptionally proud of.<br />

“We were founded around the concept<br />

that nobody should have to struggle to<br />

access high-quality and timely healthcare,<br />

and this absolutely remains central to us<br />

today, particularly so in these current<br />

times.<br />

“Welcoming in this significant year has<br />

not only provided us with an opportunity<br />

to reflect on all of the incredible things<br />

we’ve achieved as a team, but to also look<br />

ahead to the next stage of our journey as<br />

we continue to support more individuals<br />

to be healthier and happier.”<br />

Alongside supporting policyholders,<br />

Paycare has raised in excess of<br />

£2.5million for good causes across the<br />

region and beyond, supporting everything<br />

from grassroots sports clubs to<br />

accessible entertainment, arts projects<br />

and food banks.<br />

Building on this heritage, Paycare has<br />

teamed up with Wolverhampton author<br />

James Davison in a bid to raise awareness<br />

about mental health issues, encourage<br />

individuals to reach out to those around<br />

them, and to provide the frameworks to<br />

broach these difficult but important<br />

conversations.<br />

The team has launched an exclusive<br />

competition for its policyholders, giving<br />

five individuals the chance to win a copy<br />

of a new children’s book focused on<br />

mental health, Mindy’s Journey.<br />

James said: “The story follows Mindy<br />

who after receiving some bad news wakes<br />

Paycare award<br />

Paycare has been awarded the Most<br />

Positive Impact / CSR accolade in the<br />

2024 Small Business Awards. The<br />

honour is in recognition of the positive<br />

impact Paycare has made through its<br />

CSR initiatives, and the contributions to<br />

its community, environment, and<br />

stakeholders.<br />

Anthony Burns said: “Altruism is at our<br />

absolute core, and we’re delighted to<br />

accept this award.”<br />

up alone in a cave, where she befriends a<br />

star who guides her.<br />

“Details of the bad news are<br />

purposefully vague, so that it can be<br />

relatable to anyone, and hopefully spark<br />

conversations between children and<br />

parents, carers, or teachers.<br />

“I’m very open about my own neurodiversity,<br />

and the fact I have Tourette’s<br />

syndrome, non-epileptic attack disorder,<br />

and affective dysregulation.<br />

“But I was not diagnosed until my late<br />

teens, meaning that in high school it was<br />

particularly hard navigating my mental<br />

health issues at a time where there was<br />

limited understanding. So much so, I was<br />

regularly in trouble and always felt like an<br />

outsider.”<br />

Anthony Burns said: “When we learned<br />

about James’ latest book and his own<br />

journey, we were keen to help him<br />

promote this vital message.<br />

“The story – and James himself –<br />

absolutely align with everything we stand<br />

for at Paycare: promoting wellness,<br />

encouraging communication, and caring<br />

for our community.<br />

“It is even more fantastic to learn that<br />

for every one of his books sold, a tree is<br />

planted – further giving back.”<br />

• Mindy’s Journey has been nominated<br />

for the People’s Book Prize and voting is<br />

open until the end of April at<br />

www.peoplesbookprize.com/summer-<br />

2023-categories/childrens/<br />

36 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


SKA turns to Black Country firm for help<br />

Regent Engineering has won a<br />

prestigious contract to supply antenna<br />

components for the world’s biggest<br />

international project in astronomy.<br />

The Darlaston-based pressings and<br />

assemblies specialist, a Gold Chamber<br />

member, will contribute to the Square<br />

Kilometre Array (SKA), a scheme which<br />

will see more than 131,000 low-frequency<br />

wire antennas, each the size of a large TV<br />

antenna, set up in the desert of Western<br />

Australia.<br />

Together with an installation of large<br />

dish antennas located in the Karoo<br />

desert in South Africa the two<br />

installations will cover the entire range of<br />

radio frequencies, from 50 MHz up to 25<br />

GHz, with unprecedented sensitivity,<br />

resolution and coverage of the sky.<br />

The SKA will transform our view of the<br />

universe in a number of key science<br />

areas, including seeing how the first<br />

galaxies emerged, searching for the<br />

signatures of life in the universe and the<br />

presence of organic and biological<br />

molecules.<br />

The SKA consortium involved in the<br />

project has headquarters at Jodrell Bank<br />

in Cheshire and is a joint effort involving<br />

14 countries.<br />

Regent’s part of the €100m contract<br />

involves the supply of pressed metal<br />

The SKA project in the Western<br />

Australian desert<br />

components which form the main low<br />

frequency collecting components at the<br />

top of the antenna assembly.<br />

These high precision parts are<br />

stamped and formed, chemically cleaned,<br />

and then carefully packed for shipment to<br />

Italy for incorporation in the final antenna<br />

assembly, which is over 2 metres high<br />

and somewhat resembles a metal<br />

Christmas tree.<br />

The first phase of production will<br />

involve the supply of more than 250,000<br />

components over the next two years, with<br />

a possible second phase of a similar size<br />

commencing in 2026.<br />

In continuous production since 1941,<br />

Regent’s 50-strong team has the skills<br />

and experience to undertake the most<br />

complex pressed component and<br />

assembly supply projects.<br />

Media firm produces powerful<br />

TV knife crime film<br />

The Express & Star has produced a<br />

powerful TV documentary that shines a<br />

light on the devastating consequences<br />

of knife crime in the Black Country.<br />

Called Grief , this compelling film<br />

delves into the stark realities of this<br />

epidemic, featuring interviews with two<br />

grieving parents, Mark Brindley and<br />

Pooja Kanda.<br />

Mark, father of James Brindley who<br />

was murdered in Walsall in 2017, and<br />

Pooja, mother of Ronan Kanda who<br />

was murdered in Wolverhampton in<br />

2022, bravely share their haunting<br />

stories of loss. Through their words,<br />

viewers are given an intimate look into<br />

the emotional aftermath of the attacks<br />

and shattered lives left in<br />

the wake of such<br />

senseless violence.<br />

The film aired on Shots!,<br />

a Freeview TV channel.<br />

Mark Morris, group digital editor at<br />

the Express & Star said: “We wanted to<br />

document a crucial subject that should<br />

concern each and every one of our<br />

readers.<br />

“Knife crime has been devastating<br />

our communities, but now we are<br />

witnessing an alarming shift in the<br />

number of incidents.<br />

“The countless cases have almost<br />

desensitised the public to what should<br />

be truly shocking. It’s time for us to<br />

Pooja Kanda<br />

Mark Brindley<br />

break this cycle with a film that<br />

demands change.<br />

“Grief is not just another<br />

documentary filled with cold facts and<br />

headlines. It is an exploration of the<br />

unyielding spirit of those who have<br />

suffered immeasurable loss.<br />

“We hope that it showcases the<br />

unwavering strength that arises in the<br />

face of tragedy and serves as a<br />

powerful wake-up call for all of us. I<br />

would urge the Black Country<br />

community to watch this film.”<br />

Grief is available online at: www.shotstv.com/watch/vod/52297933<br />

38 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 39


Supporting great causes in the Black Country<br />

Chamber colleagues donate<br />

essential items to foodbank<br />

Kind-hearted colleagues from Black<br />

Country Chamber donated food and<br />

other essential supplies to a local food<br />

bank supporting families in need over<br />

the Christmas period.<br />

Colleagues donated cereal, canned<br />

food, milk, hot chocolate, and toiletries<br />

to the Black Country Foodbank as part<br />

of their annual festive appeal, along with<br />

a funding donation.<br />

The foodbank helps vulnerable<br />

individuals and families in crisis through<br />

the provision of an emergency food and<br />

toiletry parcel, while a longer-term<br />

solution is developed.<br />

The collection builds upon the<br />

Chamber’s vision to create a vibrant,<br />

local community with a focus on social<br />

impact through Chamber activities.<br />

Black Country Chamber CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse commented: “More people<br />

than ever are turning to food banks.<br />

“We want to support the communities<br />

of the Black Country, and were thrilled to<br />

be able to donate to such a worthy<br />

cause. I hope that the donation provides<br />

the charity with the boost it needs<br />

during this busy time.”<br />

Black Country Foodbank added: “We<br />

are so grateful for this donation. It could<br />

not have come at a better time, as over<br />

Christmas we were experiencing an<br />

unprecedented level of demand for<br />

emergency food and toiletry parcels.”<br />

Generous Lord Combustion Services funds charity’s hot meals service<br />

Elderly members of the community<br />

in Smethwick received hot meals<br />

over Christmas thanks to funding<br />

from commercial heating and<br />

ventilation specialist Lord<br />

Combustion Services.<br />

In total 100 meals were delivered<br />

by St Albans Community Association<br />

to people at home during the festive<br />

season following support from<br />

Oldbury-based Lord Combustion<br />

Services, a Platinum member and<br />

2023 Chamber award winner.<br />

Lord offered its support to back<br />

the vital work which St Albans<br />

provides for older residents.<br />

Based in St Albans Road,<br />

Smethwick, the charity provides a<br />

range of community services<br />

including activities and meals for<br />

older people, alongside dementia<br />

support services, welfare advice<br />

and OFSTED-registered pre-school<br />

nursery activities.<br />

St Albans operations manager<br />

Tammy Cleaver said: “Thank you to<br />

Lord Combustion Services for their<br />

support; it is much appreciated<br />

and ensures our team can help as<br />

many people as possible with our<br />

meals service.”<br />

Lord won the Outstanding<br />

Support for the Armed Forces prize<br />

at the 2023 Chamber Awards.<br />

Manufacturer’s employee honoured with prestigious Fellowship<br />

Karen Nelson, business development<br />

manager at door and window hardware<br />

manufacturer Hoppe (UK) was<br />

recognised with a Fellowship Award at the<br />

Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI)<br />

Community Awards.<br />

The Fellowship is given to an individual<br />

who has shown a longstanding and<br />

ongoing commitment to the Guild.<br />

Karen, who has worked at Chamber<br />

Gold member HOPPE (UK), based in<br />

Standeford, for more than eight years,<br />

was recognised for her role as chair of the<br />

Midlands Community Hub and her<br />

contribution to the GAI education<br />

committee.<br />

Karen said: “I feel very proud to be<br />

recognised for the Fellowship Award. My<br />

involvement in both the Midlands<br />

Community Hub and the education<br />

committee has always been driven by my<br />

belief in the importance of the Guild’s<br />

education and CPD programme.<br />

“I know this is a sentiment shared by<br />

many of my industry peers. The members<br />

of the Midlands Community Hub regularly<br />

come together to share their knowledge<br />

and experience to help progress the<br />

industry. There aren’t many sectors like<br />

ours and I’m honoured to be a part of it.”<br />

In addition to her industry expertise, for<br />

more than 10 years, Karen has also<br />

organised a Midlands Community Hub<br />

Christmas charity quiz, raising more than<br />

£7,000 for various charities.<br />

40 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Sweet treats for your staff that<br />

make money for your business<br />

Many offices, factories and warehouses<br />

can be situated some way from local<br />

amenities, making it difficult for staff to<br />

pop out to grab a quick snack on-the-go.<br />

One effective and fun solution is to<br />

have a free Tubz sweets vending tower(s)<br />

within your organisation - the No.1<br />

vending tower in Europe.<br />

Each tower holds nine columns of nine<br />

varieties of sweets tubs, including low<br />

calorie options.<br />

There are several brands to choose<br />

from including:<br />

Skittles<br />

Mini Eggs<br />

Bon Bons<br />

Haribo<br />

Tango popping candy<br />

Chocolate buttons<br />

The towers are completely free to<br />

organisations with no purchase, hire,<br />

maintenance or service costs<br />

whatsoever.<br />

We also pay you 20% of the takings<br />

every time we replenish and clean the<br />

tower.<br />

So it’s ZERO costs to your organisation<br />

plus an ongoing commission.<br />

The towers are very portable at 4 feet<br />

11 inches tall and just 1 foot 6 inches wide<br />

meaning they can be easily located in<br />

small or larger communal areas.<br />

‘So what’s the catch’? …there isn’t<br />

one.<br />

Thousands of organisations across the<br />

UK are delighting their teams with tasty<br />

treats while making an ongoing<br />

commission to reinvest back into their<br />

people.<br />

Simply call Phil<br />

Elwell on<br />

07825 545038 to<br />

claim your free<br />

sweets vending<br />

towers.<br />

Find out more<br />

by clicking<br />

right<br />

FREE sweets vending towers that<br />

generate ongoing commission<br />

Ideal for offi ces, warehouses and factories<br />

with 50+ employees, as well as busy pubs,<br />

social clubs and sports clubs, etc.<br />

100% FREE sweets vending<br />

tower – the No.1 Vending<br />

Tower in Europe.<br />

20% of the takings handed<br />

to you on every refill.<br />

No stock costs or ordering<br />

(we manage all of that).<br />

Robust towers, with no parts<br />

or maintance costs.<br />

7-day support line<br />

No contract - hand back<br />

whenever.<br />

100% no costs to your<br />

organisation guaranteed<br />

Brands<br />

include<br />

Call Phil Elwell on 07825 545038 to secure your FREE vending tower(s).<br />

Search ‘Tubz<br />

Sweets Vending<br />



2024: It’s our year for<br />

building success<br />

Members get ready to seize opportunities ahead<br />

As 2024 has got under way, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce has been celebrating the<br />

companies looking forward to building success.<br />

Our Ready for 2024 series of profiles, published along with the latest news on our website, featured the<br />

incredible businesses and entrepreneurs that make our region tick, showcasing members who plan to<br />

capitalise on the opportunities ahead, despite the challenging economic environment.<br />

Here we bring together the views of a cross section of members, from young tech companies through to<br />

some of the biggest names around, all with a shared purpose to see our region flourish.<br />

Sarah Moorhouse, Black Country Chamber of Commerce CEO, writes:<br />

The Black Country has a proud<br />

heritage as a powerhouse of talent,<br />

creativity, and entrepreneurial<br />

spirit, which we have celebrated<br />

with our Ready for 2024<br />

campaign.<br />

Throughout the early weeks of<br />

2024 we featured member<br />

organisations, ranging from<br />

start-ups to large companies, on the<br />

Chamber website and social media<br />

channels to get their views on the<br />

opportunities they see ahead.<br />

As the leading business support<br />

agency for the Black Country, we are<br />

uniquely placed to celebrate the<br />

businesses and individuals who make our<br />

region thrive.<br />

Whatever the size of the<br />

business, Black Country<br />

Chamber has a level of<br />

membership to support<br />

your goal.<br />

We run various member<br />

groups to support our<br />

mission to promote and<br />

meet the needs of business<br />

and industry across the Black<br />

Country and to help create the best<br />

community in which to live, work and do<br />

business. All these groups are<br />

represented in the views collected here.<br />

Our members have overcome<br />

significant challenges in recent years so<br />

despite the economic uncertainty, we<br />

feel it is our role to accentuate the many<br />

positives in our business community.<br />

The Ready for 2024 campaign was<br />

organised to promote the wide range of<br />

members of the Black Country Chamber<br />

of Commerce, the leading business<br />

support agency for firms based within or<br />

doing business across Wolverhampton,<br />

Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall.<br />

As you will see over the following<br />

pages, the Chamber is ready to show the<br />

world what the Black Country is truly<br />

made of, namely hard work, flexibility to<br />

adapt to change, resilience and a whole<br />

lot of heart.<br />

As I have said consistently since<br />

becoming CEO, we have your back.<br />

Now let’s work together to make the<br />

most of the opportunities ahead of us all.<br />

‘Our region has a new focus’<br />

Why will the Black Country be a great place to do business in 2024?<br />

Wolverhampton, as well as being our home, is driven by a local authority<br />

which has a dedicated focus on developing the city as a visitor<br />

destination. With that there is revived enthusiasm from stakeholders,<br />

including ourselves, to make Wolverhampton and the Black Country as<br />

a whole, a better place to live work and visit.<br />

Kieron Ansell, Business Development Manager, Wolves Foundation<br />

What are your hopes for the Black Country economy and its businesses<br />

this year?<br />

We would like to see the Black Country economy grow. We hope that we<br />

can help more Black Country businesses and increase awareness of the<br />

support we have available for them.<br />

Jill Middleton, Business Development Officer,<br />

Birmingham City University Business School<br />

42 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


AI and green skills can shape<br />

a new future for the region<br />

Black Country businesses need to “embrace<br />

trends in AI and green skills” as the region’s<br />

companies shape a new future, says James<br />

Norris, Assistant Principal for Commercial<br />

Development at Walsall College (above).<br />

In his senior role at the Chamber Patron,<br />

James says local firms should recognise the<br />

“potential of digital tools and software” and take<br />

up the partnership opportunities available in the<br />

region.<br />

Working in skills and training, James believes<br />

the Black Country economy can benefit from<br />

local supply chains being able to “seize<br />

opportunities in major regeneration projects and<br />

in turn grow their workforces”.<br />

What are your hopes for the Black Country<br />

economy and its businesses in 2024?<br />

That we fully embrace new trends in AI and<br />

green skills. Local employers should be offered<br />

research and pilot project support to unlock the<br />

potential of digital tools and software and<br />

understand how to bring these into their<br />

business operations. Our onsite Digital<br />

Innovation Hub can help with this.<br />

What will the college be focusing on in 2024?<br />

We will continue developing our study and<br />

training offer in line with local economic<br />

priorities and growth areas, including<br />

construction, health, digital and the creative<br />

industries. Apprenticeships and upskilling<br />

opportunities at Level 3 and above for learners<br />

aged 19 and over will also become more<br />

“Local supply chains will be able to seize<br />

opportunities in major regeneration<br />

projects and in turn grow their<br />

workforces...”<br />

prominent for us, with the aim of supporting<br />

jobseekers and those looking to retrain for new<br />

careers.<br />

Why will the Black Country be a great place to<br />

do business in the 12 months ahead?<br />

With substantial investments like Walsall’s<br />

Construction Growth Skills Fund and the<br />

potential for more funding, local supply chains<br />

will be able to seize opportunities in major<br />

regeneration projects and in turn grow their<br />

workforces through available recruitment and<br />

training support programmes.<br />

The Business Growth West Midlands Initiative<br />

is an example of funding available.<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership<br />

for in the year ahead?<br />

There are many exciting development projects<br />

and regeneration plans coming together in and<br />

around Walsall being driven by local industry<br />

collaboration, including from fellow patrons. We<br />

aim to build on these collaborations for lasting<br />

benefits to local people and businesses. We also<br />

take pride in representing the business<br />

community in wider circles and at a national<br />

level, sharing views, insights and ideas around<br />

education and skills reform.<br />

What do you hope will happen for the UK<br />

economy as a whole?<br />

The further education sector, with its<br />

expertise and connections, is uniquely<br />

positioned to address industry skill priorities.<br />

Colleges like ours anticipate the broader impact<br />

of this, with employers sharing best practice that<br />

leads to positive, tangible outcomes in economic<br />

aspirations, social mobility, upskilling and<br />

growth.<br />

Examples of this include T-Level students<br />

advancing to degree apprenticeships with<br />

employers who provided their industry<br />

placements, existing workforces progressing<br />

through English, maths and digital skills support<br />

or apprenticeships, as well as going on to<br />

university.<br />

What will your business<br />

be focusing upon in<br />

2024?<br />

Growth. We have been a<br />

Black Country business<br />

for 25 years and despite<br />

some of the most<br />

difficult trading<br />

conditions in the past<br />

few years, we have<br />

managed to grow and<br />

expand the business<br />

throughout. We will be<br />

constantly looking at<br />

ways in which we can<br />

provide added value<br />

services for our existing<br />

clients while<br />

developing new areas<br />

where we know we can<br />

make a difference.<br />

Brendan O’Dea,<br />

Director at marketing<br />

communications agency<br />

Plum Ideas<br />

Why will the Black<br />

Country be a great<br />

place to do business in<br />

2024?<br />

It has a fantastic<br />

network of businesses,<br />

from small start-ups to<br />

large international<br />

brands. As an<br />

organisation that<br />

supports SMEs wanting<br />

to grow, we see lots of<br />

innovation and<br />

aspiration in the region,<br />

and I am sure that this<br />

will continue this year.<br />

Lynn Wyke, Senior<br />

Business Development<br />

Manager, BCRS<br />

Business Loans<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 43


Recruitment specialists have<br />

an eye on new markets<br />

“This region is a melting<br />

pot for innovation! 2024<br />

is going to be exciting as<br />

it will grow, change and<br />

diversify again.”<br />

Nella Share<br />

Nella Share, of MET Recruitment, says her<br />

team of employment specialists are primed<br />

to support clients to source high-quality<br />

employees as the firm expands into new<br />

geographical areas.<br />

The Black Country is “an incredible place to<br />

do business”, says Nella, and it is “set to grow,<br />

change and diversify again”.<br />

Dudley-based MET Recruitment will<br />

maximise its Platinum membership as it adds<br />

“so much value to our business”, she says, and<br />

Nella hopes this year will “restore the faith in<br />

Black Country business leaders to press<br />

forward with investment and growth”.<br />

What is your business focusing on in 2024?<br />

Growing our share of the recruitment<br />

marketplace both locally and into new<br />

geographical locations. We are also firmly<br />

focused on ensuring our clients are aware that<br />

we can fulfil all of their recruitment needs, not<br />

just the areas of recruitment that we currently<br />

fulfil for those clients.<br />

What are your hopes for the Black Country<br />

economy and its businesses in 2024?<br />

We hope for more certainty from the local<br />

business community in 2024, and economic<br />

stability that will restore the faith in Black<br />

Country business leaders to press forward with<br />

investment and growth plans.<br />

Why will the Black Country be a great place<br />

to do business in the year ahead?<br />

The Black Country is already an incredible<br />

place to do business. We host some of the<br />

most successful organisations across a variety<br />

of sectors and the region is a melting pot for<br />

innovation! 2024 is going to be exciting as the<br />

region is set to grow, change and diversify<br />

again.<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership<br />

for in the year ahead?<br />

We maximise our membership by taking part<br />

in all the activities that we already know add so<br />

much value to our business. Our membership<br />

is very much a two-way street and we will only<br />

benefit from the work that we put in, so you will<br />

see various members of the MET team at<br />

networking events.<br />

What do you hope will happen for the UK<br />

economy as a whole?<br />

Stability and confidence are absolutely key<br />

so companies can innovate, grow and invest.<br />

We would like to see individuals in a better<br />

position against the cost of living crisis.<br />

Top artists will be back at The Halls<br />

Helen Lees, Conference and Events Sales Manager at The<br />

Halls Wolverhampton, which is operated by AEG Presents, a<br />

patron of the Black Country Chamber, says the refurbished<br />

arena is looking forward to a bumper year as an all-purpose<br />

venue that caters for conferences, dinners and meetings.<br />

This year will see growth in the corporate conference and<br />

events business, as well as more top artists at both The<br />

Civic and Wulfrun Hall.<br />

What are your hopes for the Black Country economy and its<br />

businesses in 2024?<br />

Continued growth in the Black Country economy and<br />

seeing regional businesses supporting each other and<br />

sharing best practices.<br />

Why will the Black Country be a great place to do business in<br />

the 12 months ahead?<br />

With continued investment in the area and the right<br />

people in the right place of work, with their experience and<br />

enthusiasm, the Black Country is the place to be. With<br />

great transport links, the central location is the ideal place.<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership for in the year<br />

ahead?<br />

We will use our membership to continue to attend<br />

networking events, share best practice and support<br />

businesses.<br />

44 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Technology and innovation<br />

– plus a positive mindset<br />

Wombourne-based creative marketing agency<br />

TPSquared has progressed from the<br />

Chamber’s Start-Up Club to become a trusted<br />

partner for leading companies in the region<br />

and nationally.<br />

Carolyn Smith, Managing Director (pictured),<br />

says she will be prioritising technology,<br />

innovation and sustainability as she aims to stay<br />

at the forefront of industry trends.<br />

The positive mindset of businesses in the<br />

Black Country and their desire to support other<br />

local organisations has made Carolyn feel<br />

confident that the region will be a great place to<br />

do business in 2024.<br />

What is your business focusing on in 2024?<br />

Technology, innovation and sustainability as<br />

we aim to stay at the forefront of industry trends.<br />

Focusing on staff investment and development<br />

will be crucial to harnessing my team’s potential,<br />

allowing TPSquared to expand our services.<br />

What are your hopes for the Black Country<br />

economy and its businesses in 2024?<br />

While there are challenges ahead, including<br />

the difficulty in finding suitably skilled staff to<br />

support growth, and rising business costs, there<br />

does seem to be a positive mindset to achieve<br />

great things. This is especially evident in the<br />

Black Country, where we have secured a number<br />

of new clients. Local businesses have a greater<br />

focus on supporting the local economy and are<br />

looking closer to home when selecting suppliers<br />

and partners. This is what gives me the belief<br />

and confidence that this year should be a<br />

positive one!<br />

Why will the Black Country be a great place to<br />

do business in the 12 months ahead?<br />

The region has secured significant investment<br />

Richard Jenkins, Area Director of Business<br />

and Commercial Banking for the Black<br />

Country for Lloyds Bank says:<br />

The Black Country is a hugely innovative and<br />

creative place to start-up, grow or to relocate a<br />

business. It has a huge pool of talented and<br />

skilled workers, supported by strong<br />

educational and vocational training suppliers<br />

and superb supply chains.<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership<br />

for in the year ahead?<br />

We use our Platinum Membership to support<br />

many areas, which poises it for economic growth<br />

in the coming 12 months. There are<br />

opportunities for collaboration and innovation,<br />

making it ideal for entrepreneurs and companies<br />

looking to thrive.<br />

There is also lots of support available to help<br />

businesses thrive and grow, either through the<br />

Chamber or the local authority and other<br />

independent organisations.<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership<br />

for in the year ahead?<br />

I plan to leverage my Chamber membership<br />

for networking opportunities, building new<br />

relationships and taking advantage of member<br />

services to enhance my business’s overall<br />

growth and success.<br />

Additionally, I intend to utilise the Chamber’s<br />

resources for marketing TPSquared and sharing<br />

industry best practices with my fellow members.<br />

both the Chamber and the<br />

wider Black Country<br />

economy, offering support<br />

to SMEs throughout the<br />

region.<br />

What do you hope will<br />

happen for the UK economy as a<br />

whole?<br />

The bank looks to continue its mission to<br />

shape finance as a force for good in 2024, with<br />

the UK continuing to face into inflationary and<br />

interest rate fluctuations.<br />

in<br />

What are your hopes for<br />

the Black Country<br />

economy and its<br />

businesses in 2024?<br />

Everyone is hoping to<br />

see the local economy<br />

and its businesses<br />

grow, but there are still<br />

testing times ahead. As<br />

many companies<br />

continue to find staff<br />

recruitment a<br />

challenge, I hope that<br />

we can work together to<br />

address some of the<br />

skills shortages we face<br />

in the region by<br />

investing in training, as<br />

this will help to<br />

maximise our growth<br />

potential.<br />

Carl Baker, Managing<br />

Director at water safety<br />

specialist Nant<br />

What will your business<br />

be focusing upon in<br />

2024?<br />

Diversifying products<br />

to maximise workspace<br />

flexibility for<br />

small and start-up<br />

businesses. We will<br />

also be looking to<br />

invest in net zero<br />

projects to become<br />

more energy efficient.<br />

The Black Country<br />

Chamber is a great<br />

marketplace for making<br />

new contacts, and we<br />

shall be using it to build<br />

relationships with as<br />

many new partners as<br />

possible.<br />

Jeni Sellick, Business<br />

Centre Manager at<br />

office and workspace<br />

provider West Midlands<br />

House Ltd<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 45


Black Country can be a real<br />

alternative to London<br />

Philip Chapman, of full service law firm<br />

Thursfields, which has offices across the<br />

West Midlands, says the Black Country has<br />

the opportunity to be “a real alternative to<br />

London for business”.<br />

He remains confident that “2024 will see<br />

firms becoming more optimistic with the<br />

prospect of inflation and interest rates having<br />

peaked”.<br />

What is your business focusing on in 2024?<br />

Customer growth and customer retention in<br />

the region, and investment in our people. We<br />

bringing on board new colleagues to expand<br />

our service offering, as well as continuously<br />

developing our technology and infrastructure<br />

to further improve and align our services to<br />

match our client’s needs.<br />

Why will the Black Country be a great place<br />

to do business in the 12 months ahead?<br />

The Black Country has always been a great<br />

place to do business. With all of the investment<br />

projects for 2024 in areas such as technology<br />

and infrastructure and the prospect of HS2,<br />

the region will be an important hub for the UK<br />

and will offer a real alternative to London for<br />

business.<br />

What are your hopes for the Black Country<br />

economy and its businesses?<br />

We hope that the Black Country continues to<br />

stabilise its position as a leader in<br />

manufacturing and innovation. We would also<br />

hope for further investment in the area to<br />

create jobs and opportunities for businesses to<br />

expand.<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership<br />

for in the year ahead?<br />

We plan to support the Chamber and its<br />

members by sponsoring events and<br />

opportunities to network and grow relations.<br />

We also hope to provide insights to members<br />

to aid them with their legal requirements. We<br />

look forward to continuing and growing further<br />

relations with members.<br />

What do you hope will happen for the UK<br />

economy as a whole?<br />

We believe the economy will grow in 2024<br />

and prove more resilient to the global events<br />

that are currently in play. There will be strong<br />

wage growth and a fall in inflation from the<br />

peaks of last year. We believe businesses are<br />

becoming more optimistic with the prospect of<br />

inflation and interest rates having peaked.<br />

“We believe the economy<br />

will grow in 2024 and<br />

prove more resilient to<br />

the global events that<br />

are currently in play...”<br />

Philip Chapman<br />

Funding support is available for investment plans<br />

Midlands Area Manager Steve Grice and Regional Executive Mike Lowe<br />

from responsible lender UKSE:<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership for in the year ahead?<br />

Mike: With UKSE expanding its support in the West Midlands region<br />

last year, our Chamber membership will be vital for helping us to build<br />

up a network of business contacts in the region. We will be attending<br />

networking events to help raise awareness of the funding support we<br />

can provide to businesses.<br />

What do you hope will happen for the UK economy as a whole?<br />

Steve: Increases in inflation, interest rates and energy bills along<br />

with the long shadow of Covid-19 have placed a lot of pressure on<br />

businesses recently, so it would be great to see some of these stresses<br />

easing in 2024. It would be fantastic to see some positive news for the<br />

UK economy, to reassure businesses that now is a good time to invest<br />

in their futures.<br />

“Our Chamber membership will be vital for helping us to build up a network of business contacts in<br />

the region...we will be attending events to raise awareness of the funding support we can offer...”<br />

46<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


It’s all about gaining<br />

new customers<br />

Chris Carter is Managing Director of digital<br />

agency VOiD Applications, which won the<br />

Excellence in Professional Services prize at<br />

2023’s Black Country Chamber Business<br />

Awards.<br />

What will your business be focusing on in<br />

2024?<br />

The main focus for us will be customer growth.<br />

We would particularly like to develop more web<br />

and app solutions for customers in the<br />

manufacturing sector, who we have a strong<br />

track record with.<br />

We would also like to deliver more webinars<br />

this year to help us win new leads and educate<br />

people on the importance of having a good<br />

website and great search engine optimisation.<br />

A podcast we are starting will talk about digital<br />

marketing and how to improve yours.<br />

What are your hopes for the Black Country<br />

economy and its businesses in 2024?<br />

We hope to see the local economy grow and<br />

more companies keen to invest in their futures,<br />

as this will help drive business at agencies like<br />

ours. It would be great to see more local<br />

businesses coming together to support each<br />

other.<br />

Why will the Black Country be a great place to<br />

do business in the 12 months ahead?<br />

The Black Country is a great place because<br />

there are so many businesses here. Through<br />

organisations like the Black Country Chamber<br />

and the Creative Chain, which is a network for<br />

creative and digital agencies in the Black<br />

Country, people are starting to talk and<br />

collaborate more, rather than just see other<br />

businesses as competition, which is a positive<br />

thing.<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership<br />

for in the year ahead?<br />

We want to take advantage of networking<br />

opportunities that could help us win new<br />

business. The extensive list of organisations that<br />

hold Chamber membership is a great<br />

opportunity for us. We will also look to market<br />

ourselves through the Chamber to other<br />

businesses in the area.<br />

What do you hope will happen for the UK<br />

economy as a whole?<br />

Hopefully, the UK economy will avoid a<br />

recession. It would be great to see the cost-ofliving<br />

crisis ease, which would benefit everybody,<br />

and to see interest rates fall.<br />

Starting with an ambitious move<br />

Group CEO and Managing Director of Starting Point Recruitment<br />

Paul Cadman:<br />

What will your company be focusing upon in 2024?<br />

In the coming year, Starting Point Recruitment has ambitious plans<br />

to expand into Birmingham with new offices. We plan to launch new<br />

products to improve the job hunting experience in the region and grow<br />

our own team to deliver recruitment to more amazing Black Country<br />

businesses.<br />

Why will the Black<br />

Country be a great place<br />

to do business in the 12<br />

months ahead?<br />

The Black Country<br />

Chamber’s excellent<br />

work is helping to drive<br />

success and attention to<br />

the region, providing a<br />

great opportunity for<br />

companies to share ideas<br />

and knowledge,<br />

collaborate and grow<br />

despite the economic<br />

struggles impacting the<br />

whole country.<br />

Edward Martin, Marketing<br />

& Communications<br />

Manager at JJX Logistics<br />

Why will the Black<br />

Country be a great<br />

place to do business in<br />

the 12 months ahead?<br />

The Black Country has<br />

an established<br />

manufacturing base.<br />

There is opportunity for<br />

Black Country<br />

businesses to make a<br />

real difference,<br />

increasing their appetite<br />

for, and success in,<br />

innovation. There is<br />

strong academic<br />

support from regional<br />

educational<br />

establishments<br />

including the Institutes<br />

of Technology, colleges<br />

and universities.<br />

Russ Noble, Business<br />

Development Manager<br />

at Warwick<br />

Manufacturing Group<br />

What will you use your Chamber membership for in the year ahead?<br />

At Starting Point Recruitment, we view our Chamber membership<br />

as a strategic asset, one that is focused on networking and pursuing<br />

new business opportunities.<br />

We aim to leverage this membership to match businesses with our<br />

exceptional talent in the region.<br />

Left, Paul Cadman receives an IoD award<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 47

NEWS<br />

In-Comm Training and RTX’s Collins Aerospace<br />

take off with ‘fast track’ employment course<br />

Chamber Patron In-Comm Training has<br />

joined forces with one of Wolverhampton’s<br />

largest employers, the Department for<br />

Work and Pensions (DWP) and the West<br />

Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to<br />

help unemployed people into advanced<br />

manufacturing jobs.<br />

The independent training provider,<br />

which operates two state-of-the-art<br />

technical academies in Aldridge and<br />

Telford, has created a fast-track course<br />

that will aim to create up to 65 new CNC<br />

machinists and electro-mechanical fitters<br />

for RTX’s Collins Aerospace factory in<br />

Wolverhampton.<br />

Black Country Chamber CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse was among the guests for the<br />

official launch of the pilot scheme. The<br />

first cohort of ten people started in<br />

January, with each participant receiving a<br />

mix of theoretical and practical technical<br />

training that will see them learn turning,<br />

milling, hand fitting, CAD CAM and 3- and<br />

5-axis CNC machining, as well as<br />

understanding technical drawings.<br />

Backed by over £200,000 of Higher<br />

Level Skills funding by the WMCA, the<br />

ground-breaking course will take just six<br />

months to complete.<br />

At the end of it, each learner will<br />

receive a Level 3 Extended Diploma in<br />

Engineering and Technologies, additional<br />

on-the-job competences, and an<br />

interview/opportunity to gain full-time<br />

employment at Collins Aerospace’s<br />

Wolverhampton facility.<br />

DWP, who play a key role in the initial<br />

recruitment phase, has also agreed to<br />

continue to pay each individual’s benefits<br />

for the duration of the course.<br />

“We are continually working with<br />

employers to overcome barriers to<br />

sustainability and growth through the<br />

right talent attraction and development,<br />

taking that valuable insight and creating<br />

training programmes that deliver future<br />

workers, vital competences and skilled<br />

engineers,” explained Gareth Jones,<br />

Managing Director of In-Comm Training.<br />

“The aerospace industry has seen<br />

first-hand the impact of the current skills<br />

shortage, a skills shortage that has been<br />

exacerbated by Covid-19.<br />

“With the niche skills required to be a<br />

CNC Machinist and electro-mechanical<br />

fitter, the talent isn’t readily available and,<br />

the only way to overcome this is to create<br />

the next generation of engineers.”<br />

He continued: “This is why we’ve<br />

developed a fast-track option to initially<br />

equip 10 individuals with the skills and<br />

Level 3 qualification required to work on<br />

the manufacturing shopfloor at Collins<br />

Aerospace in Wolverhampton.<br />

“We have worked really closely to<br />

develop the content of the course and<br />

were able to introduce an innovative<br />

partnership with DWP, whilst accessing<br />

funding from WMCA to bring the<br />

programme to reality.”<br />

Wolverhampton-based Collins<br />

Aerospace has used In-Comm Training<br />

for its apprenticeship scheme since 2018,<br />

with the latest training being delivered<br />

predominantly at the provider’s Technical<br />

Academy in Telford.<br />

Learners have been inducted and<br />

completed environmental, health and<br />

safety training and have now moved onto<br />

engineering theory and honing practical<br />

skills.<br />

To enhance engagement even further,<br />

participants will also be partly trained on<br />

the Collins Aerospace site in<br />

Wolverhampton, giving them full<br />

exposure to the aerospace world and<br />

culture.<br />

Cathy Taylor, Business Development<br />

Manager with the Black Country<br />

Jobcentres, added her support:<br />

“This is a unique opportunity for<br />

motivated jobseekers, who already hold a<br />

level 2 in maths and aspire to obtain a<br />

Level 3 qualification in Engineering and<br />

Technologies and gain employment in the<br />

manufacturing sector.”<br />

From left, Paul Hodgetts<br />

(In-Comm Training), Louise<br />

Phipps (West Midlands<br />

Combined Authority), John<br />

England (Collins Aerospace),<br />

Sarah Moorhouse (Black<br />

Country Chamber) and<br />

Cathy Taylor (Black Country<br />

Jobcentres) with learners<br />

from the Fast Track<br />

employment programme<br />

48 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024

NEWS<br />

National Apprenticeship Week<br />

Chamber members celebrate apprentice<br />

achievements at all life stages<br />

Member businesses have marked the successes of apprentice employees young<br />

and older as part of National Apprenticeship Week. A range of inspiring life stories<br />

have been shared as Chamber of Commerce members marked the 17th annual<br />

celebration, organised to bring together everyone passionate about<br />

apprenticeships to celebrate the value, benefit and opportunity that they bring.<br />

Ben’s a quick<br />

learner<br />

The finale to National Apprentices Week<br />

saw Ben Speed announced as the ASSA<br />

ABLOY Opening Solutions Apprentice of<br />

the Year 2024. Ben is a quality apprentice<br />

in the fourth year of his apprenticeship in<br />

manufacturing engineering with In-Comm<br />

Training.<br />

Ben is a well-respected member of the<br />

quality and wider operations team, often<br />

being the first point of call for quality<br />

concerns.<br />

He said: “I would highly recommend an<br />

apprenticeship with ASSA ABLOY Opening<br />

Solutions. I’ve learnt a lot, gained useful<br />

knowledge, developed new skills and<br />

gained confidence in communication.”<br />

Sheldon’s success<br />

Millie Bryan has been named Most Promising Trainee Funeral<br />

Director in the UK at the Association of Green Funeral Directors<br />

- Good Funeral Awards.<br />

Millie works alongside the experienced team at Walsh<br />

Memorials Ltd in Bloxwich, and has built a great bond within the<br />

team while keeping up our reputable business’s standards. A spokesperson for<br />

Walsh Memorials said: “Millie truly is an asset to us, and we are so happy that she<br />

decided to join us. We are excited to watch Millie develop and to see what her future<br />

holds, as it is certainly a bright one.”<br />

An ex-care worker from Wolverhampton<br />

who went back to school after 20 years<br />

for a bright green future on the buses<br />

was among the successes highlighted<br />

by National Express.<br />

Sheldon Swayze previously worked in<br />

factories, carpentry and in the care<br />

sector, before deciding he wanted a<br />

change of career. He finished a threeyear<br />

engineering apprenticeship in August 2022 and started a job the<br />

following month. He lives in Wolverhampton and has school-age children. He<br />

says: “I’ve always been hands on, working on my own vehicle. So when this<br />

came up, it was ideal for me. After years out of study, it was trying to readapt<br />

the learning process, going back to school, clicking them cogs, but with the<br />

balance of work and training I think it came naturally.”<br />

Survey boost for Juniper<br />

Juniper Training used Apprenticeship<br />

Week to celebrate recent feedback<br />

from employers, with 100% rating<br />

the level of dedication and expertise<br />

displayed by its team as excellent and<br />

99% saying they would recommend<br />

Juniper to other organisations.<br />

Juniper had played a ‘crucial role’ in<br />

bolstering their organisational<br />

capabilities through its training<br />

programmes, clients said.<br />

Millie proves she’s plenty of promise<br />

Trio’s career stories<br />

start at Dudley<br />

Building Society<br />

Dudley Building Society’s apprenticeship<br />

programme has been a stunning success,<br />

says Area Director Rebecca Hawthorne.<br />

“When we started the programme, we<br />

were not expecting to have such fantastic<br />

career stories in such a short time.<br />

“Our apprentices have completed their<br />

Customer Service Apprenticeships and<br />

developed themselves, working their way<br />

through the society to find their dream<br />

careers and excel in their roles. With the<br />

massive success, we have now signed up<br />

three new apprentices in 2024.”<br />

Among many success stories Maisie<br />

Darby has progressed to work as a<br />

compliance and financial crime officer,<br />

Eleanor Coxhill has gone to become a<br />

completions officer, Chelsea Fanthom<br />

has moved up to being a customer<br />

service specialist and Lily Hemmings has<br />

progressed to become a branch manager.<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 49

<strong>PROSPER</strong> INTERVIEW: AMBER SANDHU<br />

Amber’s proof that hard<br />

work and passion makes<br />

the dream come true<br />

Radio and TV broadcaster<br />

Amber Sandhu chats to<br />

Rob Beswick about the skills<br />

and determination needed to<br />

get on in your chosen career –<br />

and the importance of hard<br />

work and good luck<br />

Note to self: If you ever want to catch<br />

someone in a good mood for an interview,<br />

try talking to them 24 hours after they’ve<br />

just watched their favourite sports team<br />

thump a big rival in a thrilling match.<br />

That was the case when Prosper<br />

chatted to Amber Sandhu about her<br />

career as a TV and radio broadcaster the<br />

day after she covered Wolves’ recent 4-2<br />

win away at Chelsea, for Sky Sports.<br />

Amber – a passionate Wolves fan – said<br />

being at Stamford Bridge to cover the<br />

game had been a real treat.<br />

“I’ve loved Wolves since I was young,”<br />

she says, “but I don’t get to report on<br />

them very often. It tends to be luck of the<br />

draw which games I cover for Sky. You<br />

have to remain impartial throughout, no<br />

matter what happens on the pitch, but I<br />

must admit it doesn’t get any better than<br />

watching a 4-2 away win at Stamford<br />

Bridge!”<br />

Indeed, such is her love for the club<br />

that before Christmas she was delighted<br />

to accept a role as a Wolves Foundation<br />

ambassador. “I was shocked when they<br />

asked. The other ambassadors are all<br />

legends of the game – and they’ve asked<br />

me! It’s a great honour. I love the work<br />

the Foundation does and I’m really<br />

enjoying being able to contribute to it.”<br />

The request from the Foundation came<br />

as a result of Amber’s rising media profile.<br />

She is now a regular face on our TVs, and<br />

voice on the radio. As well as a Saturday<br />

show on the BBC Asian Network and her<br />

Sky Sports duties she covered last<br />

summer’s The Hundred for the BBC, and<br />

has numerous other TV and radio roles to<br />

throw into the mix. It all marks her out as<br />

a woman who’s thriving in the highly<br />

competitive world of broadcasting.<br />

Not bad for someone who admits to<br />

having been “awful” on her first stab at<br />

radio broadcasting, and being pretty<br />

“Do something you’re passionate<br />

about, and go for it, full on. I’ve<br />

always taken the view that I’ll have<br />

a go at everything – if it doesn’t<br />

work out, at least you tried.<br />

Give it your best shot.”<br />

much a nightmare at school, too!<br />

“My school days were brilliant,” she<br />

recalls, “but I’ll be honest, I must have<br />

been a nightmare to teach. Not for bad<br />

reasons - I just never shut up. I was<br />

constantly chatting in class, and being<br />

told off. It was a great school, all-girls,<br />

with a really positive environment and<br />

great academic standards. But I just<br />

didn’t get it; I’d rather chat to my mates!”<br />

But it led to some sage advice from her<br />

teachers: “In the end they said, ‘if you<br />

love talking so much, at least put your<br />

voice to good use and try broadcasting as<br />

a career.”<br />

Sound advice: round peg, round hole.<br />

One problem was… how do you get into<br />

broadcasting when you’ve no levers to<br />

pull or anyone around to open doors?<br />

“I didn’t have a clue where to start. I<br />

went to university in Worcester to study<br />

sports science, and my first thought was<br />

join the student radio station.”<br />

Problem: it didn’t have one, but … “I<br />

came across Wolverhampton Community<br />

Radio (WCR), and they were looking for<br />

volunteers.”<br />

That was the ‘in’ Amber was looking for,<br />

and it’s fair to say she’s never looked<br />

back.<br />

“I loved it from day one. I threw myself<br />

into it, spending all the time I could at the<br />

studios, doing anything that needed<br />

doing. In the end they let me on air and<br />

gave me my own show, a chart show on a<br />

Sunday. It was brilliant – I was awful,<br />

though. I’m still in contact with one of the<br />

station’s general managers and I asked<br />

him why they put me on air, and he said,<br />

right from the start, they could all see my<br />

passion for the media, and that’s what got<br />

me through.<br />

“In the end, they couldn’t get me out of<br />

the station and when I graduated I landed<br />

a regular mid-morning slot.”<br />

The radio bug had well and truly bitten.<br />

“I knew that was what I wanted to do, that<br />

was my career. I had always looked up to<br />

the BBC and wanted to work there but<br />

50 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024

:“Is the media industry truly diverse? We’ve:<br />

: come a long way but if you were to ask:<br />

: senior managers, they’d admit there is still:<br />

a:way to go... but we are better at telling:<br />

the:stories of diverse communities...”:<br />

had no idea how to get in, so I just<br />

applied and applied for any roles that<br />

came up.<br />

“I must have been on my sixth or<br />

seventh rejection when I spotted a paid<br />

internship on the BBC Asian Network. I<br />

jumped at the chance and got it. I was a<br />

producer to start with, helping make the<br />

shows happen – and now, four years<br />

later, I’m back there with my own<br />

Saturday show.”<br />

The help she received from the team at<br />

BBC Asian Network could never be<br />

underestimated. “They took me under<br />

their wing from the start. I was the<br />

youngest there and they gave me every<br />

opportunity to gain experience. They<br />

couldn’t have been more welcoming,<br />

always including me in what they were<br />

doing. I joined during the 2019 Cricket<br />

World Cup and I remember, on one of my<br />

first days, a reporter was going out to<br />

interview Moeen Ali. He’s a hero of<br />

mine, as I love cricket, and play, and he’s<br />

a local lad from my community and a<br />

cricketing superstar. They said come<br />

along. I had no proper accreditation but<br />

they got me in the room and the next<br />

thing I’m talking to Moeen – me, a normal<br />

Wolverhampton girl, chatting to one of<br />

her heroes. It was an amazing<br />

experience.<br />

“I laugh at that looking back, because<br />

now, when I cover the cricket for the BBC,<br />

I interview him all the time.”<br />

Amber’s advice for anyone looking to<br />

progress their career is “do something<br />

you’re passionate about, and go for it, full<br />

on. I’ve always taken the view that I’ll<br />

have a go at everything – if it doesn’t<br />

work out, at least you tried. Give it your<br />

best shot.”<br />

She admits that at times, being an<br />

Asian woman in broadcasting can be<br />

challenging. “There have been times<br />

when I’ll walk into a room for a football<br />

press conference and I’ll be the only<br />

woman there, and there’ll be very few<br />

brown faces, so it can be intimidating.<br />

But I just take the view that if I work hard,<br />

and keep on working hard, good things<br />

will happen.”<br />

Amber admits that one of the<br />

challenges growing up was that there<br />

were very few Asian women on our TVs<br />

and radios to inspire her. “Satnam Rana<br />

was really important to me,” she recalls.<br />

“She did the community segment on the<br />

BBC regional news and I saw in her<br />

someone who looked like me, who came<br />

from my background, and was an<br />

example that you can succeed in the<br />

media. That was so important; it was the<br />

old adage, ‘if you can see it, you can be it.’<br />

Another role model is Isa Guha from<br />

cricket’s Test Match Special. “Isa a young<br />

Asian women doing brilliantly in the sport<br />

I love most. She proves it’s possible.”<br />

Self-belief is key: “I know my football, I<br />

know my cricket and I know I’ve every<br />

right to be here, reporting on it,” she<br />

says. “Sometimes you have to remind<br />

yourself of that.”<br />

With diversity such a hot topic today,<br />

can the media industry say it’s truly open<br />

to all? “It’s a good question. I think it’s<br />

obvious we’ve come a long way, but if you<br />

were to sit down with senior managers<br />

they’d probably admit there’s still a way<br />

to go.<br />

“What’s great is we’re much better at<br />

telling stories of diverse individuals and<br />

communities than we used to be. We’re<br />

much better at giving everyone a voice,<br />

telling their stories no matter where they<br />

come from.<br />

“We can still do more, but it is lovely<br />

seeing more people of colour on TV and<br />

hearing them on the radio, telling stories<br />

that reflect different views and<br />

communities.”<br />

Continued on page 52<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 51

<strong>PROSPER</strong> INTERVIEW: AMBER SANDHU<br />

Continued from page 51<br />

But it’s not just colour and gender<br />

that’s improved. “I love the fact that we’re<br />

getting more regional accents on TV and<br />

the radio. It sounds more representative<br />

of the country as a whole.”<br />

While the success of her career reflects<br />

her ability and aptitude for hard work,<br />

she’s the first to acknowledge how<br />

important it is that others back you.<br />

“Andy Walters, my studio manager at<br />

WCR, is one of the people who helped me<br />

most. He was the one who gave me a<br />

break on the station; he saw the passion<br />

and enthusiasm, and thought I had<br />

something.”<br />

Another experienced broadcast hand<br />

she is grateful to is Lee Stone, at the<br />

BBC. “He said he could see the potential<br />

in me. My internship at BBC Asian<br />

Network ended just as Covid hit, and I<br />

was thinking I was going to struggle to<br />

find a role. I was basically in and around<br />

the BBC all the time, pestering people,<br />

having conversations about what was<br />

going on, and I found out that BBC Radio<br />

Wolverhampton was setting up a pop-up<br />

studio on the streets, to gauge people’s<br />

views during the pandemic. People knew I<br />

“Don’t wait to be offered<br />

experience, get out there and<br />

grab it. For me that was about<br />

finding a community radio<br />

station that needed help.<br />

Do anything, just get yourself<br />

some exposure...”<br />

was mad about Wolverhampton and its<br />

people, so they gave me a chance to lead<br />

on that. That’s what it’s all about at times,<br />

being in the right place, at the right time<br />

– but when you get that chance, grab it<br />

with both hands.”<br />

That’s why Amber is so keen to offer a<br />

helping hand to those who want to follow<br />

in her footsteps. “A lot of young people<br />

reach out to me through social media for<br />

advice and tips, and I’m more than happy<br />

to help in any way I can. I got into the BBC<br />

Asian Network through the Creative<br />

Access scheme, and I’m mentoring a girl<br />

now who is going through the same<br />

programme. There are times she says she<br />

feels lost in the industry – the BBC just<br />

seems so big and far away that it’s<br />

impossible to imagine yourself working<br />

there. I encourage her to realise that it is<br />

an achievable dream.”<br />

To anyone looking to enter the industry,<br />

or any industry for that matter, getting<br />

that first taste of the action is vital. Her<br />

advice: “Don’t wait to be offered<br />

experience, get out there and grab it. For<br />

me that was about finding a community<br />

radio station that needed help. Do<br />

anything, just get yourself some<br />

exposure.<br />

“Oh, and remember you can never work<br />

too hard.”<br />

So what’s next? “Well, I’m loving where<br />

I am at the moment. The sports work is<br />

great, and I love presenting on the BBC<br />

Asian Network. I’d love to keep on going<br />

though. Dream job? I’d love a go at<br />

children’s TV. I think being a Blue Peter<br />

presenter would be my dream job – or a<br />

slot on the One Show. That’s right up my<br />

street.”<br />

The other dream would be to cover a<br />

big sporting tournament abroad. “This<br />

year we’ve got the T20 World Cup, the<br />

Women’s World Cup and the OIympics. I’d<br />

love to get to cover one of those – that’s<br />

bucket list stuff!”<br />

52 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Let’s hear your good news<br />

As the leading business support agency for the region we want<br />

to receive your news to share updates across our network as<br />

part of our drive to re-energise the local economy in 2024.<br />

Representing firms based within or doing business across<br />

Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, the Black<br />

Country Chamber is a powerful engine for local businesses to<br />

market themselves to the region and further afield.<br />

Lauren Shepherd, Digital Marketing & Communications<br />

Manager, (pictured above right) encourages all members to<br />

send in their news. She says: “As a member, you have access to<br />

a wealth of resources, including networking opportunities,<br />

training programmes, and a platform to elevate your brand: the<br />

Chamber’s website.<br />

“If you are not utilising it to its full<br />

potential, our team is here to help you share<br />

your company’s news updates on the<br />

website. Not only will your news be seen on<br />

the Chamber website, but our marketing<br />

team will consider publishing it in our weekly<br />

news bulletin to get in front of thousands more people.”<br />

Getting into the habit of sharing your news can be a strategic<br />

move that unlocks benefits for your business.<br />

Upload your news via the member dashboard.<br />

Log in by clicking right,<br />

Or give the team a call on 0330 024 0820 for help.<br />

Reach an engaged audience<br />

The Chamber website attracts thousands of<br />

visitors every month, all actively wanting to know<br />

more about Black Country businesses.<br />

Lauren says: “This audience includes potential<br />

customers, investors, partners, and fellow<br />

Chamber members, all of whom may be in the<br />

market for your products or services. Sharing your<br />

news ensures your brand is seen by the right<br />

people, first time.”<br />

Boost credibility and visibility<br />

Your company’s achievements are newsworthy<br />

and of interest to fellow members. Sharing<br />

milestones, awards, product launches, or<br />

community initiatives highlights your success<br />

and professionalism which in turn builds trust<br />

with potential customers.<br />

Widen your network<br />

Our website acts as a hub for business<br />

interaction. When you submit news<br />

updates, you spark conversations.<br />

Lauren explains: “Visitors might like the<br />

posts on social media, reach out directly,<br />

or share your article with their followers,<br />

all helping move your business forward.<br />

It is great to see people engage with<br />

member news in real-time.”<br />

Showcase innovation and expertise<br />

Sharing insightful blog posts, industry commentary or<br />

thought leadership pieces via a submitted blog for the<br />

Chamber website positions you as an authority in your<br />

field. Lauren says: “We would encourage every<br />

business to submit a blog. It is a great way to show your<br />

knowledge and can spark interest from our audience.”<br />

Get the most from your membership: Having invested in your Chamber membership to unlock new opportunities, sharing<br />

your news updates to market your business and generate new conversations is a great return on your investment. Lauren adds: “By<br />

consistently contributing to the Chamber website, you are not just sharing your business news, you are potentially generating<br />

opportunities for the future.” To get more information on submitting news contact your account manager, who can talk you through<br />

the options. You can also call the Chamber team on 0330 024 0820 or email website@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 53

NEWS<br />

Levers for regional growth identified<br />

in Commission’s interim report<br />

A powerful group representing West<br />

Midlands private sector businesses has<br />

identified five ‘levers for growth’ in a<br />

new report.<br />

Business Commission West Midlands<br />

(BCWM)’s interim report offers the region’s<br />

business community and key stakeholders<br />

an update on progress.<br />

As part of the drive by Black Country<br />

Chamber of Commerce to improve the<br />

region’s economy, CEO Sarah<br />

Moorhouse, working with her Greater<br />

Birmingham and Coventry &<br />

Warwickshire counterparts, convened<br />

the BCWM last year. It comprises leaders<br />

in enterprise, supported by expert<br />

advisors, who are examining the<br />

opportunities for regional business<br />

growth and identifying the action needed<br />

to seize them.<br />

An interim report has been produced<br />

following an engagement and research<br />

programme in which 132 businesses<br />

contributed evidence to the Commission,<br />

alongside eight public sector and 10<br />

membership organisations or cluster<br />

groups.<br />

On its publication the CEOs of the<br />

three Chambers of Commerce said: “The<br />

level and pace of change that the<br />


Black Country representatives on the BCWM include Vicki<br />

Wilkes, director, Darvick Ltd, and Jeanette McFarland, chief<br />

operating officer, Assa Abloy Opening Solutions.<br />

The other commissioners are: Sandra Wallace, joint<br />

managing director, DLA Piper and Birmingham chair of<br />

TheCityUK; Declan Allen, managing director, HORIBA<br />

MIRA; Carmen Watson, chair, Pertemps; Jason Wouhra<br />

OBE, CEO, Lioncroft Wholesale Ltd; Melissa Snover, founder, Rem3dy Health;<br />

Dan Barlow, CEO, Kagool; Eleanor Deeley, joint managing director, Deeley<br />

Group; and Deb Leary OBE, founder, Forensic Pathways.<br />

business community has experienced in<br />

recent years has been extraordinary.<br />

“At the same time, sluggish economic<br />

growth presents a critical challenge to<br />

our society, including the funding of key<br />

public services. In this context we need a<br />

fundamental reset of our understanding<br />

of what businesses need to fulfil their<br />

growth potential.<br />

“The purpose of the interim report is<br />

simple: it reflects back what the region’s<br />

business community told us during our<br />

call for evidence.<br />

“We will use this Interim Report to<br />

engage businesses, stakeholders and<br />

partners from across all sectors and seek<br />

their insights on the emerging themes as<br />

we work with our commissioners and<br />

Advisory Panel to develop the final report<br />

and recommendations.”<br />

In the report, commissioners and<br />

advisory panel members identified<br />

international trade, net zero, innovation,<br />

foreign direct and inward investment and<br />

AI & digital transformation as prime<br />

‘levers’ for growth across the region.<br />

The report summarises the challenges<br />

that businesses identified as holding<br />

back business growth as well as what<br />

they perceive as the strengths of the<br />

region as a place to do business.<br />

It explores issues ranging from access<br />

BCWM will look at cross-regional transport links and how they<br />

impact on business growth opportunities<br />

Photo by Peter Plisner on Unsplash<br />

14 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024

NEWS<br />

Top priorities:<br />

Commissioners and advisory<br />

panel members identified<br />

international trade, net zero,<br />

innovation, foreign direct and<br />

inward investment and AI<br />

& digital<br />

transformation as<br />

prime ‘levers’ for<br />

growth across the<br />

region<br />

to finance and public transport provision<br />

to the complexity of the regional business<br />

support ecosystem and a shortage of<br />

suitable premises and sites for the<br />

manufacturing sector. It also highlights<br />

how businesses perceive the region’s<br />

competitive advantages in terms of<br />

location, education eco-system,<br />

connected networks and the role of the<br />

West Midlands Mayor in attracting<br />

funding and investment.<br />

Mark Taylor, chair of the BCWM, added:<br />

“The purpose of the Business<br />

Commission is clear – to translate the<br />

voice of business into a clear and<br />

compelling summary of the proactive<br />

steps that are required to support future<br />

growth and prosperity in the West<br />

Midlands.<br />

“This region is a fantastic place to do<br />

business and it is essential that we build<br />

upon our rich heritage to ensure we<br />

remain at the forefront of innovation in a<br />

rapidly changing world.<br />

“While it is clear that many companies<br />

continue to operate in challenging<br />

circumstances right now, the resilience<br />

they display is a testament to the<br />

strength of the local business community.<br />

“The feedback we’ve gathered from a<br />

rich cross-section of the business<br />

community will now play an important<br />

role in shaping our asks from regional and<br />

national stakeholders.”<br />

Using the themes identified in the<br />

interim report, BCWM will create a<br />

roadmap for business growth, to be set<br />

out in the final report. That will be<br />

launched in mid-March as part of the<br />

BCWM’s West Midlands Mayoral Election<br />

engagement activity.<br />

Business Commission West Midlands<br />

is supported by Aston University,<br />

Birmingham City University, University<br />

College Birmingham, University of<br />

Birmingham and Douglas Wright (T/A<br />

McDonald’s).<br />

Appointments<br />

Canal & River Trust<br />

lands new regional<br />

director<br />

The nation’s largest canal charity,<br />

Canal & River Trust, has appointed<br />

Henriette Breukelaar as the new<br />

director for the region. The trust is<br />

tasked with protecting and<br />

preserving 520 miles of waterways in<br />

the West Midlands.<br />

Dutch-born Henriette was most<br />

recently CEO at Greater Birmingham<br />

and Solihull LEP, having spent four<br />

years as an executive director at<br />

ExtraCare Charitable Trust, four years<br />

as director at High Value<br />

Manufacturing Catapult and 10 years<br />

as partnerships director with the<br />

regional development agency.<br />

Solicitors appoint associate director<br />

to lead on private client matters<br />

Law firm announces<br />

senior hire for region<br />

Law firm Freeths has strengthened its tax<br />

offering with the appointment of partner<br />

Stephen Jones in Birmingham. He joins from<br />

DLA Piper.<br />

With almost 30 years’ experience, Stephen<br />

advises on all tax aspects of property and<br />

corporate acquisitions and disposals. Working<br />

for Platinum Chamber member Freeths,<br />

Stephen will support the national corporate<br />

and real estate teams and continue to grow the<br />

practice across the West Midlands.<br />

Platinum Chamber member Thursfields<br />

has recently appointed Scott Vanes as<br />

Associate Director leading their wealth<br />

preservation team.<br />

Scott specialises in wills, trusts, powers<br />

of attorney, and Wealth Preservation<br />

matters and is also an associate member<br />

of the Society of Trust and Estate<br />

Practitioners.<br />

“We are thrilled to welcome Scott to our<br />

team,” said Terry Cooper, Director, and<br />

head of the Private Client Department at<br />

Thursfields. “His extensive knowledge and experience in<br />

inheritance tax and estate planning make him a valuable asset<br />

for handling a variety of complex private client matters.”<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 55


Find out more: Call us on 0330 024 0820<br />

To book: See: www.blackcountrychamber.co.uk/events/<br />

Get the most from your<br />

Chamber membership<br />

Date: March 8<br />

Time: 09:30 - 11:30<br />

Venue: Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce, Creative Industries Centre,<br />

University of Wolverhampton Science<br />

Park, Glaisher Drive, WV10 9TG<br />

At the Black Country Chamber of<br />

Commerce, we want to ensure that every<br />

member is engaged and using their<br />

membership as best as possible.<br />

During this event we will be showcasing<br />

how to access and make the most of the<br />

following:<br />

n Membership dashboard and profile<br />

n News, PR and advert opportunities<br />

Bank of England panel<br />

Date: March 13<br />

Time: 08:30 - 10:30<br />

Venue: Online Event<br />

This event is for Gold / Platinum /<br />

Patron Group members only<br />

This is an opportunity to hear an update<br />

from the BoE as they outline the national<br />

economic outlook and real time<br />

intelligence collected by the Bank’s<br />

network of Agents from businesses up<br />

and down the country.<br />

Meetings such as this are a<br />

cornerstone of the Chamber’s policy,<br />

lobbying and representation work.<br />

Starting at 08:30, this online event<br />

ensures that Chamber members are kept<br />

up to date with goings on at the national<br />

level.<br />

To ensure that the BoE’s economic<br />

policy represents all areas and sectors of<br />

the UK economy, members are also<br />

asked to give a brief update on a variety<br />

of business policy issues which can help<br />

build the Bank’s understanding of the<br />

local and national economy.<br />

This is a free event for Gold, Platinum<br />

n Chamber events<br />

n Hosting your own events<br />

n Member offers<br />

n Exclusive business savings<br />

n International trade<br />

n Management development<br />

programme<br />

This event is ideal for members who<br />

want to maximise their opportunities as a<br />

member of the Black Country Chamber.<br />

Bookings for this event will close at 3pm on<br />

Monday 11th March.<br />

For more information<br />

email us here<br />

Get the full economic picture<br />

from the Bank of England<br />

Group and Patron Group members only.<br />

Please note: places are limited, please<br />

register your interest on the Chamber<br />

website and we will confirm spaces<br />

shortly before the event. Bookings for<br />

this event will close at 3pm on Monday,<br />

March 11.<br />

Join Walsall’s Third<br />

Week Wednesday<br />

networking<br />

Each third week Wednesday,<br />

Chamber members and nonmembers<br />

meet for FREE monthly<br />

networking sessions.<br />

As well as meeting like-minded<br />

local business people, you can<br />

also raise your business profile via<br />

your social media platforms whilst<br />

at the event too, by tagging in the<br />

Chamber and the event.<br />

Different venues will host future<br />

meetings in the months ahead.<br />


Date: April 17 & May 15<br />

Time: 09:45 - 11:30<br />

Venue: Littleton Restaurant,<br />

Walsall College, Wisemore<br />

Campus, Littleton Street West,<br />

WS2 8ES.<br />

Free parking available on site.<br />

Book your spot at www.<br />

blackcountrychamber.co.uk/<br />

events/<br />

Please note priority will be given<br />

to members where the event has<br />

reached capacity. Further details<br />

will be sent out on the joining<br />

instructions.<br />

Big Business<br />

@B63 Breakfast<br />

Dates: April 10, May 1, June 5<br />

Time: All 07:45 - 09:45<br />

Venue: Halesowen College –<br />

Bistro @B63, Whittingham Road,<br />

Halesowen, B63 3NA<br />

Cost: Free<br />

This is a fantastic opportunity to<br />

network with like-minded<br />

businesses every month. The Big<br />

Business @B63 ‘breakfast event’<br />

is hosted by Halesowen College,<br />

sponsored by Halesowen BID and<br />

powered by the Black Country<br />

Chamber of Commerce.<br />

Network in the Bistro at B63,<br />

grab a drink then enjoy some short<br />

business themed talks/updates in<br />

our adjoining event seminar room.<br />

Once the talks have completed,<br />

return to the Bistro at B63 for an<br />

‘open networking’ environment,<br />

whilst enjoying a complimentary<br />

breakfast sandwich, courtesy of<br />

the Halesowen Bid.<br />

56 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Network with Black Country Business Club<br />

Dates: April 18, May 2, May 16,<br />

May 30:<br />

Time: 09:30 - 10:30<br />

Venue: The Confederation of<br />

British Metalforming, 47<br />

Birmingham Road, West<br />

Bromwich, B70 6PY<br />

The Black Country Business Club<br />

provides a platform for individuals<br />

to build business relationships and<br />

promote their services or products<br />

to fellow group members and its<br />

wide network of business contacts.<br />

The Club is exclusive to<br />

Chamber members. However, you<br />

can visit twice as a guest even if<br />

you are not a member.<br />

Our regional Black Country<br />

Business Club currently meets<br />

fortnightly. Our member<br />

businesses are proud to represent<br />

Sandwell, Walsall, Dudley and<br />

Wolverhampton.<br />

Come along, relax and network<br />

with our club members. We allow<br />

two businesses from each sector/<br />

industry and guests are allowed<br />

two visits before we have an<br />

informal chat about applying for<br />

membership.<br />

Joining the Black Country<br />

Business Club still works out much<br />

more economical than joining a<br />

traditional breakfast club, plus you<br />

get the huge range of benefits<br />

open to Chamber members too.<br />

For more information<br />

email us here or call<br />

Alison on 07980 906921<br />

Start-ups: get to grips with<br />

your public speaking<br />

Date: April 11<br />

Time: 10:00 - 12:00<br />

Venue: Black Country & Marches<br />

Institute of Technology, Zoological<br />

Drive, Dudley DY1 4AL<br />

FREE to Start-Up Business Club<br />

members only<br />

Limited spaces available<br />

This event will cover the art of public<br />

speaking, with help from our guest<br />

speaker John Nelson from Nelson<br />

Developmen.<br />

If you ever find yourself wondering<br />

how to pitch your business and tell your<br />

story then this workshop is for you as<br />

John discusses “the Art of Connection”.<br />

John will cover:<br />

n What to include<br />

n What to leave out<br />

n Avoiding death by PowerPoint<br />

n How to engage with your audience<br />

n Landing your message<br />

n Grow in confidence<br />

In a fun and safe environment we will<br />

help you be brilliant!<br />

Book via the Chamber<br />

website (right)<br />

Improve your<br />

start-up sales<br />

Start-Up Workshop: Sales Training<br />

Date: May 9<br />

Time: 10:00 - 12:00<br />

Venue: Black Country & Marches<br />

Institute of Technology, Zoological Drive,<br />

Dudley, DY1 4AL<br />

FREE to Start-Up Business Club members<br />

only; limited spaces available.<br />

Our guest speaker is Adam Wootton from<br />

Impact Sales Coaching, and the event is<br />

hosted by Black Country & Marches<br />

Institute of Technology.<br />

Session 1: Sales Pipelines<br />

Session 2: Closing the Sale<br />

Book via the Chamber website.<br />

Wolverhampton Wednesday<br />

business breakfasts<br />

Date: April 24<br />

Time: 09:00 - 11:00<br />

Venue: Wolves Foundation,<br />

Molineux Stadium, Waterloo<br />

Road, Wolverhampton, WV1 4QR<br />

Welcome to the business<br />

networking event in the heart of<br />

Wolverhampton!<br />

Grab yourself a tea or coffee,<br />

then enjoy an ‘open networking’<br />

environment. See you soon at<br />

“Wolverhampton Wednesdays”.<br />

To avoid disappointment, please<br />

book your place via the Chamber<br />

website.<br />

Due to limited places only one<br />

delegate per business please.<br />

Right, an early start to networking<br />

as members enjoy a<br />

Wolverhampton Wednesday!<br />

Book via the Chamber<br />

website (right)<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 57


Grow your business with Chamber training<br />

Developing new skills and insights are vital to ensure that you and your teams are able to embrace new opportunities in order<br />

to enable your business to grow and prosper.<br />

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with professional trainers and experts in their own fields to deliver<br />

quality and valued courses, workshops and learning activities which are open to both members and non-members.<br />

Chamber members will receive a discounted rate on all Black Country Training courses.<br />

To find out more about any of our training opportunities, call 0330 024 0820 or email: training@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

Or visit: www.blackcountrychamber.co.uk/training-courses/<br />

Cut out the import/export problems<br />

Export procedures and documentation<br />

Date: March 11<br />

Time: 09:30 - 13:00<br />

Venue: Online event<br />

Costs: 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 time<br />

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. At this training<br />

seminar we will take you through a<br />

detailed look at export documents taking<br />

a practical approach to why and when<br />

documents are needed. Includes<br />

background, uses and key requirements<br />

for different countries.<br />

Outcomes: the learner will be able to<br />

understand:<br />

n How to produce the necessary<br />

documents for an international<br />

shipment<br />

n Prepare a price build up for an<br />

export quotation<br />

n Identify the appropriate documents<br />

from the three categories required to<br />

expedite the shipment<br />

n Describe any additional special<br />

requirements or documentation for<br />

particular markets/sectors<br />

n Gain an overview of Incoterms 2020<br />

n Identify modes of transport<br />

n Identify where to go for sources of<br />

international information<br />

Understanding the Incoterms 2020® rules<br />

Date: March 19<br />

Time: 09:30 - 12:30<br />

Location: Online Event<br />

Costs: Members: £200 (ex VAT)<br />

Non-members: £250 (ex VAT)<br />

How can your business work efficiently<br />

and safely within the commercial terms<br />

(‘Incoterms® 2020’) defined by the<br />

International Chamber of Commerce?<br />

This half-day virtual workshop is for<br />

anyone working in international trade –<br />

from industry newcomers to<br />

experienced exporters and/or importers.<br />

It is also appropriate for corporate<br />

service providers and advisers,<br />

including freight forwarders, banks and<br />

accountants.<br />

It gives you:<br />

n a clear understanding of how the<br />

Incoterms® rules map out the<br />

obligations, costs and risks involved in<br />

the delivery of goods from sellers to<br />

buyers<br />

n a practical guide to correctly<br />

applying Incoterms® rules to your<br />

global sales and purchasing activities<br />

n the opportunity to review practical<br />

case studies based on a range of<br />

scenarios.<br />

A range of topics are covered<br />

including introduction and background<br />

to the Incoterms ® rules; functionality<br />

of the Incoterms ® rules; classifications<br />

and groups; rules for any mode of<br />

transport; rules for sea and inland<br />

waterway transport.<br />

The event will also look at changes in<br />

the recently published Incoterms®<br />

2020 rules, the division of costs, risks<br />

and obligations between seller and<br />

buyer, case studies – seller and buyer<br />

perspectives, managing risk and<br />

insurance and commonly misused<br />

terms and how to avoid the<br />

consequences.<br />

The full programme can be viewed<br />

on the Chamber website.<br />

58 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Mayor opens rail<br />

training academy<br />

Easing the flow<br />

of trade<br />

Preference rules of origin<br />

Date: April 25<br />

Time: 09:30 - 13:00<br />

Venue: Online<br />

Costs: Members: £200 (ex VAT)<br />

Non-members: £250 (ex VAT)<br />

Do you understand Free Trade<br />

Agreements and how they impact your<br />

import and export business?<br />

Are you aware of the preference and<br />

non-preference Rules of Origin and how<br />

they apply?<br />

Do you know how to check the<br />

preference origin of your goods using the<br />

Tariff Classification?<br />

As an international trader it is your<br />

responsibility to ensure that the rules of<br />

origin have been followed correctly.<br />

According to the rules of origin, when<br />

importing or exporting products between<br />

countries with which the UK has a Free<br />

Trade Agreement, traders may enjoy<br />

preferential tariff rates providing their<br />

Export letters of credit<br />

Date: April 16<br />

Time: 09:00 - 13:00<br />

Venue: Online<br />

Costs: Members: £200 (ex VAT)<br />

Non-members: £250 (ex VAT)<br />

This letters of credit training course has<br />

been devised for companies/<br />

departments that are regularly receiving<br />

or handling letters of credit. It will help<br />

you to reduce risks, bank charges and<br />

improve efficiency of administrators.<br />

This course will cover the following: the<br />

products have sufficient UK content.<br />

The rules for the UK/EU FTA may also<br />

be different to other Free Trade<br />

Agreements around the world.<br />

International traders should therefore<br />

be looking at their own supply chains to<br />

establish what rules may apply.<br />

With practical exercises, this essential<br />

guide will ensure delegates have a<br />

comprehensive understanding of this<br />

important area of international trade.<br />

Outcomes:<br />

n How to check the origin rule for your<br />

products using the tariff heading<br />

n Understand what the different rules<br />

of origin are<br />

n How to apply the free trade<br />

agreement and what evidence is needed<br />

such as supplier declarations<br />

n How the information is recorded at<br />

Export and Import<br />

n Understand the Checks that HMRC<br />

may carry out.<br />

Reducing the risks when selling overseas<br />

need for careful credit checking; the<br />

export quotation; a review of other<br />

payment methods – advantages and<br />

disadvantages and when they should be<br />

used; what is a letter of credit?; letter of<br />

credit administration, procedure, types<br />

and levels of security as well as costs; the<br />

terminology, form and structure;<br />

Incoterms® and letters of credit; the<br />

documents – an in-depth study of the<br />

specific letter of credit documents; and<br />

more.<br />

The full programme is available on the<br />

Chamber’s website.<br />

Andy Street, Mayor of the West<br />

Midlands, visited the Black Country<br />

Innovative Manufacturing<br />

Organisation (BCIMO) on Tuesday,<br />

February 20 to officially open a new<br />

region-wide rail training academy<br />

developed by the City of<br />

Wolverhampton College and National<br />

Infrastructure Solutions (NIS).<br />

The Transport, Rail and<br />

Infrastructure Academy (TRIA), based<br />

at BCIMO’s Very Light Rail National<br />

Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), has been<br />

set up to increase employment<br />

opportunities for local people and<br />

meet the demand for skilled<br />

operatives to work in the construction<br />

and maintenance of train lines, tram<br />

routes and stations across the region.<br />

The West Midlands Combined<br />

Authority (WMCA) is investing £1.1m to<br />

create 432 training places at the<br />

academy, which has been developed<br />

in partnership with NIS – a leading<br />

provider of training in the rail, civil<br />

engineering and utilities industries. It<br />

will provide training for newcomers to<br />

the sector, as well as existing rail<br />

operatives who want to upskill and<br />

develop their industry knowledge<br />

further.<br />

During his visit the Mayor also cut<br />

the ribbon to open the new Signalling<br />

Academy based in one of the ground<br />

floor engineering labs.<br />

Mr Street said: “Hundreds of<br />

millions of pounds are being invested<br />

into the region’s train and tram<br />

network, with new rail lines and<br />

stations and Metro routes.<br />

“That’s great news for the travelling<br />

public but we also need to make sure<br />

this unprecedented investment<br />

benefits local people in terms of new<br />

jobs and careers. That’s why WMCA is<br />

helping to fund this state-of-the-art<br />

training academy.”<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 59


Chamber members<br />

combine to unlock learners’<br />

social media potential<br />

Learners are building the skills to use<br />

social media to improve employability<br />

opportunities through a partnership<br />

between two Chamber of Commerce<br />

members.<br />

Training, broadcast and production<br />

specialist BlackRook Media, which<br />

recently joined the Chamber’s Platinum<br />

Group, is working with Gold member<br />

City of Wolverhampton College to<br />

mentor diverse groups on how to unlock<br />

new audiences online.<br />

For those already working, the courses<br />

give them the skills to help their<br />

businesses to grow.<br />

Research shows 22 per cent of the<br />

West Midlands population are completely<br />

offline, the highest figure of any region in<br />

the UK, and over half the West Midlands<br />

population do not have the essential<br />

digital skills needed for work despite 84<br />

per cent of firms in the region saying that<br />

data skills are crucial to their company.<br />

Fully funded by West Midlands<br />

Combined Authority, the Social Media<br />

Content Creator Bootcamps take<br />

newcomers on a journey to better<br />

understand the opportunities around X<br />

(formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram,<br />

LinkedIn and other platforms.<br />

Free for the unemployed, the<br />

programme is offered at subsidised rates<br />

for employers wanting to upskill colleagues.<br />

The aim is to ensure each intake leaves<br />

with the skills to engage new audiences<br />

and sell either their products or services<br />

effectively.<br />

More than 150 candidates have<br />

completed the Bootcamp courses, with<br />

cohorts of 20 spaces available on an<br />

ongoing basis.<br />

The month-long course covers all<br />

aspects of social media content<br />

production, including filming and editing<br />

video, digital marketing, measuring key<br />

performance metrics and the different<br />

tones of voice to use in writing.<br />

Led by a coaching team of 12 lecturers,<br />

all of them active media industry<br />

professionals, learners are also shown<br />

ways of generating engaging content<br />

ideas for specific B2C and B2B platforms<br />

and techniques for building an audience.<br />

The groups also cover ways of creating<br />

campaigns, analytics, still photography<br />

and graphic design.<br />

Among those to benefit is author<br />

Phillip Armstrong, aged 57, who has<br />

seen his book sales rocket after<br />

completing the course.<br />

“I was at rock bottom both financially<br />

and mentally,” he recalls. “I had a lot of<br />

books on sale on Amazon but they were<br />

not selling.”<br />

Having sold around 100 books in three<br />

months, he saw a leap up to 48,000 in 21<br />

days after learning how to market himself<br />

on the BlackRook course at the City of<br />

Wolverhampton College. “The increase<br />

was as a direct result of everything I had<br />

learnt,” he said. “The course was worth<br />

every second I was on it.”<br />

Lynne Deakin went on to take on the<br />

role of content creator for the Robin<br />

music venue in Bilston after undertaking<br />

the training, having previously worked as<br />

a hairdresser.<br />

“It was a life-changing experience,” she<br />

says. “BlackRook saw more in me than<br />

the hairdressing that I had done for 16<br />

years of my life; they saw the music<br />

passion and encouraged me to take that<br />

interest further.”<br />

Black Country Chamber of Commerce<br />

Sales and Marketing Director Sian<br />

Roberts can vouch for the impact of the<br />

training, having completed the course.<br />

Sian said: “The key thing for me is the<br />

premise of the course. It was not just<br />

what you were going to learn on it, you<br />

have a tutor on hand all the time to help<br />

to encourage and motivate you, which<br />

was very useful.”<br />

Bridgnorth-based BlackRook’s<br />

coaching team has trained all the BBC’s<br />

UK digital apprentices over the last six<br />

years, as well as spokespeople at car<br />

maker BMW.<br />

60 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024


Colleges offer host of new<br />

routes to workplace skills<br />

“The increase in book sales was as<br />

a direct result of everything I had<br />

learnt ... the course was worth<br />

every second I was on it.”<br />

Author Phillip Armstrong, pictured above<br />

with course tutor Joe Albanese<br />

The BlackRook team works in<br />

broadcast, events and documentary<br />

corporate videos, serving clients across<br />

industry sectors in the UK and overseas,<br />

with extensive work across the Middle<br />

East and Asia–Pacific regions.<br />

BlackRook, which has a media arm<br />

alongside the academy training business,<br />

is run by Managing Directors Alan Rook<br />

and Lucy Rook. Lucy says it is “an<br />

absolute privilege” for her team to share<br />

their skills and knowledge.<br />

Lucy said: “We have placed dozens of<br />

people into jobs with businesses and we<br />

have also helped many self-employed<br />

people earn a living, all through social<br />

media.<br />

“In offering our bootcamps here in the<br />

West Midlands with BlackRook Academy<br />

and also in offering BlackRook Media’s<br />

production expertise, there is a chance to<br />

make a meaningful impact.<br />

“All of our team are local and invested<br />

in that idea of supporting growth in what<br />

we know is a fantastic region with so<br />

much potential.”<br />

Lorna Prosser, curriculum manager for<br />

employability at the college, said: “Having<br />

employees with good social media and<br />

digital skills is essential for any business<br />

and is something that employers look for<br />

in their staff.<br />

“We are delighted to be working with<br />

BlackRook Media to deliver the courses<br />

and that our students will benefit from<br />

the expertise, skills and knowledge of<br />

their team of experienced specialist<br />

trainers.”<br />

Black Country colleges are offering a<br />

range of courses to enhance modern<br />

workplace skills in the region.<br />

WALSALL COLLEGE, a Chamber<br />

Patron, has an Introduction to Coding<br />

course package through the<br />

Government’s free courses for jobs<br />

initiative.<br />

Learners can improve their basic IT<br />

skills and gain new skills and<br />

qualifications. Those already working<br />

in an entry level IT role can also use<br />

this study pathway to progress.<br />

Run as a free evening course, it<br />

enables learners to complete a Level 2<br />

computing and Level 3 coding<br />

qualification to potentially progress to<br />

an apprenticeship or into higher<br />

education.<br />

People who do not meet the entry<br />

requirements can take a Level 1 digital<br />

skills for the workplace course<br />

part-time.<br />

SANDWELL COLLEGE is offering<br />

adults the chance to complete short<br />

online training courses such as IT<br />

Software Fundamentals, for free.<br />

There is no long-term commitment,<br />

just the chance to upskill and the<br />

courses can be completed at any time.<br />

The college also offers Level 3<br />

courses in Coding and Cyber Security,<br />

which are fully funded through the<br />

National Skills Fund. The courses are<br />

designed to meet learner career<br />

aspirations with coursework based on<br />

real life or work admin situations.<br />

On February 20, Mayor of the West<br />

Midlands Andy Street visited<br />


first-hand the innovative opportunities<br />

being provided in the cyber, eSports<br />

and media departments.<br />

The Mayor also took a tour of Trinity<br />

Point, the latest development at<br />

Halesowen College aimed at<br />

enhancing the digital and media<br />

technology curriculum areas starting<br />

September 2024.<br />

Halesowen College has been leading<br />

on the digital strand of the Local Skills<br />

Improvement Fund (LSIF), which<br />

supports further education providers<br />

by investing in new facilities,<br />

equipment and developing new<br />

courses to enhance digital skills.<br />

With the next phase of the West<br />

Midlands Metro extension set to<br />

launch, adult learners at DUDLEY<br />


Country Skills Shop have learnt<br />

modern skills to secure employment<br />

with the organisation.<br />

Learners have undertaken a<br />

programme of training designed to<br />

give unemployed adults the chance to<br />

move into job roles with West<br />

Midlands Metro.<br />

Learners have progressed through<br />

the training to be considered by the<br />

Metro team, after undergoing bespoke<br />

training in preparation for the<br />

intensive psychometric evaluations<br />

and assessments needed.<br />

Through the programme, the Black<br />

Country Skills Shop have supported 16<br />

learners since August 2023, with 11<br />

going on to gain roles with Metro.<br />

Halesowen<br />

College<br />

Walsall College<br />

<strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024 61


Upskill your managers<br />

to lead the way<br />

Ensure your managers have the skills to<br />

play impactful roles within your business<br />

through expert training from the Black<br />

Country Chamber of Commerce.<br />

The Management Development<br />

Programme is designed to build a<br />

comprehensive toolkit which can be used<br />

by participants who are either in a<br />

management role currently or are aiming<br />

to be in one in the future.<br />

The programme takes place via<br />

in-person workshops and in a group<br />

format. Our next cohort starts on March<br />

18, but participants can also join<br />

individual modules.<br />

Recent cohort members include our<br />

Prosper cover star Matt Jeavons, planning<br />

manager at JJX Logistics in Kingswinford.<br />

Having completed an apprenticeship<br />

with the leading haulage company in<br />

2022, Matt has progressed to become a<br />

transport planner and then a planning<br />

manager at the company, which serves<br />

customers across the UK and Europe.<br />

Matt recommends the programme<br />

based on his progress to date.<br />

He said: “I am loving the course at the<br />

minute. It is helping me get an<br />

understanding on key skills that are used<br />

by a manager and also improving my<br />

career skills by putting me out of my<br />

comfort zone in a safe space and allowing<br />

me to develop my management skills.<br />

“I would highly recommend the course<br />

to others and I am really glad I have had<br />

the chance to go through the experience.”<br />

Providing insights, techniques and<br />

tools, the programme provides<br />

participants with the time and space to<br />

challenge their own ways of working,<br />

improve overall performance and develop<br />

approaches which add value to their<br />

business.<br />

The programme has been developed<br />

based upon an analysis of business<br />

needs and what is needed for the region’s<br />

managers to deliver success to those<br />

businesses. This programme is the<br />

perfect development companion for:<br />

n New managers or those about to<br />

become managers<br />

n Managers of systems or process<br />

n Managers of people and teams<br />

n Experienced managers who want to<br />

develop core competencies<br />

n Experienced managers who want to<br />

tap into new thinking and approaches<br />

n Managers delivering change<br />

management within their business<br />

n Managers seeking new ways to drive<br />

efficiency and performance<br />

See below for course modules, dates and<br />

pricing.<br />


The Management Development Programme consists of 12 whole<br />

day sessions, each covering a management theme or topic:<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 Getting the best from your team and helping them to<br />

perform better<br />

n Coach and develop your teams and people<br />

Programmes run with participants from different backgrounds,<br />

experiences and industries, creating a safe and diverse environment<br />

where individuals can test and apply learning and develop together.<br />

Delivered by: Wendyanne Shapiro - Lotus Flower Consultancy<br />

An award-winning development and business coach working with<br />

clients around the world to drive change and improve performance.<br />

COST:<br />

Take the full 12-month programme or pick and<br />

choose modules. We recommend taking the<br />

whole course to get the most out of it.<br />

Full 12-month programme:<br />

Chamber members – £1,800 + VAT<br />

Non-members – £2,400 + 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 />

For more details, contact training@blackcountrychamber.co.uk<br />

or call 0330 024 0820, or click right<br />

62 <strong>PROSPER</strong> <strong>SPRING</strong> 2024

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