Skills for the Future Award 2023


Category criteria

  • This category will recognise businesses committed to the ongoing training, professional development and upskilling of their workforce.
  • This can be via in-house training or external training providers and/or colleges or universities.

Carse & Waterman

Skills For The Future entrant

The Prodigy, Santander, the NHS, ITV and The Prince's Trust are just some of the people Stoke-on-Trent animation company Carse & Waterman has worked with since it was founded by then Staffordshire University students Gary Carse and Dan Waterman in 2009.
Their dedication to push the boundaries has positioned Carse & Waterman as pioneers in the digital media realm locally and nationally and has seen them scoop a TV award for their work on ITV’s Keith and Paddy’s picture show.
Most recently their work with Josephine and Jack Charity about sexual health for people with learning difficulties was nominated for a Smiley Charity Film Award.
Other achievements include Carse & Waterman being recognised as one of Creative England's top Creative Companies in 2018.
Co-founder Dan Waterman said: “Challenging the status quo through the power of effective storytelling is what we were born to do. During our BA in Animation at Staffordshire University we set up our own studio in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent - a studio born to rewrite the rules of the animation industry and which led to the creation of Carse & Waterman.”
Dan and Gary transitioned seamlessly from stop-motion animation to 3D animation, visual effects,
interactive media, gaming and apps.
They use Unreal Engine technology which they say has revolutionised the animation process, removing rendering times and delivering projects in record time and at competitive costs.
Dan and Gary regularly act as ambassadors for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s createch sector, serving as proof that the region’s digital creative sector is growing.
They actively engage with the local community and support young talent in acquiring the skills needed for the future. They work very closely with local schools and colleges including Dan serving as an enterprise advisor for City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, providing guidance and support to young people exploring career opportunities in the creative industry.
In 2022, 50 young people from Stoke-on-Trent took part in 96 days of work experience with Carse & Waterman.
Dan and Gary also collaborate with organisations such as the YMCA, Shaw Trust and other community groups.
Carse & Waterman has entered the Small Business of the Year and Skills for the Future categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Parker Piredda PR and Marketing

Skills for the Future entrant

Everyone who has attended a Staffordshire company’s media training or crisis communications courses has said they would recommend their colleagues take the course too.
Based at DaisyBank Business Centre in Cheadle, Parker Piredda Limited specialises in all aspects of PR and marketing as well as devising and delivering a suite of both off-the-shelf and bespoke media and PR courses.
The company is owned and run by directors Tamsin Parker and Eleanor Piredda. Tamsin leads on the delivery of media training courses and the PR side of the business. Eleanor focusses on marketing strategy and delivery.
Parker Piredda has delivered courses and workshops to private sector companies, the NHS and housing associations in the Midlands. Over the next six months the courses are being rolled out across the UK with football clubs and housing associations among the key markets they will be targeting.
Tamsin, who has more than 26 years of journalistic experience working in newspapers, radio and TV as well as public and private communications and PR experience, has been devising and running bespoke media and PR training courses for more than 20 years.
She said: “When I left full-time journalism around 20 years ago I went to work in several highly political organisations, including a local authority and the NHS where I was advising senior leaders on reputational risk, crisis and media management, PR and communication strategy.
“They used to bring in external companies to deliver crisis comms or media training courses and I thought why do that when I could devise courses and bring them in-house? So that’s what I did, for whatever organisation I was working for at the time I devised and ran bespoke media training courses and they always got great feedback, so when I set up my first business it was a no brainer to launch media training as one of the key services.
“Now as Parker Piredda Limited we are delivering a wide range of courses including crisis communications, specific NHS media training as well as bespoke courses on PR and marketing and we’re adding to that all the time.”
She added: “As I still freelance as a journalist, I’m able to use my industry knowledge and skills to give course attendees a real picture of what the media landscape is now, how it’s changing and the steps they need to take if they want to actively promote a story and what to expect if a crisis hits.
“For many of the clients we work with – it’s really helping fill a skills gap within their teams as well as building confidence.”
Eleanor added: “How people view or perceive your brand externally impacts on every aspect of your marketing so protecting your brand’s reputation is essential. Often though companies and organisations don’t think about what might happen if they came under the media spotlight for the wrong reasons and our courses use Tamsin’s expertise to help them think about that.
“The feedback we get is fantastic because the sessions are a real mixture of practical exercises, industry insights and invaluable information that will help businesses learn how to protect their reputation, as well as helping them learn how they can maximise their PR opportunities. Attendees tell us that we’ve covered things that they never would have thought of before.”
Tamsin was a Broadcast Journalism and Sports Journalism lecturer at Staffordshire University for five years but left in 2022 to focus on growing Parker Piredda Limited and to continue to freelance in radio, working for both the BBC and Bauer.
Parker Piredda Ltd has entered the Skills for the Future category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Waldron & Co

Skills for the Future entrant

It was redundancy that led to Nathan Waldron setting up his own financial planning business.
The former banker, from Stone, said he never thought he would be his own boss but that it was the logical next step in 2021.
He now offers financial advice to families, professional couples and elderly people around the UK.
“I had no idea about starting my own business and never thought it would have happened - but it did,” said Nathan.
“The whole idea at the time of going alone was scary - that’s without question - but I knew I could do it and I wanted to do it for me and my own family.”
Nathan’s ethos is about helping others as much as he can, which includes simplifying the financial industry to enable as many people as possible to plan for a more sustainable future.
This drive has led to Nathan not only now employing other team members but collaborating with another financial business on a joint venture which is set to launch later this year and will see bases in London as well as in Staffordshire.
The new venture will also provide more employment opportunities and a network which will reach the length and breadth of the country.
“I am so excited for the new venture,” said Nathan. “This means we will be reaching out to more and more people and helping others all the time. We will also be providing life and training skills as part of the next phase which is going to be incredible.
"One of the main reasons I wanted to start my own business was to not only help to simplify the finance sector and educate others on how accessible services can be, but to also provide employment opportunities. I am really looking forward to this and to introducing new members of staff to Waldron & Co.”
Nathan’s expertise has been commended several times, most recently as a top rated adviser on VouchedFor, a UK review site for financial advisers and other industry professionals.
Nathan has run financial advice drop-in sessions and has educational talks planned for schools over the coming months.
“I think it is vital for future growth to connect with as many different organisations as possible and education is one of those,” he said.
“To be able to show that financial planning is not something which should be shied away from is very important and to simplify the ways in which this can be done is something I will always endeavour to do.”
Waldron and Co has entered the Skills For The Future and Growth categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Adrian Hide Consultancy

Skills For The Future entrant

A Staffordshire company whose mission is to keep businesses safe on the roads has trained more than 500 drivers since it launched in 2018.
Cheadle-based Adrian Hide Consultancy specialises in delivering face-to-face and online road safety courses for businesses who have staff that drive for work purposes. He also offers consultancy services and driver risk management support.
Adrian has trained hundreds of drivers and worked with nearly 40 businesses over the past five years.
He said: “I have spent my entire career working in road safety and it’s something I am passionate about. When I set the business up my aim was to help make the roads safer by giving businesses the tools to keep their drivers safe when they were behind the wheel. That’s still the case today.
“Essentially, I want to help businesses manage the risks associated with their on-road driving activities, ensuring that the business, its people and its reputation are protected.
“If a driver is involved in a serious accident, the police will investigate the business, if they fail to meet their duty of care obligations fines start from 20% of turnover and custodial sentences for business owners if the incident involved a fatality.”
Earlier this year Adrian launched a partnership with Road Safe Northern Ireland which means Adrian’s online courses will be made available to businesses and organisations in Northern Ireland through the charity. Adrian also works with MDEL Fleet management as well as insurance brokers.
He has more than 30 years of road safety experience, including 13 years as an approved driving instructor and 13 years with Staffordshire County Council, the last seven of which he headed up road safety training and education for the county. He then worked with a private road safety company for around six years.
He said: “I love my job but it hasn’t always been easy. Lockdown was difficult because a lot of my business involved delivering face to face training. I had to move quickly and look at different ways of delivering training. I invested in equipment and set about creating and developing a range of on-line training courses. Thankfully it paid off and the on-line training sessions are now an integral part of my offering.
“I’ve also tailored the courses to keep up with changes to industry trends - with more and more people driving electric vehicles I wanted to launch a course aimed at those who are new to driving them as there are things that you need to know including information on safety, range and charging.
“My clients and their needs come first - trust, honesty, transparency and integrity are very important to me and I think that’s why the business and the training offer has gone from strength to strength.
“I’m delighted to be celebrating the company’s 5th birthday, but I couldn’t have done it without the fantastic client base I have. I’m really looking forward to the next five years and seeing where the journey takes me.”
Adrian has set himself a target of training 1,500 drivers at 15 businesses across the UK over the next 12 months. He’s also working on a new online course to support organisations who have volunteer minibus drivers.
Adrian Hide Consultancy has entered the Skills For The Future category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Beswicks Legal

Skills For The Future entrant

Top-tier law firm Beswicks Legal has proved that it is possible to recruit and retain the very best legal minds right here in Stoke-on-Trent.
Ryan Yates, Group Operations Director at Beswicks Legal, said: “The legal sector is notoriously competitive with ambitious solicitors frequently lured to law firms in bigger cities under the misconception that the quality of legal work there is better and career prospects enhanced, risking a brain-drain in smaller cities.
“However by recruiting talented people, whose personal and professional qualities dovetail with the company’s culture and values, offering an exciting career path with training and progression, and attracting big clients and high-quality work, we have bucked that trend.”
Beswicks Legal’s approach to training and development is multi-faceted, blending an online training platform that all employees can access with a range of routes for young talent to launch their careers and opportunities for more experienced lawyers to progress through our associateship and partnership frameworks.
In 2022/23 Beswicks Legal invested in a new online training platform. Every employee has an Access Workspace login, providing access to a dashboard where they can view and complete mandatory firm-wide governance, risk and compliance training, including courses on financial crime, data protection and equality and diversity. This ensures a consistently high level of skill and competency across the firm.
In addition they have invested in legal training provided by MBL Seminars. This platform is used by legal professionals to carry out continuous professional development in accordance with the Solicitors Regulation Authority Continuing Competence Scheme.
Beswicks Legal believes in growing its own talent and has a strong track record of investing in graduates by providing them with training contracts.
This structured approach sees graduates benefit from four six-month placements over a two-year period. Each placement is with a different department, ensuring trainees experience the widest possible variety of legal disciplines.
During their training, graduates receive full supervision from a partner or head of department, learning from the very best in each legal field.
Once their training contract comes to an end, graduates can choose which area of law they wish to qualify into. The majority of trainees secure employment as solicitors at Beswicks.
Staffordshire University graduate Amber Mapledoram is a current Beswicks trainee. She began her career at Beswicks as a Private Wealth Paralegal before being awarded a training contract. She has completed her first placement within the Private Wealth team and is currently working with the Corporate and Commercial Law Department under the supervision of a number of partners.
Sarah Abbotts is now an established Family Solicitor but she began her career at Beswicks in 2017 after completing the Legal Practice Course at Staffordshire University. She completed her training contract in 2019, qualifying into the family team.
She said: “Training at Beswicks was amazing. I had the opportunity to work in multiple legal departments enabling me to find my preferred one.”
Over the last five years 10 graduates have been trained and supported to become fully-qualified solicitors at Beswicks, a significant investment in new talent.
Apprenticeships are a less well-trodden route into a career in law. However, with the support of Staffordshire University, Beswicks recruited and trained business administration apprentice Melissa Bailey.
Having shown a real flair for law, Melissa joined the Conveyancing and Property team on completion of her apprenticeship. She is now a Conveyancing and Property Paralegal and is completing a Chartered Institute of Legal Executives apprenticeship course at Staffordshire University.
Beswicks Legal has entered the Skills For The Future category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.


Skills For The Future entrant

Sheet metal fabrication firm KMF has lowered its average employee age by 20 years after starting its own award-winning apprenticeship scheme.
In 2007 the average age of employees at the Newcastle-under-Lyme firm was 65. Today’s it’s 45.
The in-house apprenticeship scheme began as a business strategy to overcome the barriers of an ageing workforce and has become essential in providing the next generation of new technology led engineering specialists and also a major strategy within KMF’s recruitment business objectives.
“Apprentices have undoubtedly brought innovation, increased productivity and improved staff retention to all departments within KMF,” said Jenny Johnston, People and Culture Manager at KMF.
“KMF are dedicated to training world-class apprentices, providing opportunities to STEM-training and personal growth and development through wider activities such as community/charity engagement and outward-bounds team-building.”
KMF, which has 350 employees and 30 current apprentices, offers in house apprenticeships in Engineering Operations and Metal Fabricator Standards with progression onto Level 6 Standards.
It encourages all apprentices to progress onto Degree Apprenticeships and inspires them to enter different areas of the business, where their fresh outlook and true embodiment of organisational culture strengthens operations.
KMF was named Large Employer of the Year at the National Apprentice Awards 2023, which attracts more than 950 entries nationally and is considered to be the most important award in the UK for companies committed to training and development.
2002 saw KMF’s recruitment of its first apprentices. It initially used a local college to deliver the apprenticeship training program. Then in 2007, following approval for KMF to become an EAL assessment centre, a £1million investment was made into a dedicated in-house training centre and workshop facility.
Jenny added: “To support KMF’s culture of continuous improvement our apprenticeship is designed to meet our business demands, evolving with new technologies and skill requirements.
“Our programme goes beyond the mandated elements and enhanced knowledge, delivering return on investment within six months.
“Training and development of staff is at the heart of the company’s business objectives utilising the LEVY to upskill current employees alongside recruiting new apprentices into the business.”
KMF has entered the Skills For The Future category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Staffordshire FA

Skills For The Future entrant

Staffordshire Football Association reignited its apprenticeship scheme post-pandemic and now has two apprentices that are helping to futureproof its workforce.
The governing body for grassroots football across Staffordshire, Staffordshire FA supports a network of more than 40,000 people and 500 clubs. It has more than 8,000 volunteers and 850 officials with an employed team of just 15 people at its Stafford HQ.
The two youngest members of staff are apprentices Joe Davidson and John McGirr, who study with Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group.
Gareth Thomas, Commercial and Partnerships Lead at Staffordshire FA, said: “The recruitment of staff who meet the values of the Association had become particularly challenging, and a new approach was required to recruit individuals who were passionate about the work carried out at Staffordshire FA – which is sometimes the less glamourous, but equally important, behind-the-scenes side of working in grassroots sport.
“From the senior management team and across the entire workforce, all members of staff have fully embraced the opportunity presented by the apprenticeship programme, with staff individually upskilling the apprentices around their own respective work programmes, which has not only resulted in both apprentices gaining a board range of skills and knowledge, but has also resulted in all staff becoming more efficient as they are able confidently assign important tasks to our new members of the team. “
Both apprentices are now working front of house, alongside their college courses in Business Administration and Customer Service Practice, and are often the first point of contact for people calling or visiting Staffordshire FA.
Gareth added: “The successful outcomes from our apprenticeship programme are great credit to not only Joe and John, but also the whole team at Staffordshire FA who have fully committed to the ongoing training, development and upskilling of our two apprentices.
“With the ongoing support and in-house training from Staffordshire FA, coupled with the external support provided by the Newcastle and Stafford Colleague Group, our apprenticeship programme is a great example of developing bespoke skills for the future to benefit Staffordshire FA and subsequently local grassroots football.”
Staffordshire FA has entered the Skills For the Future category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

TMT First

Skills For The Future entrant

It may have been the middle of a global pandemic but when TMT First struggled to find suitably skilled staff to meet its needs it decided to launch its own training academy.
The Staffordshire-based technology lifecycle company had encountered a skills shortage within its field nationally as well as locally.
The TMT First Samsung Training Academy opened in January 2021 to teach the skills needed, create jobs and open up a pipeline of trained technicians to allow for the expansion of its repair and processing operations.
The academy has given people the opportunity to work in the mobile technology industry without needing any specific prior experience. All the company asks for is a keen attitude towards learning, a genuine interest in mobile devices and technology as well as a good mindset and work ethic.
Participants learn all about the theory and systems used to repair mobile devices. They then learn all the practical elements of repairing devices from inspecting and taking them apart to what tools to use. Their learning covers everything from flow processes and replacing components to working with motherboards and electronics as well as assembly to disassembly. The trainees are monitored throughout the process and their learning evaluated with regular competency testing and exams.
Over the last two years the academy has provided regular cohorts of a four-week intense training scheme in which the future technicians are trained to the highest industry standard and on completion receive a Samsung authorised accreditation plus a guaranteed job.
So far 19 cohorts have completed the training and 67 new repair technician jobs have been created along with many other positions in supporting roles. The academy will continue to operate indefinitely, providing bespoke training, industry learning and job opportunities for the local community.
TMT First was the first and is still the only company to invest in the creation of a bespoke training academy of this type to fill the specific skills gap in this market.
Academy graduate Daliana Bianca said: “I’d always had an interest in technology but no direct experience. I saw an advert for the academy and successfully applied. There was definitely a lot to learn, and I felt overwhelmed at the start as it was all so new.
“You start at the beginning, looking at all parts of a device, gradually building on your learning so that by the end of the training you can repair a device by yourself.
“There was always lots of support and the trainers were fantastic. They were patient and helped us at every step.
“I really enjoyed it and as soon as I graduated, I was offered a role as a level one mobile phone technician. It was scary starting to work by myself but there was always help and my confidence soon grew.
“I’ve since been promoted to a level two engineer. I have more responsibility and it’s given me the chance to help others. These learning opportunities have had a tremendous impact on my life – it’s meant I’m now working in a completely new sector which I enjoy, and it’s given me career progression opportunities.”
TMT First’s founder, Adam Whitehouse, is calling for a Digital Device Repair Technician Apprenticeship to be set up nationally and rolled out to ensure a pipeline of trained technicians is created to support the industry.
TMT First has entered the Skills for the Future category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

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