Over £2.1 million is now available for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Tees Valley for training. The Skills Support for the Workforce project offers fully funded training to help SMEs fill skill gaps, raise productivity, and boost business growth.

Staff development through professionally delivered training, offered at no cost to a business, can help to increase productivity, motivate and engage staff, and improve employee retention.

“In addition to giving access to a wide range of training courses and qualifications, this project provides businesses with expert support to identify their existing skills gaps, and to pinpoint the skills they’ll need in future to facilitate their growth plans,” explained Andrew Lewis, Managing Director of Tees Valley Combined Authority. “Accessing support through this project can improve your ability to adapt to the evolving business environment in Tees Valley, nurture a leadership team for the future and make you an employer of choice for emerging talent.”

“By training your staff you can improve your ability to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment, nurture a leadership team for the future, and make you an employer of choice for emerging talent,” explained Ebrahim Dockrat, Director of Calderdale College, the main contractor for the project.

Research has found that employees who undertake non-compulsory work-related training do their jobs better and are more satisfied with their work, but a lack of time and possible costs can act as barriers to accessing training. The Skills Support for the Workforce project is designed to address these challenges.

The project is co-financed by the European Union’s European Social Fund and the Skills Funding Agency and is available for SMEs seeking non-compulsory work-based training to support their business growth plan.

“As this training is funded with European money this is the last project of its kind,” explained Mr Dockrat. “This funding is only available until July 2018 and so it’s a case of get it whilst you still can.”

The Tees Valley is an important location for UK manufacturing and contributes £12 billion to the national economy. Recently there has been major investment in innovative new technologies such as subsea, biologics, and energy from waste. However, the shortage of skills in the process and offshore sectors has resulted in a dependency on imported skills.

Delivered by Calderdale College, the country’s largest provider of European Social Fund funded training, through local providers, the training is for businesses operating in advanced manufacturing and engineering; digital and creative; chemical; low carbon; energy; logistics; business and professional services; culture and leisure; and health and biologics.

For more information and to see if your business is eligible for fully funded training please visit http://ssw.fundingunit.org.uk/

Middlesbrough-based Calm Digital, a web design, software development and digital marketing agency has finalised the development of a cutting edge recruitment system for the World Health Organization (WHO).

The agency – situated in the Boho One building in Middlesbrough’s Digital City – staffs an in-house team of 12 talented, creative professionals, web and software developers, and digital marketing specialists.

The exciting WHO project is among a number of major projects Calm Digital has won recently. Director Danielle Croce said: “Our talent is industry-leading. Having a multi-skilled, flexible team means we’re able to turn projects around quickly with a streamlined journey from concept to completion.”

Calm Digital won the WHO contract last year, beating a range of market leading agencies to the work. The scope of the work was to implement an improved recruitment process within its digital platform that conformed to WHO brand guidelines and consult on the user journey within the website.

Calm Digital designed and integrated an improved user experience on to the Taleo system; a cloud-based HR platform by Oracle. It will simplify the recruitment and retention of employees and make it easier for applicants to apply.

Danielle added: “The WHO were not only impressed with our digital skills but also the customer service from the outset of the project. A detailed tender document laid out the approach to the assignment and from first contact a professional bond was established between the two organisations.”

Danielle and fellow Director Daniel Askwith have headed up the project. They visited the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in November to work on the final implementation of the system. They collaborated closely with members of the WHO’s HR and IT departments, designing the most user friendly recruitment system possible for the organisation.

The World Health Organization is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was formed in 1948 and the organisation now has more than 7000 people working in 150 country offices, in 6 regional offices and at their headquarters in Geneva. WHO strives to combat diseases and works side by side with governments and other partners to ensure the highest attainable level of health for all people.

This is not the first world renowned client that Calm Digital has worked with in its seven-year history. In 2016 the agency worked with a number of clients to help increase their leads, sales and boost employee engagement through online marketing tools. Calm Digital’s portfolio includes Lindt Chocolate, travel experts Holiday Pirates, and multinational corporation, Saint-Gobain.

Following on from a successful year, 2017 is shaping up to be another successful year for Calm Digital, having been shortlisted for 2 categories in the North East Business Awards. Intasite, an online health and safety induction system that speeds up the induction process for site visitors, has been shortlisted for the Innovation category. The company has also been shortlisted for their Advent Calendar Online product under the Digital and Social Media category.

Danielle added: “Smaller agencies like us are no longer limited to working locally. With the right team and the latest technologies, we can serve anyone, anywhere, on any project.”

Calm Digital is a full service agency with an in-house team to build almost any kind of website or online software solution including dashboards, HR systems, and CRMs. The agency aims to deliver software to help streamline business processes, and automate time-consuming manual processes to increase business efficiency, as well as improving internal and external communications.

You can find out more about Calm Digital’s services, past work, and client base at www.calmdigital.com

Dozens of job opportunities have been created following one of the biggest showcases of digital talent in the North East.

ExpoTalent, Teesside University’s annual showcase of work by the School of Computing’s second year students, attracted record crowds with almost 100 digital companies visiting the event.

The event, organised in conjunction with DigitalCity, also saw more than 50 digital companies exhibiting in a specially erected marquee in the University’s Campus Heart.

In addition, more than 400 young people who are considering studying computing and digital courses visited the campus to take inspiration from the Teesside students.

Employers were impressed with the array of skills presented by Teesside students and already 26 businesses have pledged to employ a graduate or take on an intern as a result of visiting ExpoTalent.

The School of Computing’s Associate Dean (Enterprise and Business Engagement) Siobhan Fenton said: “At Teesside University we pride ourselves on our ability to equip our graduates with the skills they require to meet the needs of employers.

“With the pace of technology moving so fast, ExpoTalent plays a vital role, not just in showcasing the work of our students, but also gives us an opportunity to speak with businesses and find out the sort of skills and capabilities that they are looking for in graduates.

“We are delighted that so many companies were so impressed with our second year students’ work that they could offer them jobs or placements.”

Business who offered graduates employment opportunities included Hammerhead VR, Double Eleven, Viral Effect, Coatsink and Better Brand.

DigitalCity is an initiative based at Teesside University which works with North East companies to advise on digital solutions, stimulate digital innovations and secure investment into digital products.

DigitalCity Director Rob Earnshaw said: “Bringing DigitalCity into ExpoTalent ensured that the event was the biggest celebration of digital opportunities in the North East and was fantastic for digital businesses across the region to network and find business opportunities.

“However, what was particularly pleasing was seeing so many senior digital professionals from some of the region’s biggest tech companies engaging with students and taking a real interest in their work and, ultimately, offering them employment.”

For more information on courses in the School of Computing visit www.tees.ac.uk/computing

For more information on DigitalCity visit www.thedigitalcity.com

A new website has generated more than £50,000 in new orders for a client of Middlesbrough creative design agency E-Strands.

The website for ESCS (www.es-cs.com,) a Teesside-based world leader in industrial and protective coatings equipment brought in orders for the company’s application systems only days after it went live, leading ESCS to start the search for a new apprentice.

E-Strands has now been appointed to do further work on ESCS’s website and produce other marketing materials for the firm.

Based in Middlesbrough, with an office in Houston, and distributors in Singapore, Malaysia and China, ESCS manufactures specialist spray equipment for protective and industrial coatings. These include the application of intumescent epoxy materials which protect steel structures from the threat of fire in oil and gas refineries, petrochemical plants, fabrication yards and oil rigs. More than 80% of its production is exported.

Managing director of ESCS Shaun McDonald said: “Not only has E-Strands produced a website which has immediately delivered orders, the team has also helped us rebrand the company, with a new logo and cleaner look and has been invaluable in providing us with marketing, communications and business advice. I am very happy with what they have done for use, and look forward to continuing to work with them as our company grows around the world.

“The new orders mean that we are now looking to take on an apprentice, and if our growth continues at this rate, to employ a further two workers.”

Michael Janes, E-Strands’ managing director said: “I am delighted with the success we have already achieved for ESCS. We are passionate about providing high quality design, branding and corporate communication which impacts on our clients’ bottom line.”

E-Strands can be contacted on tel. 01642 688 710, by email info@e-strands.com or via its website www.e-strands.com.

Picture caption: Shaun McDonald managing director of ESCS (left) with Michael Janes, E-Strands’ managing director at ESCS’s Middlesbrough manufacturing facility.

A team of digital leaders has been chosen to help put technology at the heart of Tees Valley’s industrial strategy.

Led by DigitalCity, the members of the newly-formed Tees Valley Digital Strategy Board will help to drive forward the region’s technology industries.

Each of the region’s five local authorities has one male and one female representative on the board which will work alongside the Tees Valley Combined Authority to develop policies and initiatives to push the digital agenda within the region.

The board will look at ways to strengthen the digital cluster within the region and develop digital skills.

The Tees Valley already has an outstanding reputation for its tech industries. Middlesbrough and Stockton are ranked at number 16 in a list of the UK’s digital hotspots by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the only hotspot north of Birmingham.

DigitalCity, which is based at Teesside University, is acknowledged as a major catalyst for economic regeneration in the Tees Valley.

It has already helped create hundreds of new companies, as well as working with existing business to improve their digital skills.

Rob Earnshaw, Director of DigitalCity, said: “There is a fantastic array of talent on the board and I’m really looking forward to working with them all.

“One of the first things we’ll be doing is setting up a series of working groups across the region which will look at topics such as apprenticeships and infrastructure and then report back to the full board.

“We want to create a digital supercluster that is envied by other regions, this way we can drive more digital companies and talent to the area.”

The members of the board are:

  • John Adams, Director of BIM Strategy in Darlington
  • Mark South, Chief Operating Officer games company Double Eleven in Middlesbrough
  • Paul Sheperia, who runs software company Evil Technology in Middlesbrough
  • Niel Bushnell, an animation producer and technical consultant based in Hartlepool
  • Lisa Holt, managing director of Middlesbrough creative agency the Creative Alchemist
  • Helen Kerr, a digital marketer at Redcar-based Inner City Digital
  • Steve Cole, a freelance consultant, based in Billingham
  • Joanna Wake, managing director of RAW Digital in Stockton
  • Natalie Woods, a Teesside University business management student from Middlesbrough who sits on the DigitalCity Student Board
  • Janice Webster, founder of DigitalCity representing Darlington
  • Keith Wilson, Tees Valley combined authority
  • Simon Stobart, Teesside University, Dean of the School of Computing
  • Dan Watson, Digital City Cluster Manager
  • Rob Earnshaw, Director of DigitalCity.

Mark South said: “I want to see more businesses come to the area and ensure they get the necessary support.

“When I set up my first business in 2003, I learnt the hard way. I want to help people overcome those hurdles and be given the best chance to succeed.”

Joanna Wake added: “Here on Teesside we’ve got some amazing companies doing some fantastic things.

“I want to help raise our profile nationally and help attract investment and create more opportunities for young people.”

Award-winning IT specialist Cornerstone Business Solutions has made a superfast start to rolling out ultrafast broadband across the North-East, with more than 60 businesses on Middlesbrough’s Riverside Park signing up at the first opportunity.

Recently voted Best IT Services Company in the Northeast in the UK Corporate Excellence Awards, Stockton-based Cornerstone aims to provide the service to SME businesses across the region as the only Business Partners of Virgin Media Business across the entire region.

Running on next generation optical fibre cables, Virgin Media Business’s ultrafast business broadband – with speeds of up to 300Mbps – is more than three times faster than the next fastest available on the open market.

After much success in Hartlepool, Cornerstone made the bustling industrial estate of Riverside Park their first target area in Middlesbrough after identifying areas with poor broadband speeds.
Acting like an instant upgrade for devices and apps, superfast broadband will allow businesses to move easily between cloud apps and video streams while copying massive files and loading new web content.

“We’ve been welcomed with open arms,” said managing director Chris Petty. “It’s a no brainer for most businesses because we’re talking about by far the fastest broadband speeds ever so it’s a fantastic product.

“There are literally dozens of business parks around the North-East with poor broadband speeds. People are trying to run 21st Century businesses but are being held back due to poor broadband.
“Everybody wants things faster, whether it’s emails, web pages or online backups. We all know how frustrating it can be with slow bandwidth.

“Some of the Riverside Park organisations who’ve signed up for our 300Mbps service were previously struggling along on incredibly slow broadband speeds so this is going to revolutionise their business.

“Others we’ve spoken to were paying up to £6,000 a year for a leased line, while we’re offering a similar service for £40 a month.

“It’s understandably proving massively popular, so we’re expecting many more to sign up, both on Riverside Park and across the North-East.
“We’re targeting Teesside Industrial Estate and the Team Valley next.

Cornerstone, who have also been shortlisted for the Apprentices category in the North East Business Awards, have partnerships with global technology brands such as Sage, IBM, Microsoft, VMware, Dell and Cisco, together with Virgin Media Business.

One of the biggest showcases of digital talent in the North-East will be coming to Middlesbrough next month.

Hundreds of digital professionals will be mingling with talented computing students at Teesside University’s annual ExpoTalent event on March 9.

This year, for the first time, ExpoTalent will be teaming up with DigitalCity and, alongside the showcase of work from the School of Computing’s second year students, the region’s best digital businesses will be exhibiting in the Campus Heart under a specially erected marquee.

Bringing together ExpoTalent and Get Digital gives businesses the ability to network and seek out collaborative opportunities while also talent spotting and targeting students for work placements and internships.

Young people from across the region who are considering applying to University to study computing and digital courses will also be attending the event to take inspiration from the work of the School of Computing’s students.

The School of Computing’s Associate Dean (Enterprise and Business Engagement) Siobhan Fenton said: “ExpoTalent has a fantastic track record of helping businesses recruit the talent that they need.

“This year, we’re delighted to be working alongside DigitalCity. There’s a natural synergy between ExpoTalent and Get Digital and bringing together the two events will provide even more opportunities for businesses to learn about the multiple opportunities for collaboration with the University.”

DigitalCity is an initiative based at Teesside University which works with North-East companies to advise on digital solutions, stimulate digital innovations and secure investment into digital products.

DigitalCity director Rob Earnshaw organised Get Digital 2016 in Newcastle and is confident that this year’s event will be just as successful.

He said: “This year’s ExpoTalent will be absolutely fantastic. We will be bringing together some of the most talented students with dozens of different companies, from SMEs to multi-nationals.

“We’re hoping that it will be a fantastic opportunity for businesses not just to recruit, but also to seek out new business prospects and also learn about the latest trends and innovations in the digital world.”

For more information about ExpoTalent visit