Author: Alice Midgley

GCSE Results Day 2017, but what do those grades really mean for the future of the next generation?

Untitled collage-2

Waking up, I could only imagine how year 11’s across the country were feeling as the news reader on the radio announced the beginning of GCSE results days 2017.

Easily one of the most nerve wracking days of a 16 year olds life, memories flooded back of the day I arrived at school to pick up the brown envelope, that, at the time, you believe contains the fate of the rest of your life.

I arrived at Manor Community Academy in Hartlepool at 8:30am and eager students were already waiting at the door, ready to get that dreaded moment over and done with. After five years of secondary school and two years of hard work preparing for the GCSE exams, the day not only symbolises the start of the next step in life, but the end of an era. Emotions were high, but it was brilliant to see so many chuffed faces as expectations were met or even beaten.

But a clear difference this year was the look of confusion on some of the students faces.

A new numerical grade system has replaced the traditional A*-G grades for English and Maths and according to research from The Student Room, students find the 1-9 grading system is difficult to understand.

The reforms to the grading system have been introduced in an attempt to raise standards, so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a global workplace. Yet with the new grading system brings new, tougher exams which has resulted in a dip in the pass rate across England.

For some, classroom studies and GCSE exams are a breeze, but what about those who struggle? Do harder exams and disappointing results really mean the end of the world?

After this year’s drop in the pass rate it is more important than ever to inspire young people to keep their heads up, keep concentrating on their ambitions and to not be too disheartened.

At this point it’s vital that students are encouraged to find an area of study that they love. Maths, Science and English aren’t for everyone and it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are so many alternative areas in which students can excel. Once they find their niche and their passion, educational success will follow.

I know many successful business owners who will happily tell you that GCSE results aren’t the be all and end all, and as Publicity Seekers Managing Director, Samantha Lee, very rightly said: “Celebrate what you’ve got and don’t beat yourself up on what you don’t. Life is full of interesting paths and yours will come, regardless of what an exam paper says.”

Teesside, as a thriving business community, has an opportunity here to step up and inspire the future generations. After all, 2017’s GCSE students will one day soon be making up the Teesside workforce and what better way to secure a business’s future success than by preparing them in advance?

Apprenticeships, internships, work experience placements, school visits offering demonstrations, and talks are just a few ways that businesses can make a massive difference. It’s about taking a step back and identifying how, as role models, they can inspire and make an impact.

So what are you going to do?

Weschenfelder to enter German market after dramatic sales increase

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 13.48.07

Sausage making specialist Weschenfelder’s has celebrated a 25% increase in online sales this year and has set its sights on the German sausage making market, thanks to Forrest Digital.

In a partnership that spans over 12 years, the digital marketing specialist has led to the the evolution of Weschenfelder’s web presence, undertaken ROI analysis and perfected an online marketing approach, that has helped the company sell to over 15 different countries from its base at Riverside Park in Middlesbrough.

Weschenfelder Direct sell sausage making equipment, casings and seasonings to individuals and businesses who want to make their own sausages.

Tim Weschenfelder, Director of Weschenfelder Direct said: “As our business has grown so has our partnership with Forrest Digital. When we first started working together we were selling around 30% of our products online, this has now dramatically increased to 70%.

“Countries we export to include France, Portugal and Spain with our latest target being king of the sausages, Germany.

“This would never have been within our reach without Forrest Digital, they have helped us build a professionally translated German site, complete with a strategic digital marketing campaign and incorporating data insights from the German market that will stand us in good stead next to our competitors.

“Every country is different and that’s why if you are going to export, you need to find an experienced digital consultant with knowledge of the preferences and behaviour of your target market. I never would have known that German customers are more cautious when paying online and less likely to use credit cards and that small changes like implementing a PayPal or a debit card payment system would give potential customers that extra confidence to shop with us.”

The German ecommerce market is growing rapidly and was worth over 66 billion euros in 2016, an increase of seven billion euros since 2015. Over half of internet users in Germany have bought a product from a foreign country.

Iain Forrest, Managing Director of Forrest Digital, said: “Tim came to us back in 2005 after using another digital marketing company he was not completely happy with.

“As one of our long-term clients Weschenfelder has truly reaped the benefits of a partnership that has seen us working together to build an online presence and content that is market leading. Together we’ve created one of the most trusted sites in this market and Weschenfelder is now a go-to destination for businesses and individuals seeking advice about these types of products.

A long-term relationship like this really enables clients to leverage the working partnership we have with internet-giant Google, which allows us to test and trial new services, keeping them a step ahead of their competitors.

“Achieving success in the German sausage market is ambitious but very achievable as far as we’re concerned. When we were looking at site statistics we noticed already a large number of visitors were from Germany. When we discussed this with Tim, it turns out it was something he’d been thinking about for a while and was keen to develop.

“We use a professional translator for all our German AdWords, SEO and site content, in order that the right colloquial language is used throughout, with none of the bad grammar or comical translation errors that come as part and parcel of automatic translation services and which instantly put a potential customer off.”

Tim concluded: “My grandfather Ludwig Weschenfelder emigrated from Bavaria to Middlesbrough in 1895 to work as a butcher’s apprentice and from there grew Weschenfelder. Hopefully we can now come full circle and start selling our products back to the German market.”

Tees Valley’s £6m funding helps 1,000’s return to employment

Optimized-event image for blog

The brilliant news that the Tees Valley has received £6million worth of funding to support thousands of people across the region back in to work, is music to our ears at a time where the region’s future success is at the forefront of our minds.

In the wake of Wednesday’s ‘Building a Thriving North East’ event, held at Hartlepool College of Further Education, the importance of building the confidence and ambition of the Tees Valley community, young and old, is evident. If the region is going to bounce back from the issues that it has previously faced, and establish itself as the powerhouse it deserves to be, business leaders need to collaborate in order to tackle the array of social, educational, and mindset barriers that potentially stand in the way.

Our region is bursting with innovative, forward-thinking businesses, who have worked hard to reinvent themselves in times of regional change and have come out on top time and time again. The Tees Valley, once known for heavy industry such as steel manufacturing, has evolved in to a hub of digital/creative industry, which demonstrates its diversity perfectly.

These businesses have the potential to progress and grow, yet if businesses don’t make the effort to instil passion and excitement in to the next generation, where will we be 10 years from now?

The pilot initiative, which has been launched in the six combined authority areas in the country, is particularly exciting, as it offers opportunity to people aged 30 and over, who have had the greatest difficult getting in to the world of work due to struggles experienced during their time in education.

At Wednesday’s event, Shaun Hope, Head of Student Recruitment at Hartlepool College of Further Education, spoke about the difficulties that a results-driven education system has created. A constant focus on achieving the best results has meant that the support for those who academically aren’t the greatest performers has declined year after year.

This initiative will help to combat this lack of support, which resulted in school underachievers struggling to find employment. It will give them the opportunity to identify their talents and skills, and support with driving their ambition to achieve and better themselves.

Yet what I find most exciting is that its ripple effect will have a positive impact on those around them. If a child see’s a parent in a full time job, achieving and feeling fulfilled, they are more likely to have aspirations for their own future career. The same goes for other family members, friends and neighbours.

Our newly elected mayor, Ben Houchen, is calling upon local support services and councils, voluntary organisations, and Tees Valley businesses to provide the best possible support to help people back to work. Thanks to this funding, support will no longer be a financial burden, all that is asked is that they provide their time.

Going forward a regional focus needs to be on urging business and organisation leaders to consider themselves as role models to the community and to take a step back to see how they can help to make a difference.

Tees Valley businesses working together to overcome adversity

Kevin Byrne, Andy Steel, Jayne Moules and Alby Pattison will comprise the panel

 

As a region, it’s fair to say that in the past the Tees Valley hasn’t had the easiest of times. Although we have proven over the years that we are in fact a robust, strong region that will always strive to get ‘back on our feet,’ this isn’t helped by national media, members of government and shameful ‘reality tv’ shows that paint us as deprived, unemployed and the founders of ‘benefits Britain.’

With recent setbacks from SSI, Tata Steel and Adelie still fresh in our mind, levels of unemployment, deprivation and poverty have increased, the effect of which on our community is far from positive.

At Publicity Seekers we are lucky enough to work with a group of clients, extremely passionate about their surroundings and with enormous pride in the Tees Valley. However one thing we hear time and again is about the effect of our region’s negative outlook has on the aspirations of our children and our community.

To counteract this, we’re bringing together four of our business leaders for a panel debate looking at ‘Building a Thriving North East’ and the issues that need addressing within our community to be able to do that.

We already have 20 business leaders attending but have room for 5 more. If you would like to attend on Wednesday August 2 from 8:30am – 10am please get in touch with mlamb@publicityseekers.co.uk.

The panel consists of the following:

Alby Pattison

MD of Hart Biologicals

Most recently awarded Freedom of the Borough by Hartlepool Borough Council, Alby Pattison sits at the head of Hart Biologicals, a specialist medical company that creates life-saving medical equipment and exports to 39 companies worldwide.

Part of Alby’s success comes from his endless contributions to the community. A key supporter of the apprenticeship scheme, Alby employs from within the town and takes in several new students each year. He is a supporter of many local charities, a governor at Manor School and STEM ambassador regularly visiting colleges and universities to speak about the importance of science and value of it as a career.

Kevin Byrne

MD of Seymour Civil Engineering

Hartlepool’s Business Leader of the Year 2017, Kevin Byrne sits at the helm of Seymour Civil Engineering, a record-breaking £35m-turnover business which carries out urban renewal projects, restoration and development work and drainage works across the North East and Yorkshire. The company has saved hundreds of North East homes through its vital flood alleviation work, most notably its award-winning work on the sea defences between Hartlepool and Seaton.

Kevin is a keen supporter of apprenticeships and takes on several each year from Hartlepool College of Further Education. He is committed to bringing young people into the business to grow and develop and most recently sent two of his younger staff to complete university degrees at Northumbria University funded by the company.

Andy Steel

Assistant Principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education

The North’s number one apprenticeship provider, Hartlepool College of Further Education, is renowned with businesses and students alike for its high quality apprenticeships, people development and connections to some of the greatest businesses in the North East.

Andy Steel leads the College’s business development and recruitment strategy, focusing on apprenticeships, adult skills and commercial partnerships. Outside of the college Andy is the Chair of AdAstra Trust and the Hartlepool Business Forum, organising the Hartlepool Business Awards each year for the town.

Jayne Moules

Strategic Development Manager at Changing Futures NE

Changing Futures North East has been supporting local children and families since 1997 through mediation services, mentorships, community support and independent visitors. Over the last year alone, the charity has helped over 420 children and 237 parents in the Tees Valley and since 2013 its mentoring project has helped around 100 children and young people develop their social and emotional well-being skills.

Jayne Moules has worked to co-ordinate a number of significant family support programmes across the North East including delivery of the Troubled Family

Programme and also in aiding the roll-out of Sure-Start Centres. At Changing Futures, Jayne is working to engage key stakeholders in creating a family relationship-focussed hub within Hartlepool.

The event runs as follows:

Wednesday 2nd August at Hartlepool College of Further Education

8:30am – Coffee

9:00am – Talk and panel

10:00am – Event close

Charity helps hospital open haven for chemo families

MVC_familyroom

A MUSIC charity has helped to open up a family room at the University Hospital of Hartlepool’s chemotherapy ward in memory of a devoted father who lost his battle with cancer last year.

Andy Brown, who was an avid supporter of Music v Cancer and who supported the numerous music events the charity organises, was cared for at University Hospital of Hartlepool.

The 51-year-old technology consultant from Hartlepool, left behind daughter Kate and partner Natalie when he passed away in July last year after a battle with bowel cancer.

But his memory will live on thanks to MvC founder and good friend Tony Larkin who has named the room in his memory.

Pam Hauxwell, former nurse on the chemotherapy ward, who helped treat Andy when he was ill, said: “He was a lovely man. I hope this room can help more people in Andy’s honour.”

Tony Larkin, founder of the charity and who was also diagnosed with bowel cancer, started the organisation after he was given the all clear in 2010.

Tony said: “We thought the best way to recognise Andy’s efforts and what he’s done for the charity was to come up with a project that could be done in his memory.

“The family room project came about when Rosie Livingston from Hartlepool Hospital got in touch, outlining that the current facilities they have for patients to sit and relax with their family was very cramped and small.

“The refurbishment took three months to complete and cost just over £8,000, all of which came directly from the Music v Cancer gig in October 2016, which was held in memory of Andy.”

Rosie Livingston, Deputy Unit Matron on the Chemotherapy Ward at the hospital said: “It’s such a brilliant project. Mainly because everything in the room itself was donated from families affected by cancer as well as from large companies such as Tesco.

“Things like this are important because more and more young people and their parents are coming into the ward and my hope is that this room can offer them the space for respite and privacy that they need.”

Steve Hall, Non-Executive Director of the Trust Board for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation, said: “What a great facility to have to celebrate the memory of Andy.

“Everyone that uses this room will be able to remember him as well, they’ll know him from the picture on the wall, and for that we thank Tony.

“Also, thanks to Rosie and her team on the chemotherapy ward in particular, we have a fantastic set of caring, passionate professionals and now we also have a great place that patients can use to make their experience here at the hospital even better.”

Michelle Holmes, Chemotherapy Unit Matron said: “The new family room is fantastic as it provides patients on the ward with a place they can go for a bit of time out.

“Treatment rooms can get very hectic and crowded and on tough days when patients need somewhere to escape to, even if it’s just for a few minutes, the room will provide a quiet place for them to sit, have a cup of tea, and relax.

“These small things make such a difference during a patient’s treatment.”

Margaret Brown, mother of Andy said: “Andy used to always say how amazing the staff were here on the ward. He had nothing but praise for Rosie and her team and would come home from the hospital uplifted.

“Seeing this room all finished is brilliant and as Andy had all of his treatment here at Hartlepool, it will be somewhere that his family can come to remember him, and as a place patients can relax with their families.

“A big thank you needs to go to Tony as well, as without him this project would never have been able to happen.”

Music v Cancer is a not-for-profit charity and has held 23 live music events to date and has raised £203,000, which goes towards cancer detection equipment for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trusts.

Music v Cancer celebrates fundraising success after music weekender

MVC_marchweekender

SOME of the UK’s most exciting new live artists came together to showcase at the renowned Music v Cancer Weekender.

Exciting young four-piece Skinny Living headlined the Friday night at The Grand Hotel, while British/Trinidadian singer-songwriter Z-STAR rocked the top slot on Saturday night.

The twice annual Weekenders have become renowned on the music circuit with previous acts such as Jack Savoretti, The Magic Numbers, The Blow Monkeys and Turin Brakes lining up to play this intimate and magical gig.

And in the process of wowing Teesside audiences they have raised over £8,000 to buy cancer detection equipment for local hospitals.

Ryan Johnston, Skinny Living’s lead singer, said: “We have spent a lot of time in the studio recording lately so had not played live for a few months and I was quite nervous going on to be honest. But I could not have enjoyed myself any more than I did on that stage. For an intimate gig the crowd blows you away, they listen so intently and then the next minute they’re up dancing with you! An audience like that is quite hard to come by.”

The weekend played host to an array of musical talent including performances from Paul Liddell, Joe Dunwell and wild LA keys man Leo Napier. Both nights showcased a range of set styles.

Guitarist Robbie Cavanagh, supported by backing vocals from Lizzie Brandon and Rick Brewin, kick started the Friday night with an intimate acoustic set.

Robbie said: “From the moment we were contacted about attending the event we were treated so nicely, and on arriving everyone has been so friendly and so warm hearted. Performing on stage was amazing and we had a really lovely audience, we were given a lot of attention and it really felt like people wanted to listen.”

Alongside the musical line-up, the charity held a music memorabilia auction, offering items including an electric guitar signed by the band Kasabian and an acoustic guitar signed by David Gray, to the highest bidder.

Music v Cancer was founded in 2010 by Tony Larkin, after he received the all-clear from Bowel Cancer. The not-for-profit charity has held 25 live music events to date and, including the funds raised at the last event, have risen over £210,000.

Tony said: “These events are always hard work to organise because we always want to get them exactly right. But it is worth it when we have such amazing feedback from artists and people in the music businesses are talking about what a fantastic night they have up here.

“I can only say thanks once again to everyone from the sponsors and audience to the volunteers and artists. Music v Cancer has a brilliant reputation for a great night!”