Author: Jonathan Saunders

When PR goes ‘wrong’

Within the last week, we’ve seen a number of PR campaigns with good intentions being criticised and panned due to ‘poor execution’. With so much at stake, how damaging can a poorly planned campaign really be on a brand? And is it worth it? Let’s take a #BrutallyHonestPR look.

On 31st May, cosmetics company LUSH launched it’s ‘spy cops’ campaign across social media, on its website and in store displays throughout the UK. The campaign highlights what they claim is an “ongoing undercover policing scandal, where officers have infiltrated the lives, homes and beds of activists”.

The campaign itself has split opinion down the middle with many people on social media, including ex-law enforcement officers, current Chief Police Officers and the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, claiming the campaign attacks hard working members of the police force with many labelling the campaign disgusting.

On the other hand, MPs, Lawyers, victims and even publications such as The Guardian have come out in support of the company with many signing a letter defending the company and its campaign.

One thing is for certain, the ‘spy cops’ campaign has worked in some respects by bringing the spying problem to the attention of the masses, but at what cost?

In the face of backlash, many LUSH stores have felt the need to step back from the campaign and remove ‘spy cops’ from their front windows but the overall stance of the company has been that the campaign was not intended to be an anti-police campaign and serves only to highlight the human rights breaches committed by some undercover police. Which has worked immeasurably.

The effect the campaign has had on the company’s reputation is too early to tell. However, the company has seen a lot of press since the introduction of the campaign both positive and negative, with many people boycotting the beauty product retailer or championing its stance. It’s hard to deny they haven’t achieved the goal of press coverage though.

Also, within the last week we have seen a campaign by worldwide financial company Mastercard that coincides with the upcoming 2018 World Cup.

Mastercard’s campaign entitled “Goals that Change Lives” states that for every goal world renowned footballers Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr score from now until March 2020, the company will donate 10,000 meals to impoverished children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The campaign has led to journalists, broadcasters and PR professionals asking why, if the company can afford to give away the meals, they don’t just give them away instead of undertaking what has been classed as a horrible publicity stunt by many on social media?

Further criticisms have stated that the pressure on the players to score goals would be immense. With goalkeepers also feeling the weight of saving those goals. Ending in guilt for denying the meals.

This effectively means that players like Messi and Neymar would have an unfair advantage in the competition.

Mastercard has responded to the criticisms levelled at it by stating that the ‘Goals that Change Lives’ campaign is part of its overall commitment to deliver 100 million meals to poverty-stricken communities and have said it is proud to have the opportunity to ‘use our brand and our brand ambassadors to raise awareness of this important cause.’

But is it too little too late? Now that the damage is done for connecting multibillion pound companies, multimillionaire footballers and the pot luck feeding of starving children.

The question we should take away from such campaigns is that of what is ethical?

Although noble in theory, these campaigns if not properly executed, can have a massive effect on the reputations of businesses and even though the above-mentioned campaigns have succeeded in bringing to light and opening up dialogues about important issues, how does it really effect business?

Is the old saying ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’ still relevant and is press coverage worth it in the age of outrage?

Weighing up the pros and cons of both campaigns, if your company was in the position to do the same. Would you?

 

How accreditations helped drive Total Recycling’s growth

Darlington-based waste management company, Total Recycling Services believes in the importance of acquiring accreditations. Rather than just ticking a box, the multi-million-pound organisation strives to go over and above and is urging other businesses to do the same.

Since beginning in 2009, Total has earned accreditations from professional bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization, British Standards Institution, and the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme amongst others.

Andy Dobson, Operations Director at Total Recycling Services knows accreditations inside out and with the help of a dedicated Integrated Systems Manager, he has guided the company throughout its growth from a few contacts and members of staff, to a £15m turnover and over 97 staff operating from its Darlington site.

To help bring some clarity, Andy, explains why accreditations are of top priority at Total Recycling Services and why they should be for any businesses who are wanting to grow.

He said: “The simplest way to put it, is that accreditations give us a route into a lot of our customers.

“There are a lot of customers that won’t even entertain us if us don’t have the relevant documentation. These customers are the big blue-chip companies that place a lot confidence in the people they choose to work with and without the evidence to show you are a credible company, they won’t even give you a second glance.

“What these customers ideally want is for their systems to align with yours, and be of a similar standard and as ISO is the internationally recognised accreditation it means there are more doors open to us as a company.

“So, if you share the same qualification, your customer will be happy and confident that you have the same things in place. “

Total Recycling Services works with number of large companies including Akzo Nobel, Nissan, Hitachi and Caterpillar.

Andy, continued: “The companies that we chase, the ones we want to work with. We wouldn’t get through the tendering process without the accreditations we have.

“Most of the big companies now have tender packs that are sent out and we have to provide to them the relevant documentation before we even try to tender.

“It’s not just a case of meeting with them and having a cup of tea and some biscuits, we have to show we have BSEN ISO 9001:2015; BSEN ISO14001:2015; OHSAS 18001:2007 as a first step, as well having the documentation available to show how this was achieved

“Pretty much, if you can’t tick that box you have no chance with the tender.

“At Total Recycling Services, we’ve held ISO accreditations since the first year that we opened in 2009, working to their principles. Having them has certainly helped us to work alongside a lot of the larger companies in the region.

“However, for us it’s not about passing something on an annual basis, they’re about continually working at them and driving improvement all year round as well as giving a solid foundation for legal compliance, particularly with Health, Safety and Environmental matters, which are critical in our industry.

’All systems need to be audited on a regular basis, allowing ongoing opportunities for improvement and being able to demonstrate that you’ve done it as well, year on year.

“Sharing good practice with our customers through this process has also helped. If a customer has developed a good working method or safety system for example, and we can adopt that too – it gives them the additional confidence that we share similar goals. A real working partnership can develop this way.

“It’s absolutely beneficial to all companies to seek out these accreditations. For Total Recycling Services its helped us take that step to where we want to be with our customers and our business. We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work with them and we are proud to say we work with the big firms.”

Andy’s advises other companies must do the same too if they’re looking to go for different tenders.

He said: “I cannot emphasise the importance, that no matter how small a company you are, if you’re wanting to work with bigger organisations you must look at the relevant accreditations.

“It can be a lengthy process but it’s definitely worth it. One new contract can totally take your business to the next level.

“There are a million accreditations out there but you must look at the ones which are relevant for your business. Most recently we became members of RoSPA and worked to receive our bronze award in health and safety.”

 

Hartlepool College of Further Education steps up to inspire individuals with new FutureMe Zone

HARTLEPOOL College of Further Education has pledged to inspire future generations and guide individuals into their chosen careers, by opening a dedicated advice lounge for students and members of the public.

Working in partnership with the North East Collaborative Outreach Programme (NECOP), the College officially marked the opening of the FutureMe Zone with special guest British boxer and ex-student Savannah Marshall who cut the ribbon and welcomed in students.

After a recent report from the Children’s Commissioner showed that a child from a disadvantaged background in Hackney is three times more likely to go to university than a child from a disadvantaged background in Hartlepool, Head of Student Recruitment and CEIAG at Hartlepool College of Further Education, Mark Lee, is confident the lounge will both raise aspirations and make a positive difference.

He said: “It’s no secret that the Tees Valley has had its fair share of knock backs when it comes to employment and career opportunities.

“But instead of letting these statistics define us, we want it to drive us. It’s our role as a College to give everyone learning opportunities and the support and guidance they need to get their foot on the career ladder. We’re confident the FutureMe Zone will do just this.”

The newly opened lounge in the College offers a modern, comfortable space where students can access careers advice and explore the opportunities available to them through further and higher education, with the support of specialist advisors.

In addition to this, the College has also partnered with the Hartlepool Job Centre to open the zone to the wider public once a fortnight.

Mark explains: “We’ve seen many careers services reduced across the region with a national focus on moving advice to online platforms. However, it’s clear that people aren’t engaging with careers content online or via telephone. What works is good old-fashioned face-to-face personalised support, using technology to enhance the advice not deliver it.

“The connotations associated with turning up to the Job Centre to sign on are also quite negative. Instead the FutureMe Zone provides a relaxed, and positive environment where people can come to chat to a Job Centre careers advisor about what career options are available to them, through education or otherwise.”

The Hartlepool College’s FutureMe Zone is part of FutureMe North East, a programme of activities and services offered to students by the NECOP which is made up of five universities and 18 further education colleges in the North East.

In 2016 the programme received a £7.7million grant to increase the number of young people from participating neighbourhoods in the region entering higher education by 2020.

Mark added: “We’re delighted to have worked in partnership with the NECOP to secure the funding to create a space that will benefit young people in both the short and long-term.

“NECOP aims to raise awareness of higher opportunities for learners and here at Hartlepool College we’re all about excellence in Further and Higher Education. Our strong partnerships with universities across the region, particularly Teesside University, speak for themselves, and the College has also been recognised by Ofsted as having outstanding student support.

“This new space dedicated to life after College gives us a platform to raise this awareness amongst students in the region in a modern way.”

The zone is open to students every weekday from 1-4pm and the first session with Hartlepool Job Centre takes place on Thursday 24th May.

Publicity Seekers take Manchester and the PR Moment Awards

On April 26, the Publicity Seekers team attended the Northern PR Moment Awards at the Hilton in Manchester. If you want to find out exactly what happened, continue reading our brutally honest account of the night. I wish I could say it was a quiet and respectable evening, but as you read on you’ll realise nothing’s ever that easy when there’s wine on the table.

After a long drive from Hartlepool to Manchester in the back of our Managing Director’s car and after a number of wrong turns, we finally arrived at our destination with 30 minutes to get ready. A quick shower and a bottle of beer later I met with the rest of the team in the foyer of the Ibis. What? You didn’t think we were staying at the Hilton, did you?

After a team pep talk we booked our UBER and off we went. Pulling up to the Hilton was great. The extravagantly decorated hotel was beautiful, and we had our very own red carpet greeting us. Up we went up the spiral staircase and straight to the bar. It was my first time at the PR Moment awards and I wanted to make the most of that company card.

In attendance on the night were representatives from some of the biggest brands in the UK, including the in-house teams of Co-Op, University of Hull, and Northumbrian Water, between others. Just to be shortlisted amongst these companies was an honour to us all but we didn’t come for honour, we came to win.

After locating our table right next to the dance floor (pay attention because this makes an appearance later on in the night) we sat down and introduced ourselves to the brilliant guys from Cision and Weber Shandwick, who were sitting on our table before tucking in to what can only be described as some really good scran.

With the food out of the way it was time for a quick trip to the bar before the awards ceremony itself. There was only one award we were interested in though, and that was why we were here. Publicity Seekers had been shortlisted in the Best Low Budget Campaign for the #BeTheNext campaign we worked on with Hartlepool College of Further Education.

If you’re interested in the campaign you can find it across Twitter and Facebook under #BeTheNext.

 

Our new mate, Angie. Presenting one of the many awards on the night.

 

After what seemed like an eternity of categories, some of which were hosted by our new friends at Cision, we finally got to ours.

The competition in our category was tough with one of the largest lists of shortlisted companies on the night. It came to the presenter announcing the shortlisted names, some receiving lukewarm applause. However, thanks to our shameless networking and working the room, tables seemed to erupt when Publicity Seekers was announced.

Going up against companies such as Clarion, Digitaloft and Catapult PR, it turned out the night wasn’t ours to win. After shouts of fix from everyone in the room (me) we enjoyed the rest of the night.

After the ceremony was finished and everyone in the room had made good use of the wine on the table. The dance floor was officially opened. This was our chance to show off our moves and impress the big boys of the PR world.

Obviously, we were the first on the dance floor, grooving away to the Tina Turner classic, Proud Mary. Everyone was looking at us and I knew it was down to my incredible skills in mimicking our Tina.

After another trip to the bar to cool down after our dance off, we were introduced to the one and only ‘Voice of the Balls’, Alan Dedicoat, of National Lottery fame. Who we kindly asked to do a short video introduction for Publicity Seekers which you can find over on our Facebook and Twitter.

After rubbing shoulders with A list celebs, we met with Christian and Becky from W, a fellow North East Public Relations company who were attending the night. It was then we had our pictures taken looking ‘respectable’ by the great guys at Prospect PR.

 

What a beautiful bunch.

 

The rest of the night is sort of a blur of drinks and dancing in the centre of Manchester. Dressed in our tuxedos and ballgowns, we received a lot of looks from the students in the Northern Quarter, completed our work for the Hartlepool Tourism Board by inviting various Mancunians to the town and of course we ended the night at 4am with the obligatory pizza and bed. The true signs of a bloody good night.

Needless to say, we enjoyed our time in Manchester and although we didn’t win the award, we achieved what we set out to do. Have a great time as a team.

Why video makes a great PR campaign

If you’re like me, you’ve dreamt of one day rubbing shoulders with the greats such as Hitchcock, Spielberg and Kubrick, and, if like me, you now find yourself in a career where you can stretch your creative legs, albeit in a less ‘Hollywood’ fashion, video production is the perfect option to both reach your company targets and get your creative juices flowing.

In my day-to-day job, I work with and combine many multimedia pieces in order to achieve our goals of spreading a client’s chosen message. More and more so I have realised the importance of using video to reach target audiences and I have seen first-hand the benefits that a well-produced piece of video content can have on a PR campaign.

The benefits seen, come down to the use of the correct type of content for the right audience. A short snappy video will work infinitely better for sites such as Facebook compared to websites such as YouTube, which is more accustomed to a longer video. YouTube places greater importance in what it calls ‘Watch Time’ and because of that longer videos tend to perform better as people nowadays are choosing to watch a particular content they have chosen or subscribe to.

Facebook and Twitter however, tend to prefer short videos (30secs- minute) with up to 85% of all Facebook videos being watched without the sound. These videos benefit from people scrolling through their feeds at work, or on the train. The length of video can have a massive impact on the way it performs.

So, what exactly are the benefits of video to a PR campaign? Videos are a form of passive entertainment, meaning unlike the written word, or in PR terms news releases, it takes zero to little effort for the user to consume the content. Meaning, it’s easier as a business to get your message across.

The use of video on a company website can also be highly beneficial. According to research by Visually, by displaying a well-crafted video on a company website, you can increase conversion rates by up to 85% with the website itself being 53% more likely to show up on search engine results pages.

Video is quickly becoming one of the largest forms of content on the internet with 72 hours being uploaded every minute to YouTube and over a billion users on the website. That’s around a third of all users on the internet consuming video content every day. It’s a really simple choice when you look at the stats.

By using video content to push out a company’s message, you’re ensuring that the message stays with your audience for longer. The Social Science Research Network states that 65% of people are classed as visual leaners meaning viewers remember 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text according to digital agency Insivia.

If you want to see a drastic change in the performance of your PR campaign, ad campaign or marketing campaign then video is the key tool to use. Here at Publicity Seekers we always recommend video content output in order to increase interaction over social media. A simple live video has worked wonders for us. By filming the day to day activities of your business you can increase shareability and engagement over social media and really target your chosen audience and drive them to your company.

So now that I’ve convinced you, here are my top five tips when producing video content:

  1. Short and Sweet
    Keep your videos under 60 seconds in length when posting to social media. This ensures you keep the audience’s attention and can be succinct with your messages.
  2. People Pleaser
    People listen to people. In order for a viewer to connect properly with your message, ensure people are the subject of every video you create.
  3. Mobilise
    Over half of video content is viewed on mobile with 90% of Twitter video views happening on a mobile device. Know where your audience will view your content and create it with that in mind.
  4. Music Maestro
    The use of music in your videos is incredibly important. A simple background track can completely change the tone of your video. Pick the right music for the message you’re trying to convey.
  5. Have Fun
    If you have fun filming then viewers will have fun viewing. Have a laugh and enjoy yourself but remember to keep an air of professionalism.

Total Recycling Services is a North East Business Award winner

Darlington-based waste management company, Total Recycling Services has beat off stiff competition to claim the title of Best Services Provider in the Teesside Heat of the North East Business Awards, held at Teesside University’s Olympia Building.

Total Recycling Services, which operates from two sites in Darlington’s Yarm Road Business Park, will now go on to compete with winners from the Northumberland & Tyneside and Durham, Sunderland & South Tyneside heats at the Grand Final on 26 April at Hardwick Hall.

Alex Foreman, Managing Director of Total Recycling Services, said about his company’s win: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked. To go up against some of the best service providers in the region is an honour in of itself, but to bring home the win is unbelievable.

“Every single company at the awards is proof that the Tees Valley is a fantastic and prosperous place for businesses and I’m happy to be in the position to celebrate the successes we’ve had over the last ten years.

“We’ve constantly tried to do things differently at Total and to win such an award is fantastic recognition for the hard work our staff put in and the excellent work we provide for our customers every single day.”

The awards are held to celebrate not just the biggest but the best businesses in the North East and see over 2,000 people attend every year.

Other winners on the night include Prosafe Engineering as Newcomer of the Year, Cleveland Bridge in Manufacturing, Wynyard Hall in Tourism & Hospitality and Quorn Foods as Company of the Year.

Alex concluded: “We’re now looking forward the Grand Final in April and having the opportunity to represent the Tees Valley and every one of its great businesses on a larger scale.”

Total Recycling Services will now join electrical engineers Houghton International and engineering consultants M5tec Limited in the Services Category at the Grand Finale.

 

£500k Investment for Total Recycling Services

WASTE MANAGEMENT company Total Recycling Services has invested over £500k into bespoke vehicles and equipment to meet the service demand expected throughout 2018.

Since 2009 the company has invested over £5.5m into its site equipment, which services large-scale manufacturers across the UK.

The most recent investment was in response to the rapid growth of the company’s industrial cleaning services division which was introduced in early 2017 and has seen the area of the business grow from three personnel to over 15 staff spread across five teams.

Andy Dobson, Operations Director at Total Recycling Services, said: “We have seen a very prosperous period for Total over the last 12 months and we were looking to invest into our equipment and vehicle fleet in order to continue our growth.

“So far, we have acquired two new 30,000 litre tankers which will go toward supporting our industrial services division, a roll on roll off truck with a further three units and we have also got our hands on what’s known as a glass imploder.

“The glass imploder cost us around £60,000 and will allow us to take waste glass from our clients and turn it into a clean granulated glass which can then be recycled into any number of products. This had been going through a commissioning period in 2017 and is now fully in use.

“We have also bought three new tractor units which can pull either a tanker or articulated trailer. We’ve also bought chemical tankers which will help us to reduce our carbon footprint in transporting waste and allows our customers to save money too.

“It’s been pure demand that has meant we’ve had to invest so heavily into new vehicles and they constantly in use.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg for Total’s plans for 2018. The organisation is looking to add to their investment into equipment by acquiring more vehicles later in the year and developing a new weighbridge on site as well as continuing to look at a potential acquisition before the end of the year and implement new technology systems.

Andy said: “We’re currently still on the hunt for an acquisition and we would like to do something a little bigger to help us compete at a higher level and to help us with our clients who are further North. Giving us an even bigger footing in the region.

“In 2018, we’re looking to increase our presence in the market and we want attract more big customers. I strongly feel that Total Recycling Services is the best in the market at what we do and will continue to make these investments to ensure we are giving that high level of service consistently. ”

Total Recycling Services works in partnership with a number of large manufacturing companies such as Nissan, Hitachi and AkzoNobel offering bespoke service packages.

The company is planning to reach a turnover of £25m by 2022 and last year reported a turnover of 14.5m.

Triple success for Hart Biologicals and Hart Innovations

Hartlepool based Haemostasis specialists, Hart Biologicals is celebrating its shortlist in three categories at this year’s North-East Business Awards.

The medical diagnostics company has made it down to the final three contenders in each of the Heart of the Community, Innovation and Export Awards for the 2018 annual ceremony.

Alby Pattison, Managing Director of Hart Biologicals, said: “We’re over the moon to be nominated at this year’s awards. Last time round we won two out of the four categories we were contending in and we couldn’t help but come back to defend our titles and show just how much we have achieved over the last year.

“I’m confident that the outstanding work both the Hart Biologicals and Hart Innovations teams have been undertaking over the past 12 months can ensure we’re real competition.”

At the 2017 event, Hart Biologicals and sister company Hart Innovations won both the Export Award and Innovation Award, before narrowly missing out on Small Business of the Year and Heart of the Community.

Alby concluded: “To be shortlisted again for this year’s awards is an honour in itself.

We’re already looking forward to welcoming the judges of each of the categories and showcasing to them just what makes both companies stand out.”

The awards are held by Trinity Mirror in association with the North-East England Chamber of Commerce and honour the shining lights of the region’s successful and innovative business world.

The Teesside heat of the North-East Business awards will be held at Teesside University’s Olympia Building on 22 March with the winners of all three regional finals going head to head on 26th April in a grand final held at Sedgefield’s Hardwick Hall.

Forrest Digital plans to increase turnover by 30% following acquisition

Tees Valley based online marketing specialist, Forrest Digital, is increasing its turnover by 30% following the acquisition of a neighbouring digital marketing agency.

The company has acquired the digital marketing arm of We Are Myrias Ltd, securing Forrest Digital around 80% of that company’s client base and also bringing with it the expertise of owner Dan Smith who will join Forrest Digital as a Non-Executive Director.

As a result the company plans to recruit an additional member of staff and a University intern within the coming months.

Iain Forrest, Managing Director of Forrest Digital said: “The acquisition was the natural next step for myself and Dan and also our businesses. We have worked well together on different projects for clients over the last few years and as Dan took his career to the next level, it made sense for Forrest Digital to take over the workload and expand its offering.

“Dan’s client base is incredibly specialist which is what we love and are very good at working on. Clients which have now come on board with Forrest are in a variety of sectors including finance, software development and ecommerce.

“Following the increase in work, we will be recruiting both a graduate and hopefully a university intern in the coming months to help us fully develop these opportunities and grow the company further. We are already very busy and really excited that things are going to get even busier.”

New clients have already been introduced to Iain and the team and Dan will be there throughout to inform and guide the company.

Dan, who is now working closely with the team at co-investment company Growth Capital Ventures Ltd, said: “Having worked and collaborated with Iain for a number of years, there are very few people in our industry that I respect to the same degree. Professional, knowledgeable and extremely customer-focused, when the opportunity came to have We Are Myrias and Forrest Digital work closer together, it was obvious that it needed to happen. It was the natural progression for both companies.”

“We Are Myrias has worked on some fantastic projects for multinational clients and I’m confident Forrest Digital will be able to build on this and continue exceeding the expectations of our loyal client base.”

Iain concluded: “Last year was already a year of steady growth for us and it really is true that as we help our clients to grow, we grow too.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2018 holds and just where it will take Forrest Digital.”

Forrest Digital, based at Fusion Hive in Stockton, specialises in digital marketing for growth-focused companies in a number of industries including manufacturing, ecommerce and software development. The company helps clients develop and launch organic and paid campaigns in search and social media as well as creating content and providing in-house training and support.

Most recently the company helped local company Weschenfelder Ltd to increase its online sales by 25%, building a specialist website and marketing campaign to enter the German market, and has helped a 5* star hotel in Mayfair, London to grow website traffic and direct booking revenue by 40% in just 6 months.

From Apprentice to Apprenticeship Boss

Hartlepool College of Further Education has appointed Gary Riches as Head of Apprenticeships, coming full circle after completing his award winning apprenticeship with the organisation over 18 years ago.

The College, which is ranked number one in the North East for apprenticeships, allowed Gary to start his career as an apprentice electrician in the year 2000, when he was employed by Tees Valley firm Gus Robinson Developments. His high performance for the local construction company were recognised with three consecutive apprentice of the year awards.

After four years, Gary progressed to a fully qualified electrical technician and two years later on to a project manager and electrical estimator before going on to manage the entire electrical department in just 10 years.

Gary said: “Around about that time the workload within my role was pretty tough. We’d been through the height of the recession so it wasn’t a great time for the industry. My wife and I were expecting twins so I knew I needed to revaluate and find something which would allow me to look after them and give me enough time to spend with my new family.

“There was an advertisement about an opportunity to be a lecturer of engineering at the College. I got in touch with a few of the people that taught me all those years ago to see if they thought I’d be a good fit for the job. They agreed, so I applied.

“It was a great feeling to come into the role because many of the people who I was working with taught me. I was welcomed straight away and everyone in the school had been supportive of me and got me through the trials of my first few years.”

As Head of Apprenticeships, Gary’s main task is to oversee the transition from apprenticeship frameworks to the new standards brought in with the introduction of the levy. He also manages all of the work based assessors that undertake progress reviews with apprentices in their workplace.

Gary said: “I also want to take the College towards higher education apprenticeships and in particular I will be looking at working alongside some of the brilliant higher education institutions in the region including Teesside University.

“I’m extremely passionate about apprenticeships because I’ve been there myself. Apprenticeships are an incredibly important option for learners. They allow people to get the crucial skills they need to work in a variety of industries and set learners up for the rest of their careers.

“With the new apprenticeship levy, it’s great that employers are able to take more charge of the apprenticeships they offer and hopefully this will see a much-needed influx of apprenticeships and apprentices, not only in our region but nationally.

“I think potential apprentices can see from my story that by taking the same route you’re not limiting yourself to one career path. There are numerous avenues available to them and many options to progress from their initial apprenticeship.”

Recently, Hartlepool College of Further Education has been rated as ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED for its apprenticeship provision and has also been shortlisted in the Apprenticeship Programme of the Year category at the Times Education Supplement Further Education awards.