Author: Jonathan Saunders

Students battle it out with Army training

Students at Hartlepool College of Further Education have undertaken a gruelling training regime created by the British Army.

Level one and Level two students from the College’s School of Service Industries accomplished the challenging training routine developed by the Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in active service in the British Army.

Aneta Bradley, Sport and Public Services Lecturer, said: “As part of the new academic year induction to the public services course we bring the students down to work with the Army to give them an insight into Army training and to help them with team building, team spirit and to help improve their overall fitness levels.

“Over the induction we’ve done a few different things including water sports, team sports, fitness tests, and also taken a look at some of the subjects the students will be going on to study such as government policy and citizenship.

“The students have done really well today. The training can be quite challenging and some of the students are smashing it. All we ask of our students in situations like this is that they keep trying. You don’t have to be the fittest, but we will work with anyone who wants to improve.

Sergeant Wallace, of the Coldstream Guards, said: “We’ve been giving the students an introduction into phase one training and what life would be like in the army teaching them things like communication, team work etc.

“We deliver these lessons through activities such as the gun run, and a series of command tasks and physical activity. It allows students to see where their fitness levels are and what they need to work on in preparation for a future career in the armed forces or uniformed services.

“The students performed really well. Obviously, there is different levels of fitness but the way we operate means everyone gets the same level of involvement. Everyone pushes themselves and get something out of it.”

This activity is just one of the many events students at Hartlepool College of Further Education have the opportunity to take part in every year.

Aneta concluded: “There are a lot of add-ons that our students will benefit from, such as a stewarding qualification for local events including football matches. We train them in the delivery of first aid courses at local schools.

“A lot of our students go on to university. Last year we saw 96 per cent of students progress to higher education and others have progressed into officer entry for the military and emergency services, youth work and probation work.

“Because they have the all-round training from the course they can apply it to any area of work and not just uniformed services.”

For more information on the courses available in the School of Service Industries, or to see the entire provision available at Hartlepool College of Further Education, go to:

Ready, Teddy, Go! With Zoë’s Place

Calling all businesses to get on your bike for Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice and have some fun while peddling for pounds for your local charity.

Whether you are a business with two or two hundred employees and whether you are the MD or the receptionist Zoë’s Place would love you to dust the cobwebs off your bike and take on the challenge of riding for them.

Teams can peddle from branch to branch, office to office, to customers and supplies or just devise your own routes to enjoy the challenge and even finish your ride at Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice.

Launched at The Cleveland Centre, Middlesbrough with the charity’s great supporters Gary Philipson, BBC Tees and local business Doornbos who have already signed up for the challenge and have pledged a team who will cycle from its head office in Rotterdam to its UK site in Billingham.

Mark Guidery from Zoë’s Place said: “We want people to get together to ‘peddle for pounds’ for a worthy cause.

“We have the lovely Gary Philipson from BBC Tees giving his backing to our initiative and we have a dedicated a website, which you can visit to watch our promotional video and learn more about our campaign.

“Ultimately, it’s all about putting a bit of ‘fun’ into fundraising and creating a bit of collective team spirit within local businesses to achieve something really worthwhile and, there’s the bonus that participants will get fitter along the way!.”

Zoë’s Place opened its doors in 2004 to help families with children suffering from life limiting or life-threatening conditions access specialist facilities where their children could receive respite or palliative care.

Each year,it costs Zoë’s Place around £1.5 million to provide free care for infants and their families.

Mark concluded: “The support you give will make a huge difference to our special babies and their families. We appreciate every penny you raise and every mile you travel.”

For more information on how you and your business can get involved, head to:

Alternatively, you can call Zoe’s Place directly on 01642 457985.

A novel idea for BloomInArt

A Hartlepool school has enlisted the help of a local group of artists and well-known literary characters to encourage young people to read.

Eldon Grove Academy has been working with BloomInArt to develop a specialised reading area complete with the children’s chosen literary characters. From Harry Potter and Marvel to the classic Roald Dahl and (add one more classic author) a stained-glass effect created by vinyl will decorate the reading hideaway’s ceiling, whilst areas will be covered in cushions created with designs by students.

Karen Scorr, Art Coordinator from Eldon Grove Academy, said: “One of the things we’ve been looking at as a school is how we encourage reading with the children. There is already a reading shed on both yards, but we wanted something within the school where children could read as part of a group or somewhere they could spend their playtimes/ lunchtimes in a nice quiet place reading.

“We have previously worked with BloomInArt to help with a display for the reception of the school, so I knew that anything they would come up with would be fantastic.

“I contacted Emma and Rachel and asked if there were any chance they could come in and chat about ideas. They then came up with the idea of incorporating the favourite quotes and characters of our students.”

Every pupil from the school was invited to take part with around 30 pieces being chosen to be incorporated into the final design.

Rachel Laycock, Co-director of BloomInArt, said: “The idea was to hand the project over to the children and in a way where everybody had a chance to be involved.

“We framed it as a competition where everybody could send in their images, illustrations and quotes from their favourite book and then we went through the selection process and narrowed it down.

“The level of work from the children involved has been amazing. They have helped to measure things out and chose where all the designs were going to go.

“This is a fantastic challenge for us. It’s perfect to get children to think about how art is created and used to transform an area which has an impact on how we feel and think.

“We have a lot of pride in taking part in such an important project. It’s a legacy for the current pupils for years to come.”

Karen concluded: “I’d like to thank Rachel and Emma at BloomInArt for the time and effort they have put into this project and the incredible affect it will have on children at the school for years to come.”

Unipres increases apprenticeship intake with Hartlepool College of Further Education

Hartlepool College of Further Education has strengthened its relationship with industry partner Unipres, both extending its apprenticeship contract with the Sunderland based automotive parts manufacturer and welcoming a further cohort of 15 apprentices.

Hartlepool College will be welcoming the next group of apprentices in the new academic year, doubling the number of Unipres apprentices currently training with the College.

Maureen Askew, Senior Controller of the Unipres Training Academy, said: “Our relationship with the College initially started in 2017 when the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced, and we went to tender.

“During that initial tendering process, Hartlepool College of Further Education came across as the strongest provider.

“They were incredibly strong against the competition and ultimately the finishing touch was the feedback from the current apprentices which was extremely positive. This is why we’ve engaged again with Hartlepool College.

“Although slightly further away than our more local providers, they’ve taken away the barrier of transport so that is no longer an issue.”

To help apprentices from Sunderland to reach Hartlepool every week, the College has developed a free transport programme. Meaning the issues Unipres contested against with previous providers has been eased.

Gary Riches, Head of Apprenticeships at Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: “The students themselves have been performing brilliantly. We encourage open conversation between our students, the College and Unipres, so we can build that partnership and give as much back as we can.

“I personally believe that the apprentice feedback and the standard of work has been the reason Unipres has decided to continue working with us.

“The communication between all parties is a key factor. We’re always on the end of the phone or a quick drive down the road. We’re transparent as a College and we’re always ready to receive a visit. Everything you see during a visit is what we do day in day out.”

In the last 30 years, Unipres has employed over 300 apprentices with the newest cohort part of a long history of training at the car parts manufacturer. One such former apprentice is John Cruddace, the current Operations Director of the Unipres’ Washington plant.

John said: “I’m a little bit old school when it comes to standards and everything we’ve seen so far has excelled those standards. I was looking for the discipline that was instilled into me when I was an apprentice and that’s key for me. Once you have that you have the willingness to learn so you can go on to anything. The College provides that for me.

“We have a great bunch of apprentices at the moment who are fully buying into what the College is offering and it’s great to see. I’m confident we can continue building upon this partnership.”

Maureen concluded: “From what we’ve seen so far, I would say Hartlepool College of Further Education has the strongest employer engagement strategy, the most flexible proposal, and is definitely value for money.”

Hartlepool College of Further Education is the number one apprenticeship provider in the North of England and works with a variety of employers offering unrivalled apprenticeship delivery. For more information on the College’s apprenticeship model go to

Record-breaking £7m turnover results in first apprenticeship drive

Entec Design Ltd, based in Stockton on Tees, is celebrating three years of rapid development and a turnover of £7 million by welcoming its first ever apprentices to the team.

The Stockton-based full building envelope subcontractor was founded in 2015 and has taken on two apprentices from Hartlepool College of Further Education to support further expansion plans at the company.

Terry O’Brien, Managing Director of the firm, said: “Growth has been a lot faster than we all thought it would be.

“In the short three years we’ve been operating we’ve gone from zero to over £7m turnover and we’re currently planning to build the company to a point where we hope to reach over £10m per annum.

“The problem we’ve had with such a quick growth is we’ve struggled to determine just how many people we need within the business and have been recruiting after the gap appears. We’ve learnt our lesson and are now looking forward to the future, to bed people in early and know exactly what we need ahead of time and that’s where Hartlepool College comes in.

“We decided early on that whenever we were bringing people on board we needed them to be experienced, as we struggled to find the time to train staff effectively. But now that we have the experienced personnel in place we’re hungry to introduce younger blood.”

To fill the apprenticeship positions, Entec approached Hartlepool College of Further Education in order to find the right candidates.

Alan Clayton. Technical Director and a former student of Construction and the Built Environment at Hartlepool College, said: “We initially contacted Teesside University, and they suggested Hartlepool College. Obviously with my past at the College I thought it would be a great fit.”

Gary Riches, Head of Apprenticeships at Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: “Alan had provided a list of things Entec required and myself and John Cartwright, Head of Construction and the Built Environment at the College (CBE) sat down and agreed we could provide that.

“We invited Alan down to the College because, as an ex-student, I believed he might find it interesting to see just how much the College has changed since his time with us. I believe Alan liked what he saw, liked what he had on offer at the School of CBE and the relationship was built from there.”

The new apprentices are the first in a long line of apprenticeships for Entec Design Ltd as the construction subcontractor has already enquired about a further apprentice from the Hartlepool based training provider.

Hartlepool College of Further Education provides training for a number of prominent companies across the region, including Seymour Civil Engineering, Esh, Jacobs, Taylor Wimpey, Galliford Try and Gus Robinson.
For more information on apprenticeships at Hartlepool College visit

Independent Retailer Month: What role can PR play for small businesses?

In July, the Publicity Seekers team took part in Independent Retailer Month. A campaign that runs annually to highlight the important role smaller, local, independent retailers play in the communities they serve.  

We went to speak with business owners about the issues they face and put together a short video highlighting the problems they deal with in the face of high street chains and the dreaded internet.  

You can view the video here:


Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with the story of Bill, Michelle, Sara and Anthony, you get a bit of an understanding of what’s happening to independent retailers across the country and you can appreciate the important role publicity can play in helping them beat the competition.  

Now, more than ever, it’s important for independent retailers to get their names out there.  

Gone are the days of a corner shop and local café being the centre of a community where you’re greeted with a smile and hello on a first name basis with the owner. Even the good ol’ fashioned pub is losing the battle to Wetherspoons and other national chains.  

Now we see huge multinational retailers and chains taking over our highstreets and local communities. Pushing the independent out of the market who can’t compete with prices etc. However, so too is that personable, friendly experience gone.  

So, what can Independent retailers do to combat the ever-encroaching competition? PR techniques can mean the difference between a failing business and a thriving business. There are examples of business owners utilising things like social media and content to keep their heads above the publicity waterline all over the place.   

Below are our top PR tips for small businesses: 

  • Social Media 

Social Media is an invaluable tool that small business owners can use to reach their customers and extend their brand message. By opening up dialogue with their followers, retweets and offering personal communication to customers, a small business can position themselves as a friend rather than a service. Avoid the oversell and keep it fun.  

  • Small/ No Budget 

One of the main issues small business owners need to contend with is little to no budget to afford marketing and advertising. However, most people in the UK now have a smart phone, meaning business owners have everything they need for a campaign. By photographing and videoing day to day experiences it can give customers an insight into your business. With the introduction of novel ideas, a brand can utilise the first two steps to achieve ‘local fame.’  

  • Be the Expert  

This is a step we use regularly at Publicity Seekers. By keeping your finger on the pulse of what is happening within your given industry you can jump on any development and offer your insights into the industry. Positioning yourself as the de facto ‘expert’ on the topic. A great way to raise your profile and come across as a bit of a clever clogs in the process too.   

  • Know Yourself  

Knowing yourself and knowing your brand is vital. What do you and your brand stand for? Staying true to what you believe in when communicating with customers increases the trust level. If you believe in the importance of supporting the community through your business that shows. Authenticity for a business means trust from your customers.  

  • Utilise Google! 

Possibly the biggest search engine in the world. Google is the go to tool for over 82% of the overall search engine users so establishing yourself in the rankings of this giant is incredibly important. Over 76% of people who search for a local product will visit a business within 24 hours according to Google. Make sure you’re in those results. Otherwise your competitor will be.   

If you’re a small business owner and you’re interested in how we can help you and your business rise above the competition, you can call 0845 226 9126 or drop us an email: 

Hart Biologicals

Hart Biologicals is a Hartlepool based medical equipment manufacturer that specialises in the development and manufacture of diagnostic machinery used in the investigation of blood clotting disorders in the community, hospital laboratories and war zones. The company also undertakes contract manufacture for a number of other organisations around the world.

Hart Biologicals exports to over 46 countries and works with prominent companies world-wide. Primarily TEM Gmbh in Germany, Chrono-Log in the USA and Instrumentation Laboratory S.p.A. – Werfen in Italy.

Started in 2002. Managing Director Alby Pattison worked with the Thrombosis Reference Centre (now known as the Haematology Research Unit) at Manchester University Foundation Trust to acquire the rights to the Manchester Capillary Agent, a combined thromboplastin reagent for use in the ‘in-vitro control of patient anticoagulant therapy’.

This was Hart Biologicals’ first ever product that they still make and sell to this day and is the basis for a number of innovative projects the company has undertaken over the years.

Since its formation, Hart Bioloigcals has been awarded the Export Company of the Year at the Bionow Biomedical Awards in 2014. Export Award at the Hartlepool Business Awards 2014 and Export and Innovation awards at the North East Business Awards 2015, Small Business of the Year, Export Business of the Year and Innovation Business of the Year at the North East Business Awards in 2017, Manufacturer of the Year and Exporter of the Year 2017

In 2016, Alby was named Business Leader of the Year at the Hartlepool Business Awards, was recently awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour and appointed a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for County Durham. He is also a Governor at a number of schools in the North East and is Treasurer and well-liked Lifetime Member of his local rugby club.

Alby said: “I am absolutely honoured by all of this, Buckingham Palace was an amazing experience and to get these two accolades is just incredible.”

“It’s a great honour to be asked to represent the Queen and stand in for the Lord Lieutenant. It’s a relatively small band of people who have a very honourable role.”

The company places a huge importance on its staff and aims to support its team members through development programs aiming to improve staff skills and encourages the progress of young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related fields through the use of STEM Ambassadors which attend career events and school presentations on behalf of the company.

Richard Chapman, R&D Scientist and STEM Ambassador, said: ““When I’m at one of these events I try to stay away from hosting typical lectures or seminars. Sitting and listening to someone read a text book at you is boring so I like to get the students doing different activities and making those connections for themselves as I believe that’s the bit that inspires them.

“I went into, my old secondary school recently, and it was good for the pupils to see someone like me. Sometimes young people think ‘how is science ever going to be relevant for me?’ and then I walk in as a scientist who once sat where they were.

“I can say to them ‘I’m from here, I grew up where you grew up and now I’m a scientist’ and it’s great for them to see that.”

For more information about Hart Biologicals, go to Hart Biologicals’ website here.

Students level up for local charity

STUDENTS at Hartlepool College of Further Education raised a record-breaking £1100 for local charity Changing Futures North East after hosting its latest gaming extravaganza.

GameCon, now in its fourth year, has raised over £3000 since its first event and is ran and organised primarily by the students at the college. The event is open to the public and offers gamers of all ages the opportunity to play both modern and retro games consoles across three days along with gaming challenges, virtual reality and a live Twitch feed.

Mark Lee, Head of Student Recruitment and Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance at Hartlepool College of Further Education who oversees GameCon, said: “This year at GameCon was genuinely next level. We raised over a £1K for Changing Futures and had the biggest turnout ever. To think we had 1200 people through the doors over three days, is amazing.

“I’d like to say a big thanks to everybody who attended and also all the current and former students who tirelessly work to plan and execute the event.

“The great thing is that people are already excited for next year and we’re looking at what we can offer to make it even bigger and better. The students really can’t wait to get stuck in.”

The money each year goes to Changing Futures North East, a family mediation charity based in Hartlepool that specialises in the support and mentoring of families and young people across Hartlepool.

James Grayson, Business Support Worker at Changing Futures North East, said: “This was the fourth GameCon in aid of Changing Futures North East. It’s amazing that we were able to raise so much this year. The money raised goes towards helping families and young people particularly who need a bit of extra help with issues they may have in their lives.

“The money will also go towards practical running costs for the many support groups we host. Things such as transport and resources which are so necessary but not always what people donate money for.

“With regards to what GameCon does for the charity apart from the money donations, it really gives us a massive boost in terms of promotion and public awareness of what we do, who we are and what we offer to the community.

“We’re a small charity and even though Hartlepool is a small town it can be quite difficult to get our name out there so GameCon helps us spread our message far and wide and it’s been great to see so many familiar faces and lots of new faces supporting the event. We really can’t wait for next year.”

Mark, concluded: “The best thing about GameCon is the funds we’ve raised for Changing Futures over the years. A fantastic effort by all involved and something that we can’t wait to emulate next year. Thank you to everyone that attended GameCon this year. “

Can PR be Brutally Honest?

Yes, it f*cking can.

For me, honesty is the most important tool in a PR professional’s arsenal. To tell honest and accurate stories and to truthfully communicate with a client, not only helps to build relationships with those who dictate your budget but also with your audience.

At Publicity Seekers, we strive to distance ourselves from the bullsh*t image of the conventional Public Relations agency. Who can normally be seen storming around in power suits all day making ‘important’ phonecalls or having innovative ‘pow-wows’ using too many of our bullsh*t buster words to count.

For some, that may be the ideal of what Public Relations means to them but for us we believe in a little more humanity. (Mainly because we can’t be arsed to wear a power suit.)

When I state to people I work in PR, I sometimes get asked if I’m good at spinning things. ‘Spin’ is so well ingrained into what people think PR is, that it seems revolutionary to them for an agency to simply tell the truth. They’re usually pretty surprised when I firstly order a pint and then secondly tell them it’s all about shouting through all the crap and in our case, telling the truth about the good things our clients do.

Last year, I attended a series of seminars and panels held by PR Moment in London. Amongst the speakers on the day were Féilim Mac An Iomaire, then from online betting platform Paddy Power and Lord Chadlington Peter Gummer, PR advisor and founder of Shandwick International.

Both chaps have since, for me, had a large impact on the philosophy behind Publicity Seekers’ #BrutallyHonestPR campaign and my idea of honesty within Public Relations.

Felim, was at the time, Head of PR at Paddy Power. He gave a presentation on how Paddy Power use tongue in cheek humour in promoting their offers. When you look at the Paddy Power brand they are not afraid to push and sometimes cross the line of what they can get away with to accomplish this.

This is something that is the undercurrent of the entire #BrutallyHonestPR campaign but instead of pushing the line with controversial PR stunts we want to push the line with the controversial but simple truth. Yes, it’s that crazy.

Following this, Lord Chadlington stated that in the not too distant future he believes the only agencies that will have the muscle to survive in such a competitive industry will be the small ‘aggressive’ digital agencies who are willing to evolve and do things a little differently to their traditional counterparts and differentiate their offerings.

This again is an idea which has come into maturity over my time at Publicity Seekers.

We offer a wide range of ‘traditional’ PR options that you’d more typically associate with us but now we’re introducing podcasts, influencer work, digital platforms and so much more to get our clients in front of our target audiences.

Have a chat with us about PR, I bet it’ll surprise you just how #BrutallyHonest we are.

Total Recycling Services

Total Recycling Services, based in Darlington, is one of the UK’s leading providers of waste management services. Specialising in commercial recycling, hazardous waste recovery and industrial cleaning services.

The company was formed in 2009 by Managing Director Alex Foreman and has since invested over £5.5m into developing its state of the art main base of operations at Darlington’s Lingfield Way Industrial Estate.

Total runs as an industry leader in the disposal of hazardous waste and as such it’s operations stretch across the entirety of the UK as they service well-known companies including Hitachi, Royal Mail, Akzo Nobel and JCB.

The company has seen recent success with the introduction of its brand new industrial cleaning services division which has seen rapid growth from an initial team of three personnel to five teams of three servicing manufacturing and chemical plants across the country.

Since this success, Total has seen fit to invest over £500k into bespoke machinery to support the industrial services division and to meet the demand forecasted for the coming year.

Andy Dobson, Operations Director at Total Recycling Services, said: “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.

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


Recently the company has been awarded its first ever accolade by collecting the services award at the Teesside heat of the North East Business Awards in 2018.

In response to this Alex said: “I was 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.”

Total Recycling Services currently employs over 97 members of staff and encourages them to undertake work-based training to take the next step on their career ladder.

One such member of staff is Andrew Challis, Hazardous and Transfer Station Supervisor. Andrew initially started as an unskilled worker in the company’s industrial services division in 2013, before moving through to drum decontamination in 2014. He is now overseeing three members of staff as part of his role.

Andrew said: “The company has paid for all of my training because a lot of the qualifications I have are mandatory for me to hold in my role. They have also funded my supervisor and team leader qualifications to help me reach the standard expected within Total.

“Most of the work I’ve had to do has been in work time too. Total has always been happy to let me attend classes and exams during that time.

To learn more about Total Recycling Services, you can click through to its website here.