My name is Julie Richards and I am the Principal of The Chesterfield College Group. It is fantastic to be able to work and live in the town where I grew up. I was born in Scarsdale Hospital, which was just a stones throw away from my office at the college. I live with my husband in the town. My two daughters and grandchildren keep us very busy outside of work.
My family run and own a farm in the area so my interest in making the most of the local resources and the skills we have on our doorstep is two-fold.
What do you like best about living in Chesterfield and why?
The people of Chesterfield and Derbyshire are very welcoming and friendly making the town a positive community in which to live and work. Chesterfield is in a great location, providing us with so many opportunities for work and leisure activities in our own town and further afield. Having the Peak District on our doorstep and being so close to fantastic cities is a real benefit and a wonderful opportunity.
What are your favourite ways to spend your free time in Derbyshire?
We are so lucky to have the Peak District on our doorstep. Whenever I can, I like to enjoy the beautiful countryside. Walks with family and visiting some of our local beauty spots are all top of my favourite things to do.
Where is your favourite place to eat out locally and why?
There are so many lovely places to eat out in and around Chesterfield so this is a hard decision. At the moment though, I would say that The Lilypad on Soresby Street is one of my favourites. It is a fun and friendly place and the menu offers some exciting twists on classics we all know and love.
What are the positives about running a business here?
Businesses tell me they value the access they have to such diverse further education provision on their doorstep. They say it can really make the difference to productivity, staff retention and competitiveness. The Chesterfield College Group works with local employers to design training solutions to meet their demands bringing a local solution to a local demand for skills. Whether you are a start-up business or one that has been established for years, the appropriate skills can help to take businesses to the next level. It is a great honour to work with businesses to help them achieve their goals. With many changes ahead for further education and apprenticeship funding, businesses may find it challenging to negotiate the skills and training landscape but help is at hand. Local organisations are already turning to the Chesterfield College Group to support them through the changes as their partner for learning, skills and workforce development.
How do you see the future for Chesterfield and its small businesses?
I see Chesterfield as a small town with big possibilities ahead of us. Inward investment and development provides huge opportunities for growth. Big developments including Waterside, Peak Resort and Elder Way are just around the corner and promise new opportunities for employment and local supply chain businesses. Further ahead, but still on the radar is the development of HS2. The Chesterfield College Group is working hard to make sure we can help businesses make the most of the opportunities ahead by working with them to equip their workforce with the skills they need now and in the future. The individuality of our SMEs is also a real bonus for our area and we need to embrace all that they bring to our economy.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you do to improve Chesterfield?
I would secure at least one apprentice in every business. I firmly believe that apprenticeships give businesses and individuals so many benefits which help to improve the local economy and the prosperity of a town. Providing opportunities for young people to grow and develop has hugely positive social implications whilst maintaining and developing our young people in the town to boost our local economy.
What three words best sum up Chesterfield?
Ambitious, friendly and evolving.