Champion of the Week
Meet our Chesterfield Champion of the Week: John Cusworth, Director at GBS Apprenticeships.
My name is John Cusworth, Director at GBS Apprenticeships.
Based in the heart of Chesterfield with offices in the Market Hall, we deliver apprenticeship and commercial training from our Training Academy, working with local businesses to identify their training needs and upskill their workforce.
Alongside trying to boost the local economy, we also offer complimentary recruitment services to help lower unemployment levels in Chesterfield and surrounding areas.
How would you describe Chesterfield and North Derbyshire, using only three words?
Resilient, Collaborative and Innovative
Describe something you have seen, heard about or experienced locally that has made you smile. (If you have a link to share, please do include it, so we can create more smiles locally).
The recent reopening of our Training Academy was a great experience. The Academy officially opened in January 2020 when the first cohorts of learners were welcomed. However, with the onset of Covid-19, we never had chance to formally open the Academy, so as lockdown restrictions started to ease, and premises began to open up again, we were honoured to welcome guest speaker Toby Perkins MP to cut the ribbon, along with a host of local key stakeholders in attendance. Toby being present really made the day special, not only is Toby our local MP but he’s the Shadow Apprenticeship and Lifelong Learning Minister so very apt and relevant to what we do. The day was made extra special as it marked 10 years to the day that GBS was founded by Penny and Steven Guard. It was a shame that we couldn’t celebrate with more friends and associates in attendance.
What have you or your company been doing to support the mental health of your team?
We take mental health very seriously within our business. In addition to having qualified mental health first aiders employed within the business, we have converted one of our classrooms into a health and wellbeing area. It’s essentially a ‘safe space’ for learners and colleagues to take time away from their day to day activities, take some time to reflect and refresh in a calming environment with comfortable furniture and furnishings. It’s a space where individuals can have some quiet time to clear their mind and reduce stress and anxiety levels. Should anybody choose to, one of our mental health first aiders will be more than happy to join and provide a level of comfort and support.
We actually went into a self-imposed lockdown a week or two before the government announcement towards the end of March. Straight away we set up two team Teams calls per week. One was very much about important business updates and the other was more light-hearted conversations, often discussing lockdown tips for staying active and eating healthily, asking how team members were coping and how their families were keeping. As some colleagues work remotely and don’t necessarily visit the office often, we found these calls had a very positive impact on morale and brought the team closer.
Additionally, we have done what I’m sure many businesses did through Covid-19, we set up a Whatsapp group to lighten the mood amongst the team. It’s a group where jokes and memes are shared, but equally importantly, support and praise for one another is prevalent in the messaging.
How are you, your business or your team supporting local people (or what are your plans to do this in the future)?
As a local training provider located in the heart of Chesterfield, it’s our passion to support other local businesses and provide individuals with an opportunity to increase their knowledge, develop new skills and for some secure their first job. In what have undoubtedly been challenging times, particularly for the younger generation and those in the position of receiving GCSE and A-level results this summer, we have a fantastic opportunity to support these individuals into sustainable employment on apprenticeship programmes. We offer wrap around support including helping to write CV’s and preparing for interview.
We plan to continue supporting local people and local businesses with training and upskilling opportunities. Creating job vacancies and providing a new skills base in the current climate is fundamentally integral to kickstarting the rejuvenation of the local economy.
Which business idea or community initiative has impressed you recently and why? (e.g. shown resilience, supported others, played a key role on social media etc.)
The ‘My Future’ virtual careers fair developed by Chesterfield Borough Council, in partnership with Destination Chesterfield and the D2N2 North Derbyshire Careers Hub. One of our main goals is to support school leavers, offering information, advice and guidance for their next steps towards a chosen career. School leavers would have normally had access to numerous careers fayres and careers advice sessions to receive this level of support, but with the impact of Covid-19, this crucial support has been lacking and in some cases young individuals may not have received any careers support for months.
We are proud to be involved with the My Future hub, meaning we can still offer support in the open world. With the hub being accessible on any computer or mobile device this creates an opportunity to reach out to more young people requiring the service.
I think the quality of the design and build should also be noted. In a world which is becoming ever more digital, the quality of the hub is second to none and is one of the best I have seen.
What is the best thing about working or running a business in Chesterfield or North Derbyshire?
Chesterfield is a town with a very diverse business demographic. For GBS this means we have some great opportunities to support a wide-ranging number of businesses, but at the same time we must remain dynamic and flexible to ensure the training we provide is of the highest standard and meets the needs of local employers.
What business or marketing support have you or your team received recently and how has it benefited your business?
With an emphasis on digital, we are producing and receiving much more digital marketing content. Linked to this we are seeing a lot more collaboration and joined up approaches to addressing the current socio-economic challenges as the region looks to rebuild the economy. Having this joined up approach between providers, local authorities, Chambers of Commerce and Chesterfield Champions can only benefit the town and surrounding suburbs.