Chesterfield Champions Round Table – Made in Chesterfield
Across Chesterfield, projects are moving forward to strengthen our future talent pipeline in the key sectors of manufacturing, engineering, and construction.
Exciting initiatives on the horizon include a pioneering Construction Skills Hub in Staveley which will train 5,000 people across a number of trades. In addition, The Derbyshire Rail Industry Innovation Vehicle (DRIIVe) will include state-of-the-art training facilities for the rail sector.
Since 2014, the innovative Made in Chesterfield project has enabled more than 3,500 school pupils to visit manufacturing, engineering, and property businesses in the town. This scheme continues to inspire the next generation of highly skilled individuals.
But how do organisations in the town continue to adapt, change perceptions, and inspire our next generation?
The latest Chesterfield Champions Round Table, hosted by Destination Chesterfield in association with the Derbyshire Times, asked a panel of business leaders how they are working to secure the long-term growth of their organisations through recruitment, skills, and sustainability initiatives.
CM – Craig Morrison, Operations Director, Pinelog
RR – Rhys Robinson, Head of Engineering, Digital and Services to Business, Chesterfield College
DB – David Beckford, Managing Director, Pronto Paints
AD – Adam Doyle, Head of Business Engagement, University of Derby
MB – Matthew Bulcroft, Marketing Director, Global Brands
DS – Dom Stevens, Manager, Destination Chesterfield (Meeting Chair)
LR – Lucy Robinson, Director of Resources, East Midlands Chamber
RD – Rob Deverson, Senior Business Development Manager, Custom Solar
CW – Chris Dwan, Land and Planning Director, Woodall Homes
How are businesses in Chesterfield continuing to innovate and sell products to the world?
CM – Since moving production to a much larger site in Chesterfield in 2023, we’ve invested a lot into machinery, processes, and staff. As a result, next year, we will be launching several exciting products.
CD – Within house building, there are a lot of requirements now under building regulations, so everyone’s having to raise their game in terms of quality and energy efficiency.
MB – We’ve got an in-house innovation team. They are tasked with generating ideas for new products and that can be product extensions, or new brands. Our customers are generally younger. Their demands on what they expect from a brand is much higher.
LR – We have received anecdotal feedback from different members in North Derbyshire who are looking to exploit new overseas markets, whether that’s America, Canada, or Mexico. Seeking global partners is helping them diversify their products and services.
DB – I don’t know if I’ll invent the phrase, but ‘scope shifting’ is something I’m starting to see. We’re getting asked to make things that other people no longer want to make. We’re quite innovative as a factory, with modern equipment and modern machinery. If I can make a product with a lower carbon footprint, I’m in a better place.
AD – There’s a whole range of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) which we’re hosting in the Chesterfield St. Helena Campus. We’ve specifically chosen Chesterfield because it does feel like a town on the up.
MB – We’re now in 67 countries and growing and that’s just about finding the right partner in the right market, who generally has the same culture as we do and operates in a similar manner.
RR- We’re using AI (artificial intelligence) now to support with the curriculum design. So, we can now encourage students and apprentices to start practising on things, such as gas and heating, without exposing them to real life dangers.
MB – We previously became too contingent on process and not managing the end result. I’ve told my team that we shouldn’t let process get in the way of progress.
LR – We’re seeing a lot of businesses looking at different areas around innovation and growth. We’re speaking to many firms about maximising their e-commerce.
RR – We’ve also invested in a digital innovation manager, who is networking across the region to ensure that we can establish some key partnerships.
How important is securing the future pipeline of talented individuals to help grow our economy?
DS – Destination Chesterfield has worked over the past eight years with manufacturing and property businesses on the Made in Chesterfield campaign. Around 3,500 young people have now visited manufacturing and construction firms during the month of November.
AD – One of the key things we must look at within Chesterfield and Derbyshire, is the ability to retain the right talent within the area to be able to undertake the next jobs of the future. The scale up Institute in June gave some rather chilling evidence that two-thirds of graduates in the East Midlands are gone as soon as they finish their course.
RD – We recruit a lot of graduate engineers and we’ve got about 10 or so in our design office now who are becoming experts in the field. Custom Solar is committed developing the internal expertise.
RR – The key thing from us as an educational establishment is collaboration. We’ve looked at how we plan our curriculum, working with a number of key employers to make sure that what we’re delivering is fit for purpose.
LR – We are trying to highlight some of the amazing businesses in the area through the Chamber’s Generation Next initiative. We want to get all businesses involved in showcasing what they’ve got, to retain that great talent within the region and to showcase the types of jobs that are going to attract that talent.
MB – We find it hard from a marketing perspective to get people to join us because we’re not in a big city. Generally, people with high aspirations for marketing go to Manchester, potentially Leeds and more than often to London. We very much believe that our team should represent the people that we sell to.
CD – There’s a big strategic role here for the local authority as well, because we’ve got the benefit of the location. But we’ve also got to be in a position where we’re encouraging the growth which then stimulates investment.
AD – For us, it’s about understanding the nature of the market, as well as seeing some of the areas where we can showcase and share best practices. It really does feel that Chesterfield is the place to be at the moment. I feel positive from the conversations I’ve had across the business community.
DB – The entry level jobs are the ones we’re finding increasingly difficult to recruit for. Everyone now wants to be the boss on day one. It’s hard to find people who want to do them unless you can show there’s going to be progression. People want more meaningful work these days, and we’re finding we’re going to have to adapt the hours.
MB – Hospitality careers are something that the government are keen to push. We’re desperate to show people that there are long-term careers to be had out of hospitality. I started in retail, and I’m not highly educated. I’m currently sat as a board member at a £90 million-plus business. How can we demonstrate that to others?
DS – There is also a new skills plan for the borough which has recently been launched, led by the Borough Council. A new skills and employability board is involving the private sector, and we’re working to drive a broader message around talent development and retention.
RR – I started 20 years ago as a Level 2 Apprentice. I think there are far fewer level 2 apprenticeship programmes now for people to progress onto. We’ve had a real recovery after Covid with our apprenticeship provision, but we had to stop delivering a lot of what we were doing because there were just so few numbers on certain programmes.
CM – Recruitment has been our biggest challenge over the last 12 months. We’ve had to rework our wage structure completely to offer people that little bit more, and more incentives to stay with the company. Thankfully, we seem to be settling down now.
DS- Alongside Chesterfield Borough Council, we worked with the property sector to pilot a scheme last year called Careers Made in Chesterfield. We hosted workshops with local schools, and there were young people saying ‘I want to be an architect, I want to design skyscrapers, I need to move to London etc.’ But in Sheepbridge, we have got one of the top 50 architects in the UK that designs award-winning schemes. So, we’ve worked with the property and construction sector to showcase the broad range of jobs and opportunities in the sector.
How can Chesterfield capitalise on the growth of the green economy, tapping into a demand for sustainable products?
DB – One of the biggest things I see is where we’re located in the country. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to buy product In Aberdeen if you’re in Cornwall when you consider the green economy. We’ve got this massive geographical advantage being in the middle of the UK next to the M1. We should get everyone to unite behind that.
CM – As a manufacturer of timber buildings, we incorporate a number of measures to ensure lodges are sustainable and more environmentally friendly. Sustainable technology is moving forward at a fast pace which means we’re constantly innovating when it comes to lodge designs. New Building Regulations regarding timber products were also recently announced, so we’re in the process of adapting our products to ensure they meet those regulations when they come into force in 12 months’ time.
RD – We’re all challenged whether we’re domestic, commercial, or industrial with the 2050 net zero target. Obviously, there’s huge infrastructure stuff going on in the background. Solar PV and battery storage is probably the most straightforward and easiest to deploy asset in that journey.
AD – The University of Derby is going to be supporting businesses with regards to a lot of this. It is a major area of development. It is about showing enterprising ways in which businesses can be meeting their UN sustainability goal ambitions.
CD – We are trialling the new ‘Wondrwall’ system at one of our developments off Newbold Road. We became aware of it via a local networking event within Chesterfield and it went from there, so it shows you how connections within the local area and word of mouth can lead to opportunity.
RR – At the College, we have sustainability days. It’s all about making our students and apprentices aware of the initiatives, and how they can embed innovation as part of their curriculum package. Some of our apprentices have been making bird boxes and beehives, so that they’re actually utilising their skills, and giving back to the community as well.
LR – We carried out a study around green growth trends, and we have seen that there’s a slight slowdown of businesses adopting green growth strategies. However, it is only a slight dip, and the trend has been on the upward trajectory for the last eight years. It does highlight the importance of having firm policy and long-term planning.
RD – Heat pumps are being talked about enormously. But interestingly, I had a meeting with a company that has created a product which I was absolutely fascinated by… It was basically electric wallpaper. That might sound strange, but it substitutes the need for wet systems. It literally just glues to a wall and is easily deployable. It’s a retrofit solution, it links with solar PV and it’s clearly going to deal with a lot of the issues people have in with energy poverty.
MB – We’ve recently changed our plastic bottles from 100% virgin plastic to 93% recycled plastic. We are continually looking at how we pack our products and reducing the amount of pallet wrap that we use on an active basis.
DB – I’m noticing a trend now, where for years and years and years we would create a product that we think the market wants. Increasingly, the market is coming to me, and the green economy is absolutely driving everything for me now.
Destination Chesterfield is part funded by contributions from local businesses, Chesterfield Borough Council and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
The project is helping to improve the economic prosperity of the town through a campaign to promote Chesterfield.
The local business community plays a central role in its success by both leading an independent board of Directors for Destination Chesterfield, as well as businesses pledging their support to become Chesterfield Champions.
The Destination Chesterfield Partnership has received £180,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. It follows a successful funding bid by Chesterfield Borough Council, to secure £2.69 million worth of funding for local projects.
For more information about becoming a Chesterfield Champion, visit: http://www.chesterfield.co.uk/destination-chesterfield/champions/sign-up/