Digital Drive County Durham workshops

The £4 million programme designed to help small businesses in County Durham to thrive in a digital world by gaining a competitive edge and maximising their growth has set a host of workshops from now until January.

The workshop subjects all focus on making better use of digital technology and subjects include:

Websites at Hypespeed

One day digital breakthrough: website design

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Customer service in a digital age

Amazon optimisation

The Big Social Media Show

Build your own website

Generating leads with LinkedIn

DIY video marketing

Google Analytics

Getting Started with Google Ads

Tackling Twitter

10 free things you should be doing on your social media channels

Your 2019 digital marketing strategy

Download the details here or visit the website.

Digital Drive County Durham, the first of its kind in the county, also helps companies become more resilient and improve their productivity by providing funding and practical support.

Managing sickness at work

sleepingHow to manage the employee who keeps calling in sick, and the one that won’t go home!

An employee keeps calling in sick. Not again! From being too hungover to work, to calling in “dead” only to return the following week as though nothing had happened, employee absences can be a pain for employers. Especially if a particular employee is a repeat offender and keeps calling in sick.

This can be costly and burdensome for small businesses (which are likely to be impacted more than a larger organisation). And it can also create conflict amongst your workforce – when people are actually sick and do need time off to recover.

The opposite to employee absenteeism has been coined “presenteeism”. This is where employees feel the need to be present at work for longer than required. We believe that this can end up being just as unproductive as absence itself.

So how do employers strike the right balance when it comes to managing their workforce?

Read The HR Department’s top tips on how to manage both an employee who keeps calling in sick and the employee who won’t go home

Pre-empt with a policy. Having an absence policy means that you can be fair to your business and your employees. Following a set procedure in all circumstances of employee absence sets expectations. It also creates a fair working culture for your team.

It is important to know how many days absence are taken across the company, so that excessive days off are easily spotted and dealt with.

Oversee and observe. If you are present and integrated with your team, you should start to pick up on atmosphere and energy levels. This is a good way to predict, and even counter, employee absence.

An employee with a carefree attitude and a fully-booked social calendar, which they tell everyone in the office about, could be planning to pull a sickie. If you suspect this, make sure everyone in the team is aware of your sickness policy and has access to it.

On the other hand, an employee who is frequently working late could be one more late night away from exhaustion and calling in sick. They may benefit from a helping hand – perhaps organise some time for management training.

Spot a trend before it catches on. It’s not unusual for employees to phone in to work sick to extend their weekend. And if they have done it once and succeeded, there is nothing to stop them from trying it again. You’ll want to be recording all employee absences in an HR management tool so that you can easily identify patterns emerging.

Similarly, you can track who is and isn’t taking their holiday. Managing holiday is an important business process and is essential in preventing employee burnout.

Talk it out. Start as you mean to go on. We suggest arranging a back-to-work interview with any employee who has been absent from work due to sickness. This will let your employees know that you are keeping track of absences.

And for those that had a legitimate reason for being off? It will allow you to demonstrate you care. Your employee also gets the chance to speak confidentially about their absence and discuss any necessary support.

Separately, regular 1-2-1 meetings with your employees are a good chance to discuss all aspects of their workload and find solutions if there is a problem.

Make it formal. If you have tried all of the above, and your employee is still taking too many “duvet days”, it is time to start formal meetings to improve their attendance. It’s really not fair on the business or other staff – particularly the poor employee who you’ve been helping to cut down their long hours, who’ll be the first one to end up with extra work covering the absence.

For further advice on how to manage frequent employee absences, or to have an impartial third party to help with interviews, contact your local HR Dept professional today.

Drum networking with a difference!


The next Drum Business Park Group meeting will take place on Thursday 20 September. As part of the session, we’ll be holding a litter pick led by Durham-based not-for-profit company Climate Action North East.

Climate Action offer practical support and advice for businesses and communities. This includes activities from working with businesses to help them reduce their impact on the environment while minimising their risks to the changing climate, to organising litter picking sessions like this.

Come along and find out more, network with a difference and help improve the environment on your business doorstep! We’ll also be taking lots of photos and will write up an article about the event. This is a great opportunity for us to tackle an issue that is raised at every meeting we hold. Please support us!

Coveris have kindly offered to provide a room for us to start our session and breakfast will be provided from 8.30am.  After breakfast and a quick catch up, Climate Action will lead us in the litter pick.  Equipment will be provided – wear comfortable clothing!

Register here!


‘Plastic roads’ trialled in County Durham

plastic road

Durham County Council is the first local authority in the North East to try out a new technology as part of recently completed work to resurface a section of the A689 with hot rolled asphalt.

John Reed, our head of technical services, said: “We have a continuous programme of resurfacing to maintain the condition of our road network. We’re always interested in any innovative technology that improves our roads and makes them more environmentally friendly. In this trial, we incorporated waste plastics into the asphalt instead of traditional bitumen.

“This will help divert plastics that are difficult to recycle from incineration and landfill and reduce our carbon emissions. We are confident that this new technology will perform at least as well as the conventional method.”

Traditionally the surface of the county’s roads is made up of stone aggregates with a bitumen binder to hold the asphalt together.

The surfacing contractor, Rainton Construction, sources the plastic from a Scottish company, MacRebur Limited, who has developed a process of turning waste packaging and insulation that wouldn’t normally be recycled into a plastic crumb which can be mixed into the asphalt.

This reduces the amount of new bitumen that is required and reduces the carbon footprint of road resurfacing by, on average, a tonne of carbon dioxide for every tonne of bitumen that would have been used.

In this scheme, 6.5 tonnes of plastic was used; the equivalent of 60,000 plastic shopping bags.

David Wykes, MacRebur’s business development manager, said: “We have supplied our products to a number of local authorities in the UK and internationally but this resurfacing scheme in County Durham is the largest we have been involved with in England.

“The key thing about the polymers that we use is that they are difficult to recycle back in to their original forms, due to contamination with other plastics. However, our products are able to use mixtures of these polymers, which can then be added to asphalts, helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reduce the demands on fossil fuel bitumen and the amount of plastic that would usually be disposed of.”

Resurfacing of the A689 near Sedgefield took place between the Butterwick junction and the county boundary.

Opportunity to support metro futures project


Nexus is currently seeking to procure three contracts worth around £500m as part of the Nexus’ Fleet Replacement Programme on the Tyne and Wear Metro.

The contract opportunities are in construction, manufacture and maintenance.

Nexus are holding an event on Monday 8 October to give businesses the opportunity to meet the bidders and find out more about the opportunities available.

If you’re interested in attending this event, register your interest.

Food and drink exports soar in value


Latest HMRC figures show that exports of North East food and drink increased to £250m in the year to March 2018, an increase of 5.5 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.

The most popular products from the region overseas were coffee, tea, cocoa and spices (£80m) and cereals (£33m).

The products that showed the most significant growth in exports over the 12-month period were dairy (up 40 per cent to £19m) and fruit and vegetables (up 21 per cent to £13m).

David Coppock, head of North East region at DIT, said: “Many North East food and drink firms, from cheesemongers to brewers, are finding great success overseas. Exporting can be highly lucrative, helping to boost a company’s resilience, weather seasonal fluctuations and increase profitability – but it can have its challenges.

“DIT offers a range of support to help firms to take their first step selling abroad, from help to attend trade missions, to one-to-one guidance from export trade advisers. Many, like Oatein, are already finding success overseas.”

The statistics also show that more firms in the region are targeting China, with 61 per cent more food and drink exported to the country during the period, when compared to the previous 12 months.

Six steps to prepare for an intern

intern 2
If you’ve never had an intern before, you could be forgiven for thinking you hire one to pass on your wealth of business knowledge, so your legacy lives on after you retire. That, and to have some extra hands on deck to order your lunch when the going gets tough.

Here, The HR Dept, Durham, provides six steps to get prepared.

To clarify, an intern is usually a student or graduate seeking relevant experience on a fixed-term programme run by an organisation.

The truth is, hiring an intern can be a valuable learning experience for both you and them. Robert De Niro’s character in the hilarious film, The Intern, reminds us that interns don’t always fit the stereotype. They can even teach their boss a thing or two about life.

So, to ensure that both you and your intern get the most from this new experience, it is advisable to have a plan in place. After all, your intern should be treated just like any other employee.

How can employers prepare for hiring an intern? From recruitment to training, reviews, pay and social gatherings, there is plenty to prepare for when welcoming an intern into your team. Read on for our top tips on things to consider when preparing for your first intern.

Step one – Recruitment: Does your intern ad promote equal opportunities? To welcome a diverse range of applicants, a tip would be to make sure your ad doesn’t discriminate with strict entry requirements. For example, could you forgo the grades if a candidate can show a genuine passion and interest in your industry?

When it comes to the interview process, it’s a good idea to offer all likely candidates the experience of attending a real interview. But perhaps communicate some tips on what to wear or what not to share!

Step two – Contract: You’ll want to cover both your intern and yourself by drafting an appropriate contract of employment for the length of term of the internship. We also advise that you pay your intern at least the national minimum wage to avoid exploitation.

Step three – Training and development: Due to a certain level of inexperience, interns can be vulnerable. And sadly, at times, targets for harassment. So to make your intern feel safe and welcome from the start, be sure to clarify all lines of communication and reporting if harassment should occur.

As you would with any other new employee, give your intern adequate training on workplace health and safety as well as systems or processes that they might be using from day to day.

Step four – Tasks: Don’t be afraid to challenge your intern – and on more than getting your complex coffee colour correct. They are with you to learn and gain valuable experience. If the stars are aligned, who knows you might even be inviting them back for a permanent position in the future.

Step five – Reviews: Let’s face it, there is a chance that it could be a nightmarish induction with your recruit. Real-life intern horror stories include fabricating quotes for press articles, bulk-emailing a personal email to the entire company and even getting locked in the stockroom! If it’s not a smooth start, give them a chance to recover through feedback and guidance. But make it fair and clear how many review steps can be taken before you part ways.

Similarly, if your new intern is off to a flying start, you can be proactive in celebrating their successes to keep them on a winning track.

Step six – Company culture: Friday afternoon beers or work summer socials might not be appropriate for your intern. You could consider adding a fun team-building event to the calendar so that they can feel involved.

If you work in a shared office space, why not catch up with other SMEs to see if there are other interns in the building? A collective effort could lighten the cost or organisation of setting up an appropriate social gathering for the interns.

Identifying and protecting IP to maximise value in your business

The creation and protection of intellectual property (IP) is critical to growing a successful business and maintaining a competitive advantage.

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project has invited IP lawyer and trade mark attorney from Keystone Law, Will Sander, to provide his expert view on how to help you identify, protect and commoditise your IP.

During his career, he has helped a wide range of entrepreneurial individuals and organisations maximise value in their creative endeavours. This is a must for anyone who wishes to do likewise!

Attendees are required to be an SME manufacturer within the NE LEP area.

It will take place on 20 September 2018 from 8.30am to 10.30am at the Industry Centre in Sunderland.

To register, email Sam Project.

All my employees are leaving! How to spot it and stop it

resign 2
It starts with one, then two, three, maybe even four or more. Your employees are jumping ship and you’re questioning everything from pay brackets to office décor. Was it something you said?

Alison Schreiber, Director at The HR Dept, Durham, looks at how to tackle the issue.

Although a wave of leavers can be a common occurrence, we are social beings after all, it can also be a challenging time for any employer and their remaining employees.

From skills shortages, huge handovers, password changes and exit interviews. To recruiting and training new staff. Not to mention the whip round for leaving gifts and emotional goodbyes. It can be a costly occurrence and a whirlwind for all involved.

So, what can employers do to spot the signs and prevent a potential wave of leavers?

Revisit recruitment: Let’s start at the beginning. The first step in building your dream team starts with recruitment. Do you have enough steps in your current recruitment process to ensure that you are attracting the right people to your roles? From accurately naming job roles to making sure you are matching skill sets with specifications, strong recruitment can play a big part in employee retention.

Invest in 121 time: Having regular employee reviews is standard practice. But how often are you having them and what is your format? If your employee reviews are currently a formal annual performance review, you may want to consider introducing some less formal 121s every now and again.

121s give you the chance to check-in with your employees. How are they handling their current responsibilities? Are they working well in their team? Could some training be beneficial? Discussing these issues should give you some indication to their current happiness at work and their intentions to progress in their current role.

Make necessary changes: From your increased one on one time with your employees, it’s probable that you will receive some feedback on the way things are going within your workforce. It’s a good idea to have an open mind when collecting this feedback and see it as a useful tool to boost overall productivity and morale.

If comments are generally positive, great! But try not to get complacent and maybe consider a fun team-building activity to keep spirits high. If comments are negative, you may need to address some core operations. Listening to your employees will help to build trust and improve loyalty but acting on feedback shows a genuine commitment to your team.

Mix it up: Whilst co-workers being great friends can be good for business at times, it can also be risky if one becomes unhappy at work. Not only can morale be affected, but alliances can be made. And when friends leave, others might follow. Aside from finding out why employee A is unhappy in the first place, it could also be a good idea to mix up dynamics at work.

If your employees work shifts, try and vary them. This will allow employees to experience some extra diversity in their working day and let them get to meet everyone in their department.

Feedback before farewell: If you and your employee have been through the above and something still doesn’t feel quite right, it might be time to bid them farewell. But before their last day it would be a good idea to schedule an exit interview. This offers the perfect opportunity to find out why your employee has decided to leave. Take the time to listen and find out why they started looking elsewhere in the first place, it could be great intel to foresee and prevent a potential wave.

Create a contingency plan: And by that we mean: assume that everyone could leave at some point. By having a contingency plan in place for your workforce, you can feel more prepared in the event of people leaving. Is there room to reshuffle tasks for an interim period whilst you’re hiring? Do you have an online knowledge base which stores logins and important information? Are you training your staff so that they can potentially step up and graduate to a new role should one become available?

These are all key points that you can include in your workforce contingency plan. They’ll help you to be prepared in the unfortunate event of a leaver wave.

Brexit, business and trade

brexit event
Do you have questions about how businesses will operate in a post Brexit UK?

Join the Europe Direct team, your regional Member of the European parliament and Sally Jones, International Trade Policy Director at Deloitte for a discussion and question and answer session on 30 October.

The breakfast event is free to attend and is supported by the North East Chamber of Commerce, RTC North, Enterprise Europe Network and the Department for International Trade.

It will take place at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland on Tuesday 30 October from 08.30am to 10am.

Book your place.

North East entrepreneurs urged to join accelerator programme

Budding entrepreneurs from the North East are being invited to apply for a new programme to develop their business as Ignite, which ran Newcastle’s first accelerator programme returns.

Working alongside Northstar Ventures and the North East Innovation Fund supported by the European Regional Development Fund, Ignite will deliver a full-time pre-accelerator programme from October to December 2018.

Ignite’s new pre-accelerator programme will offer three months support and office space, as well as £15k of investment to help develop new startups in the region.

The programme gives around 20 startups the chance to benefit from investment, mentoring and business support from experts.

The best businesses from the pre-accelerator will then have the opportunity to join Ignite’s later-stage six-month accelerator programme and qualify for further investment and support.

Ignite is searching for entrepreneurs solving real-world problems with technology-led ideas and said that it is particularly keen to talk to founders focused on developing new products and services that address the myriad of opportunities created by the ageing population.

Natural Nutrients launches into Morrisons nationwide

morrisons natural nutrients
Progressive sports nutrition brand, Natural Nutrients, has officially been launched into 71 branches of Morrisons nationwide as well as being available online.

The Drum-Estate based business have landed their first official supermarket retailer and this is just the beginning of their journey.

Their mission is to support, improve and optimise the health of their customers by developing clean, simple and effective nutrition products that contain no artificial fillers, bulkers or flavourings.

Their Natural Whey Protein Isolate as well as the Protein Popcorn are now available in Morrisons stores throughout the country.

Businesses to take a walk on the Rewilding side

Businesses in the North East are preparing to welcome leading naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham to discuss rewilding at a conference on 18 September.

Delegates will hear about the latest thinking in rewilding and nature conservation, the principle of reinstating natural processes and missing species, and explore ways businesses can support this important work while identifying opportunities.

The “Rewilding The Future” conference, which is being held at the Marriot Hotel in Gateshead on 18 September, is being organised by Durham-based not-for-profit company Climate Action North East.

Around 100 representatives from the business world are expected to attend and it is sponsored by Resilient Business Systems, with support from organisations including WWT Washington, IEMA, Mohl Stephenson, JDM Earth and many more to be confirmed.

Sharon Lashley, Managing Director at Climate Action North East, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Chris as our guest speaker at this conference. Chris’s passion and expertise on rewilding is renowned and it’s a real privilege that he’ll be spending the day with us to share his thoughts on this important subject.

“Rewilding is defined as the mass restoration of ecosystems and to achieve this goal on the scale that’s needed, rewilding must be on the agenda and minds of everyone in a position to implement rewilding; this could include almost anybody, not least those in the business world. This conference gives us a genuine opportunity to explore how rewilding can offer business benefits and opportunities.”

The event will launch with a networking session over breakfast followed by the event sponsors welcoming Chris Packham before he goes on to do a book signing of Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, which has recently been voted the UK’s Favourite Nature Book.

Everyone will also get the chance to take part in three hacks to look at the barriers and challenges of rewilding; the successes and achievements; and future collaboration and partnerships for rewilding projects.

Following lunch, Chris will take to the stage to deliver two talks addressing rewilding issues and opportunities in the UK.

Chris said: “Every square metre of our landscapes has been modified over the years and now it’s undoubtedly failing in terms of the species that should be living and thriving there.

“Addressing the loss of biodiversity and rectifying the problems in our landscapes is now the focus we need to take. There are no quick fixes, so the coordinated and cohesive approach to rewilding that businesses in the North East are looking to take is heartening, and I’m very much looking forward to being part of this exciting conference.”

The conference takes place from 8.30am to 4pm on Tuesday 18 September at the Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel MetroCentre. Refreshments and lunch will be provided, and all delegates will receive a copy of the Fingers in the Sparkle Jar book.

Tickets cost £65 and can be booked here.

In the spotlight. Drum roll for ITPS

Gary ITPS In the spotlight. Drum roll for….

Garry Sheriff, Managing Director, ITPS.

Tell us a bit about ITPS

ITPS provides strategic IT consultancy, implementation, data centre services and unified communications, as well as support services and workspace and disaster recovery.

Our 130-strong team services a client base spanning the UK and mainland Europe, and our clients tell us we’re refreshingly honest in our advice, and experts in creating secure, high performance ICT infrastructures that deliver better value.

How would you describe your business in one word. And why?

Innovative. When we first sit down for a chat with a potential customer, we don’t just look at the status quo, we look at the art of the possible, and tailor our services to each client’s needs.

For one client it might mean installing a high speed, always-on communications network with a 24/7 phone and on-site support package; and for another it might be having a member of the ITPS team based on site, managing the entire IT function and with a full business continuity and disaster recovery strategy in place.

Whatever we deliver, our client always remains in the driving seat.

Tell us about your customers

Our clients range from small businesses and charities through to large corporations and blue light organisations, who all depend on our team to keep their IT – and therefore their organisations – running 24/7.

What are your plans for the future?

Cloud services are underpinning the trend for clients to buy IT as a service. They no longer want the hassle of buying, hosting and maintaining their own ICT infrastructure and prefer to work with an expert partner instead. We expect this trend, along with managed services models, where a client outsources part or all of their IT function, to continue to drive our expansion.

Why is the Drum Estate your place of business?

We chose Drum Business Park for various reasons.

Clients rely on us to keep their businesses running under any and all circumstances, so it is important that data centres are not located in high risk areas such as flood plains, or city centres, and have the robust communications links that are essential for processing large amounts of data. We also needed good transport links and local amenities, so when clients opt to use our fully equipped workspace recovery centre to house their staff, it’s business as usual for them.

What motivates you?

I like helping clients to solve their problems.  We work in a diverse range of industries, and often share best practice in one sector with a business in another.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

Treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself. Everyone in the business is an individual and people perform at their best if they feel they are valued and respected.

And what’s the best advice you’ve given?

You only get out what you put in, and the harder you work the luckier you get.

Tell us about your most difficult challenge so far.

I struggle to keep hold of my customer-facing time, even though that’s my favourite part of the job. It is hard to get the right balance between developing the business and still doing the things I like to do, as well as the things I have to do.

And finally, what’s your favourite quote?

Perception and reality are not the same. People’s perception often becomes their reality.


Durham sees record growth in tourism with an £867m boost to the economy in 2017

durham cathedral
Tourism is now worth £867m to Durham’s economy, which exceeds county’s targets three years ahead of schedule, according to newly published research.

Commissioned by Visit County Durham, the STEAM economic impact model came to this figure after assessing data from attractions, accommodation, events, transport and visitor expenditure.

The record growth reflects a 15% increase from the £752m achieved in 2014, exceeding the 2020 projected target of £863m as stated in the Durham Tourism Management Plan 2016 – 2020.

The annual study shows that Durham welcomed 19.71m tourism visits in 2017, a 2.4% increase over 2016, with these visitors spending £867m during their stay – a year-on-year increase of 5% in spend across the county.

In addition, the number of jobs supported by the visitor economy also increased with the sector supporting 11,682 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, an increase of 5% from 2016.

County Durham business leaders challenged to sleep out for charity

Business leaders are being challenged to sleep out for a night when Darlington holds its first ever CEO Sleepout to raise funds in the fight against local homelessness and poverty.

North East-based charity CEO Sleepout is looking for leaders from County Durham’s most compassionate businesses who are willing to get sponsored to give up the comfort of their own bed for just one night sleeping under the stars.

Mowden Park Rugby Club will host the fundraising event that will see executives of dozens of local businesses swap their laptops and office comforts for sleeping bags and the cold floor.

Fundraisers are allowed to bring along a sleeping bag and mat, while warm clothes are recommended. There will also be access to hot drinks and toilets throughout the night.

Since founder-chairman Andy Preston held the first CEO Sleepout outside Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium four years ago, events have been held at iconic venues across the country.

Sleepout events have been held at Wembley Stadium, The Oval, Lord’s Cricket Ground, Newcastle’s St James’ Park, Birmingham’s Villa Park, Everton’s Goodison Park and at Durham Cathedral.

But CEO Sleepout’s Bianca Robinson said the enthusiasm and generosity of Mowden Park chairman Mick Birch and group managing director Lee Rust had helped bring the charitable phenomenon to Darlington for the first time.

Creative duo shows starting a business doesn’t have to be lonely

Two creative entrepreneurs are offering others like them a cuppa and a chinwag about growing their businesses.

Ian Proctor and Graham Marsh, co-founders of Pixel Media based at Aycliffe Business Park, want to share the warts and all experiences of their first year in business.

The pair were helped by Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), part of business support organisation Business Durham, as they set up their digital design business.

Now their latest idea – The Pixel Hub – offers other entrepreneurs the chance to get together to share their start-up challenges in a relaxed format, for free.

Ian explained: “The Pixel Hub is a monthly session where we open our doors to any start-ups and small businesses that want to come and chat about how to get through that hard part of setting up a business.

“It’s a relaxed hour, when people can open up without the worry of asking a silly question and chat with others who have recent, similar experiences.”

Ian, who was a primary school teacher prior to setting up his business, added: “I always thought it was quite a lonely place running a business, but the DBOP programme showed me that’s not actually the case.

“There is a wealth of support out there – everything from finances to finding leads – and there are people to point you in the right direction, whatever you need.

“The Pixel Hub is inspired by our experience in receiving support from DBOP. We want to make sure others starting out on the same journey have somewhere to go.”

The first Pixel Hub event saw small businesses from across different industries – including a physiotherapist, an insurance broker and a recruitment consultant, among others.

For more details contact the DBOP team on 01207 291268 or email

Get information about upcoming Pixel Hub sessions.

Young people reap apprenticeship scheme benefits

Apprentices have been speaking about the valuable skills and experiences they have gained since joining Durham County Council’s workforce.

The Local Authority offers apprenticeship opportunities across a range of areas, including civil engineering, business administration, accounting and catering.

In September 2018, 44 new apprentices will join the ranks, following in the footsteps of young people like Nathan Keogan, Jordan Clegg, and Lee Hibbitts who are all recent recruits and already working with the council’s Regeneration and Local Services directorate.

Nathan, 21, from Consett, is undertaking a Level Three Advanced Apprenticeship in catering.

He said: “I like cooking, especially baking, and now I get to cook the food in County Hall,” he said. “I like making most things but I especially like baking the scones for the County Hall shop and canteen. I also get to go to cook at other places as part of my placement and I have been to Locomotion and Wharton Park. I am really enjoying it.”

Jordan, 19, from Ushaw Moor, is a waste operative and is enjoying his new role so much he hired a moped to ensure he can get to work.

One Sports Warehouse enjoys continued growth

one sports
Specialist sports retailer has expanded its range of goods as part of its strategic focus to grow the business.
One Sports Warehouse, based on the Drum Industrial Estate in Chester-le-Street, has announced it has struck a deal with ASICS Group to feature its sporting footwear range in their store.
The retailer, which specialises in hockey and sports equipment, has enjoyed strong growth in the last year, bucking the adverse trading conditions experienced by many other retailers.
This latest addition to its range of goods joins brands including Grays, Osaka, Ritual and OBO.
Simon Lee, Managing Director, said: “Expanding the product offering for our customers is key in our plans to grow the business and ensure we provide the best possible sportswear and equipment. Our customers, whom range from families, sports enthusiasts and teams, expect to pick from the best sports and hockey gear – so that’s exactly what we’re providing!”
The company has already increased its turnover by 25 per cent and grown its workforce by over 25 per cent in the last 24 months.
Other key developments in their expansion plans have included the launch of its ecommerce website and the relocation of its retail unit on the Drum Industrial Estate.
Simon concluded: “We have settled into our unit on the Drum Industrial Estate and have seen the business exceed our expectations over the past year. Our ecommerce website has also been part of our recipe for success and has allowed us to establish new points of contact with our customers.
“We’re delighted with our progress and are very excited about our future plans, which include expanding our retail range even further to include netball sportswear and equipment.”

Durham Employment Skills

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A five-year initiative to help match those unemployed, disabled or facing other health issues has been launched by Durham County Council.

Durham Employment Skills’ Working Health programme aims to help and support both businesses seeking new staff and those looking for employment.

It’s particularly aimed at those that are have been out of work for some time or are recovering from a long-term health condition and seeks to identify and remove barriers. This may include learning a new skill; providing access to courses for recognised qualifications; improving confidence, job-seeking skills and useful coaching on finding employment.

Contact Ian Blake for more details on 03000 266 644 or email

How to handle World Cup distractions in your workforce

world cup 2

Major sporting events such as the World Cup are internationally trending topics. So it’s quite possible that world cup conversation could trickle down into your workplace and grab the attention of your employees. Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept Durham shares tips on how to deal with major sporting events at work.

Communicate your game plan or policy
With sports socials sweeping the nation (and the world this time), it can even be tempting for those not usually invested in sports to get seduced by the social atmosphere. As a small business owner, you could encounter difficulties if half your workforce suddenly come down with football fever.

But with some planning and a few processes in place, it is possible to keep your team focused and on a winning streak.

It’s important that your employees are aware of your company policies. You may wish to revisit your current policies to ensure that communication is clear regarding topics such as internet usage or employee code of conduct, as these can sometimes be challenged when a huge game is on.
If you have a team of keen sports enthusiasts, you could add a sports policy. This will clarify to your employees what is and isn’t acceptable.

Show your commitment to work-life balance
If you anticipate that your employees’ minds might be wandering when a match is on, think about bending the rules a little to allow flexible working hours. Adapting schedules could be a winning formula all round. You are likely to earn your employees’ respect and reduce the chances of a dip in productivity.

If you’re unable to do this and think your employees might try to live-stream football during working hours, you could consider having a TV in the staff room with a cover schedule for breaks.

Just remember to make the same allowances for anyone who isn’t following the football if you want to keep your dream team running smoothly.

Embrace the moment
With all the emotion tied into major sporting events, the occasion could be an excellent opportunity to bring people together. This could be through a sports themed team social, setting up a five-a-side company team or that old classic – an office sweepstake. These invariably appeal to more than just the sports fans amongst us.

Masterplan for Chester-le-Street

chester le street pic
Durham County Council is calling on views on its plans for Chester-le-Street town centre.
The local authority is seeking feedback on a draft document that outlines how the town should develop over the next seven years.
The masterplan sets out the ways in which the council, by working with its partners, will aim to create a unique and distinct space with independent shops and traders at its heart.
Durham County Council is proposing to bring more people into the town centre by making more services and facilities available, encouraging new uses for development sites and improving transport links with surrounding areas.
The document cites several council initiatives, including the proposed opening of the culvert through the marketplace and the storefront improvement scheme. It also cites initiatives developed by partner companies.
Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “The masterplan sets out a vision for Chester-le-Street in 2025, with the town centre recognised as a vibrant and well-designed place to shop and socialise.”

Book your place at EMCON’s Incubator Zone

emcom zone

County Durham businesses keen to showcase their products and services are urged to take part in the Incubator Zone programme at EMCON.

Organisers of Durham EMCON, County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN), have teamed up with Business Durham’s Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), with European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding, to offer companies a mini exhibitor package which they hope will open the expo up to those companies who don’t have big marketing budgets or the resources to exhibit at an event like this.

The package means they can have a presence within the show with the added bonus of support provided to help prepare them for the exhibition and marketing materials such as banner stands and flyers designed and printed if they need them.

David Land is Chairman of CDEMN. He said: “The first Incubator Zone, held at last year’s event, was an overwhelming success with many of the 21 companies who took part winning work as a result.
“The programme helped us address the balance as far as attracting micro and small businesses to exhibit, and also backs up what we’ve been saying, which is that the event is as much for companies at the smaller end of the supply chain as those bigger businesses.

“We’re now looking for companies to take part this year, so if you fit the criteria and want to grow your customer base and showcase your business to a vast audience of leading engineering and manufacturing companies, get in touch.”

The criteria to participate is:
– Your business must be based within County Durham
– It must have links to the engineering and manufacturing sectors
– Ideally employ less than 15 people
– Have never exhibited at EMCON

Lisa Wall is Business Engagement Officer with DBOP. She said: “This is the perfect opportunity for companies to take part in EMCON without the pressure of significant costs which are often attached to exhibiting at big events.

“The Incubator Zone programme is a great example of how the Durham Business Opportunities Programme can help businesses find new opportunities and contacts to help their business grow.”
The Incubator Zone programme is being delivered by the DBOP team working in partnership with LEC Communications and Design.

The event returns on Thursday 18 October. For updates, or to book as an exhibitor, visit