Skills, skills, skills: our plans and wishes for 2024

One of our priorities for 2024 is skills. The Sandwell Business Ambassadors will be adding their voices and influence to boost wider efforts to nurture skills, aspirations and ‘fitness for work’ in Sandwell. Our aim is to help local businesses attract and retain the staff they need to thrive and grow.

We also want to inspire the workforces of tomorrow, by encouraging or partaking in school engagement and promoting work experience and apprenticeships.

We will be honing our collective approach in the coming weeks: watch this space. In the meantime, we’d like to share the thoughts of Sandwell Business Ambassadors who are already lending their time and experience to the important cause of skills boosting.

Lisa Nicholson, Commercial Director, GMS Group

“I have worked since I was about ten years old (my brother sub-contracted his paper-round to me!) and, having experience of how to earn money and being lucky enough to work part time in a few different sectors whilst I was studying, enhanced my understanding of the careers available to me. I am therefore passionate about giving young people access to information which will help them make the best career choice and helping them find a career path which will inspire them.

“That’s why, in addition to my work at GMS Group, I volunteer as an Enterprise Adviser for George Salter Academy in West Bromwich. Through that, I will be continuing to work with their Careers team in 2024, helping to connect them with my network and give students the opportunity to find out about all the exciting careers on their doorstep.”

Learn about being an Enterprise Adviser like Lisa, and fellow Ambassador Mark Evans.

Jessica Lewis, Assistant Director of External Engagement & Skills at Sandwell College

“I lead Sandwell College’s #Pledge2Invest campaign. We are encouraging local businesses to invest in a strong, skilled, growing workforce through training and apprenticeships. I am determined to ensure that we improve the life chances of people within our region through education. This means offering full-time courses and apprenticeships for people leaving school. It means working with unemployed people to help them back into work. It also involves working with people employed via upskilling programmes in order for them to progress within their careers. Pledge2Invest will be a key focus for me in 2024: I’d like to get as many local businesses to commit to the programme as possible.”

Read more about Sandwell College’s #Pledge2Invest campaign and make your pledge today.

Jess and colleagues will also be celebrating National Apprenticeships Week (5 to 11 February 2024).

To learn about what’s involved in taking on an apprentice or to sign up for the college’s recruitment event on Tuesday 6 February, please email

Brian Cape, CEO of SIPS Education

“We’re delighted that the Careers and Enterprise Company has selected SIPS Education to deliver its ‘Start Small; Dream Big’ programme for Black Country primary schools. It’s a really important area to tackle. Studies show that, by the age of six, children have already started to take on limiting stereotypes around gender, ethnicity and social background. By the time they’re nine, some children have already started to abandon their biggest ambitions.

“Start Small; Dream Big is a pilot project set up to address these findings. Through it, we want to raise awareness among primary school-aged children of the world of work, raising aspirations and combatting stereotypes. Start Small; Dream Big will link children’s usual lessons to careers. It will also give them an opportunity to explore different jobs and meet inspiring employers.

“In 2024 I would love local employers and entrepreneurs to get involved and help us to dispel those limiting beliefs and stereotypes that hold children back.”

Find out how you can get involved with Start Small; Dream Big in Sandwell.

SIPS Education also gives careers support to secondary schools and their students. The SIPS team is always looking for week-long work experience placements from local employers, as well as business representatives to go into schools and deliver career workshops, mock interviews and sessions that prepare students for work experience. If you’re interested in helping, email for more details.

John Wood, Director at Liberty Group and West Midlands Deputy Lieutenant

“As a West Midlands Deputy Lieutenant, I would like to raise people’s awareness of the West Midlands Lieutenancy’s Young Active Citizen Awards. These celebrate young people who have had an extraordinary impact on the community in which they live. By honouring our region’s young people who go the extra mile to help others in their communities, I hope we can inspire others to give their time to make a difference – as well as set themselves apart in their future careers. The nomination process is straightforward, so if you know a young person worthy of an award, do put them forward.”

Learn more about the Young Active Citizen Awards in our news story. The closing date for nominations is midnight on Saturday 2 March 2024.

Anjali Agrawal, CEO of CMT Engineering

“Here at CMT we have had a very good experience with apprentices. Our business is hundred years old and has many good traditions and practices. Some of the managers started here as apprentices before I bought the business in 2016. Since my arrival , I have tried to maintain all the good traditions. I have been hiring three to four apprentices every year. Not all of them have stayed on but we do have some success stories. I have their permission to share their stories.

“Natalie started with us in 2018. She works in our office and successfully handles administrative, and accounting work. She also helps us with the paperwork for imports. Donna was hired by CMT’s previous owners and is still here. She is an expert on the CNC machines. Jordan started in 2017. He did not finish his apprenticeship because he did not enjoy studying but he is still with us. He’s a good worker on the machine floor and enjoys working with machines. Luke started with as an apprentice in 2019 and still works here in maintenance. Callum started in 2022 and is doing well on the machine floor.

“This year I want to hire at least three new apprentices. I need one to do office administrative work, one to work in health and safety, and one for the machine floor. We plan to work with a local college in recruiting, training and supporting them.”

See Sandwell Council’s recruitment and skills support for employers.


The Ambassadors are a collective of business people in the Sandwell area with the aim of supporting the Sandwell Business Community.

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