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Cheshire Digital Skills Academy offers digital training solutions tailored to the specific needs of each of their clients. Specialising in Microsoft Office, the company caters for all levels of IT abilities from beginner through to advanced. Established in September 2017, Cheshire Digital Skills Academy is a new and exciting company aiming to address the digital skills gap in Chester, and the surrounding areas. With support from the University of Chester and the Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme, Founders Jayne Muspratt and Bev Cowperthwaite are on target to achieve their digital vision for Cheshire.

Having been made redundant from West Cheshire College, Jayne Muspratt and Bev Cowperthwaite decided to transform their business idea into their next full time occupation. During their teaching careers, Jayne and Bev were graded outstanding teachers by Ofsted, which gave them a strong base framework for setting up their own coaching business. However, they lacked the confidence to take the idea forward, due to their limited knowledge of business and commercialisation.

In June 2017, Jayne and Bev discovered the University of Chester’s Riverside Innovation Centre. Having identified the building in Chester city centre, Jayne and Bev researched the facilities available online before contacting the team via Twitter. They were soon put into contact with Jo Vernon, Centre Manager, who advised them of the various support services available to start-ups and SMEs (small to medium enterprises), including the Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme. The University of Chester is a proud delivery partner of this Eurpoean Regional Development Funded programme, which aims to provide local entrepreneurs and SMEs with 12 hours of fully funded business support. Jayne and Bev registered with the programme as entrepreneurs in June 2017, and were able to develop their skills in areas such as business finance and social media, through specialist workshops and masterclasses.

The support gave Jayne and Bev the confidence they needed to progress their business idea, and in September 2017, after completing their 12 hours of business support, they registered the Cheshire Digital Skills Academy with Companies House. The skills and knowledge they gained enabled them to put new systems and processes into place, to further develop and grow their business. They are now re-registered onto the Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme as an established SME, and can receive an additional 12 hours of support.

Having worked with Jo Vernon to achieve initial business growth for the company, Jayne and Bev decided to occupy office space at the Riverside Innovation Centre (RIC) from December 2017, in order to take the business to the next level. By being based at the RIC, Jayne and Bev are able to access business support services more easily, and have benefited from being able to network with other companies on-site. Jayne comments:

“By moving into the RIC we are with a network of likeminded entrepreneurs, and know that any business support needs we have will be met. We feel so much more confident in our own abilities to run a business, and are very grateful for the support provided by the University and the Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme.”

Jayne and Bev are currently in the process of interviewing two students from the University of Chester who will join the team in May 2018 as part of the Work Based Learning Scheme. The students will work on new projects for the business and provide the support needed to help take the business to the next step.

The company have also received support from local MP Chris Matheson, who wholeheartedly supports their mission. He recognises that there is a digital skills gap, and is confident that Jayne and Bev have gained the knowledge and expertise to help reduce the gap within Cheshire.