The Black Country Chamber of Commerce is extremely proud to announce this week that it is the first Chamber in England to have been awarded the Defence Gold Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Award 2020.


The Armed Forces Covenant Scheme enables employers to publicly declare their support for Defence personnel. The three-tier scheme of bronze, silver and gold awards encourages employers to support defence and the wider armed forces community by aligning their company values and providing a working environment that openly advocates support for employees from the service community. The awards enable the Ministry of Defence to publicly thank and honour organisations for their support.


127 new employers have this year been announced as recipients of the Gold ERS award which includes the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, Black Country Housing Group and City of Wolverhampton College. 2020 marks the seventh year of the awards scheme and this year 47% of winners are either Micro organisations or SMEs and 38% are public organisations.


Corin Crane, Chief Executive for Black Country Chamber of Commerce told Prosper, "The Defence Employer Recognition Awards represent the value of our UK Armed Forces and the many benefits they bring to employers and business. As an organisation we are committed to upholding our covenant pledge, receiving gold status is testimony to the hard work and endeavours of our team and we congratulate our fellow award winners for the recognition and value they place on our Armed Forces and those in the wider defence community."

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans said' " The breadth and diversity of the winners this year show business support for the Armed forces continues to grow no matter the sector, company size or location. I am grateful for the positive attitude and flexible policies these organisations have adopted towards the defence community, which is testament to the fantastic contribution our serving personnel, veterans and their families can make to any organisation."


Sarah Walker, Project Manager and Armed Forces Champion for Black Country Chamber of Commerce told Prosper, "Gold ERS status is a huge achievement which publicly recognises our support for the Armed Forces Community within the Black Country and through our nationwide project the Chamber Military Network (CMN).


"As a Chamber, we are the lead on the CMN project and the award-winning 'Supporting the Unsung Hero' business start-up programme. We remain committed to ensuring the profile of our military community is raised at the highest levels."


You can see a full list of Employer Recognition Scheme Gold, Silver and Bronze award winners: HERE


The Black Country Chamber of Commerce works tirelessly to help raise awareness of the businesses, skills and employability of our UK Armed Forces community.

In 2018 it proudly received the Defence Employer Recognition Silver Award, which is testimony to the team’s endeavours over the years to engage and ensure the profile of our military community is raised at the highest levels.

New for 2020, the Chamber launched the Chamber Military Network a unique project aimed at providing support to the chamber network and its members in making an informed, meaningful and proactive pledge to the Armed Forces Covenant throughout England and Wales. Chamber Military Network is the first project of its type to be funded by the Forces in Mind Trust and is fully supported by Defence Relationship Management and the British Chamber of Commerce.


The Black Country Chamber of Commerce is the project’s delivery agent and works directly with the British Chambers of Commerce, their business members and the wider Armed Forces Community to encourage the signing and carrying out of covenant pledge commitments to further increase the profile of the Armed Forces Community in business.


Prosper spoke to Sarah Walker, the Chamber’s Armed Forces Champion and Project Lead based in the Black Country, “I am very excited to be associated with the Chamber Military Network,” Sarah told us, “It’s a fantastic initiative, which will hopefully see every Chamber of Commerce around England and Wales sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant.”


Philip Sinclair, Regional Employer Engagement Director Employer Engagement Team, West Midlands told Prosper, “A huge thank you to Sarah, her drive and energy will surely see this project become a huge success and a model for other institutions to follow, thus ensuring that as a nation we will continue to pledge that together we acknowledge and understand that those who serve, or, who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives.”


Integral to the support and training available as part of this project is ‘Supporting the Unsung Hero’ (SUH) an award-winning business start-up programme which has been helping members of the Armed Forces community turn bright ideas into successful businesses since 2013.


This ten-month business start-up programme is open to spouses of Serving Armed Forces personnel, Veterans and Reservists at no cost, and has already been attended by more than 850 Service spouses at MOD bases throughout the UK, British Forces Cyprus, Germany, Belgium and Italy, and since 2019, we have been able to offer Veterans access to the same training programme.


“We are delighted to take this over from the University of Wolverhampton in the day to day management of SUH and continue to enable members of our military community start-up and grow their own business,” Sarah continued.


“To date, we have delivered 53 Cohorts throughout the UK at MOD bases from Scotland to Portsmouth and overseas. It is overwhelming to see that we have been able to positively influence so many Armed Forces families who have gone on to start their business journey, with many now entering their third and fifth year of trading.


“The success of the programme continues to grow, and we are excited to be launching the first online cohorts in September 2020 which will enable us to further extend access to SUH business training and support.”


‘SUH Online’ is a mini-version of the renowned SUH programme, providing the same great content but as a condensed version. The programme has been developed by experienced business instructors from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and remains tailor-made for Armed Forces families.

The creation of an online version enables wider access to the programme by extending to those who may be unable to join the physical training dates for a variety of reasons, including service family commitments, deployments, childcare or health issues. The online training has already proven a big hit, having oversubscribed within the first twenty-four hours of going live.


For more information about Chamber Military Network and Supporting the Unsung Hero please email




Monday 3rd of August sees the launch of the 2020 Black Country Chamber of Commerce Business Awards - with a difference!


Since the COVID-19 emergency began, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce has been running a popular ‘Business Heroes’ campaign, celebrating the outstanding contributions our businesses have made.


We’ve heard of many fantastic efforts from individuals and businesses from all over the region who have made a significant difference to the business - or wider Black Country community during these difficult times.


The Business Heroes campaign will culminate in November, with the return of the Black Country Chamber Awards which this year, is going to take on a very different focus.


Along with our 2020 headline partner, the University of Wolverhampton, our long-standing annual awards will be recognising these ‘Black Country Business Heroes’.


We want to celebrate the endeavours, resilience, adaptability and outstanding contribution of our business community and professionals - those who have gone the extra mile to help with the Coronavirus crisis.


It might be supplying PPE, packing and distributing food and essentials for the most vulnerable, innovative new ways of operating, or an initiative or new product that has made a positive impact on the community in some way.


There will be 13 exciting categories to choose from and you can enter as many as you wish.


The Awards are open to all businesses in the Black Country including non-Chamber members.


So, if you know, or work with someone whom you think deserves to be recognised for their amazing efforts, then please do nominate them.


All details including categories and nomination forms will be live on the Black Country Chamber Awards website from Monday 3rd August.


For more details, call 01902 912 304 or email

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