A BUSINESSiQ round-up of the key moves at influential companies around the North East - who’s in and who’s out


Merit, the UK’s leading industrialised construction and digital manufacturing specialist based in Northumberland, has recruited an additional 21 apprentices at Cramlington.

The latest cohort brings Merit’s apprentice tally to 77 since 2013. Merit’s apprenticeship programmes last four years and guarantee a permanent job on completion.

The company has recruited 21 apprentices in partnership with each of Northumberland College and Newcastle-based TDR.

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The apprentices from Northumberland College will undertake a multi-skilled course and the apprentices from TDR will be trained in electrical and welding.

Merit’s product-based solutions: FLEXI POD and UltraPOD deliver buildings in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and biotech sectors with 75%-95% pre-manufactured value, in a third of the time compared to traditional methods of construction.

Over the last 12 months, the Cramlington-based firm has taken onboard several projects across the UK, adding clients like the international pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Moderna, to its portfolio.

April Twentyman, HR Manager at Merit, said: “Merit has been running an incredibly successful apprenticeship programme since 2013, with each individual encouraged to work to the best of their ability and dive into aspects of the programme that interest them most.

“Apprentices are as much a part of the team as any other employee within the business, and they each play an important role in the company’s continuing growth.

“Through continuous training, exposure to specialist skills and input from college, apprentices will have the opportunity to travel and support on a working construction site – this is something that will really prepare them for long-term career roles.”

HICA Group

A leading not-for-profit care provider, headquartered in Yorkshire, has announced the appointment of two financial controllers to its team.

Helen Worsley and Sam Kind have joined the finance team at HICA Group to help support financial management across the organisation, as it continues to grow and extend its range of care services across the region.

Helen and Sam bring a combined wealth of expertise in financial management, control and strategy, with extensive experience across the public and private sector. Helen previously worked at PWC and telecommunications company KCOM, while Sam held positions in the UK’s civil service and with independent care provider Pickering and Ferens Homes.

The expansion of the finance team will enhance the group’s ability to navigate the unique challenges of the not-for-profit sector.


youngsRPS, a leading name in rural property and land management services, is delighted to announce the latest addition to its already successful rural team.

Emma Smith has joined the Sedgefield office, and has a strong background in general land agency work, including current DEFRA grant and subsidy schemes, valuations of rural properties, sales of land and rural properties, agricultural tenancies, and land management.

Graeme Bruce, Managing Director of youngsRPS, said, “Her expertise and dedication to rural surveying align perfectly with our values of delivering exceptional service to our clients. We believe her contribution will help us continue to provide the highest level of service.”

Newcastle Building Society

Newcastle Building Society has strengthened its commitment to Durham city centre with the appointment of Faye Dale as the new manager of its Sadler Street branch.

Despite a national trend of bank branch closures which has seen several banks leave Durham, Newcastle Building Society remains committed to its branch network, investing heavily in the provision of face-to-face services across the region.  Durham local Faye joined the Society in 2016, and moves to her hometown branch - situated underneath the city’s iconic golden teapot - from her previous role as Hartlepool branch manager.

Faye said: “It doesn’t get much better than working in Durham city centre, not only because of location but also the fantastic team I’ll be working with, who are all committed to providing the best possible customer service.

“I look forward to building on the success our Durham branch has had in meeting local people’s needs both from a personal finance point-of-view, but also through our work to support charities and community groups in the local area. I know so many people in Durham love their local branch, so I can’t wait to get started, reconnect with some familiar faces and welcome everyone who appreciates the importance of being able to speak to someone face to face on their local high street.”

As well as investing in its branch network, over recent years Newcastle Building Society has opened in several new locations, helping to restore access to financial services in communities where banks have left town. This includes their community partnership branches in Yarm, Wooler, Hawes, and Knaresborough which share space with other local services such as libraries, tourist information and even community police officers.

The Society recently announced plans to open a brand new flagship community branch in Newcastle city centre, taking over the space at Monument recently vacated by retailer French Connection.

John Hicks, Head of Branch Network at Newcastle Building Society, said: “Our members tell us time and time again how important it is that they can visit a local branch in order to manage their money. As a member-owned organisation it’s our role to provide that service, support our local high streets and businesses, and be an active part of our communities.  “We know there is a strong demand for access to face-to-face financial services in Durham and Faye’s appointment as branch manager will enable us to continue to offer the friendly, local customer service that our members value.”


The increase in demand for its new training packages and general employment law advice has led to expansion and promotion within the employment team at a North East law firm.

Burnetts Solicitors, based at Dean Street, Newcastle has gained a reputation for delivering employment law updates and training sessions in an engaging way, including theming around hit tv shows such as I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

And the firm’s ability to deliver on a range of subjects covering everything from equality, diversity and inclusion to managing difficult conversations had led to a huge demand for their services.

Burnetts has delivered to clients across a whole range of sectors, helping them with topics such as menopause in the workplace and developing a workplace that accommodates neurodiversity and other hidden disabilities.

An increased demand has led to two new appointments, with Elliott Chaplin joining as a Solicitor and Annabel Doyle joining as a Trainee Solicitor, plus the promotion of Sara Devennie from Senior Associate to Legal Director.

They join existing team members, David Gibson, Anna Lovett and Sharon Ridley who have been instrumental in driving the success and popularity of the new training packages.

Senior Associate, Anna Lovett, said: “We are very pleased with the uptake of our new training programme for senior executives, HR teams and management.

“The team and I are passionate about working closely with North East organisations to upskill their senior leaders ensuring workplace practices maximise the talent within the workforce and create and promote business growth.

“We are thrilled to welcome Elliot and Annabel to the team and are delighted about the talent and cross section of skills they bring and we congratulate Sara on her promotion too. With the remaining months of 2023 fully booked with exciting training programmes for clients, we are excited to see what 2024 brings.”

Burnetts’ next CIPD Employment Law Update – a Mary Poppins themed event - takes place on the 16 November 2023. To find out more about this and the team, please visit www.burnetts.co.uk.