Meet the Team

The Skills & Growth Company Board


Cllr George Hayes

Driven to make a difference, Cllr George Hayes entered local politics at a young age, formerly being Great Britain’s Youngest Mayor whilst the Mayor of his hometown of Congleton. He has a professional background working in both education and communications related roles and also holds the position of Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Cheshire East Council and a school governor at four schools across the authority. He is passionate about making a positive impact across the Borough and beyond, and is a strong advocate of the work that the Skills & Growth Company undertakes to raise aspirations and success for both individuals and organisations. George is also a keen supporter of strong stakeholder engagement and enjoys meeting with local skills providers, businesses and other external organisations whilst also valuing the well-qualified and dedicated team of staff who work at The Skills & Growth Company.


Cllr Sarah Pochin

Cllr Sarah Pochin graduated from Loughborough University in 1990 with a degree in Banking, Finance & French. She worked for Shell International and Shell UK for several years in their sales and marketing functions. She then went to Caradon plc and worked as a Brand Manager for Twyfords. She became a specialist in Business Strategy for the Retail DIY sector. Sarah has been a Magistrate for many years and was elected as a Cheshire East Councillor in May 2015. She stood as a Parliamentary Candidate in the 2017 Election. Sarah has also been a Non Exec Director for Engine of the North and a School Governor.


Cllr Bernice Walmsley

Cllr Bernice Walmsley has had a varied career, mainly in the private sector, with many years of office-based management positions in manufacturing organisations followed by sales and business development roles in an international blue-chip company. In her early 50s, she became self-employed, writing over 20 books (mainly business and education) and publishing a local magazine. Bernice is particularly interested in helping to improve careers advice – both for school leavers and for people looking at career change.

Management Team

Managing Director

Julian Cobley

Julian has followed a successful career in innovation, technology and economic growth, working for a number of large multinational corporations in the private sector where he developed his knowledge and experience. Looking for a fresh challenge, he joined the public sector in 2007 and has led on economic growth at Cheshire East Council.

As Managing Director of the Skills & Growth Company Julian will be championing business led growth, delivering a range of services including employer skills needs, growth programmes for priority sectors (specifically science, technology, energy and Advanced Manufacturing), business engagement and inward investment.

Contact Julian:

Business Engagement & Inward Investment Manager

John Willis

John is an inward investment specialist and has developed award winning investment and business engagement services.  Originally with a financial services background, John has delivered major investment projects with Bentley Automotive, JCB, Maijer, Service Source and UK Data Capture.

As the Business Engagement & Inward Investment Manager John is responsible for developing and delivering programmes to attract new investment in our priority sectors and supporting existing investors to maximise their growth opportunities and minimise threat.  John’s passion is to ensure that business have access to the right support to accelerate their growth and create valuable employment opportunities for all residents.

Contact John:

Head of Innovation & Growth

Mark Ross

Mark has followed a successful career in urban development, town and city management, Business Improvement Districts and economic development, working for a number of large local authorities and in the private sector where he developed his knowledge and experience. He has a wide range of experience in developing successful business engagement and economic development programmes across the UK.

As Head of the Innovation & Growth Team for the Skills & Growth Company Mark will be an advocate for the growth programmes for priority sectors specifically science, technology, energy and Advanced Manufacturing.

Contact Mark:


Head of Skills & Employment

Roz Atherton

Roz is a proactive skills and employment specialist, with 20 years experience in the sector.  Starting her career in the private sector working with large corporations to develop strategic workforce skills programmes, Roz translates business strategy into deliverable outcomes, whilst navigating skills policy. Previously Roz was the strategic lead for skills and employment at the Local Enterprise Partnership, where she delivered a robust investment programme in line with employer demand, business priorities and economic growth targets.

As Head of Skills & Employment Roz will combine her focus on collaborative, innovative solutions to enable businesses and individuals to maximise their potential and prosper.

Contact Roz:

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