Meet the Team- Skills Support for the Workforce: Greater Manchester

Meet the six friendly faces who will working to boost your Greater Manchester-based workforces:

Karen Cochran - Service Manager

I have 20 years’ experience within Skills, Welfare to Work and recruitment in the North West and North East and working on national projects as a National ESF Project Manager. I have a passion for supporting people and businesses to reach their potential and access funding that can support their growth.

I’ve worked for the Growth Company for 18 months and feel completely at home.  I love working for a company that is invested in giving back to local communities both financially and practically.  I look forward to many more years with the company, making a difference.

I’m a North East native and have lived in Salford for 5 years.  Can be often heard saying ‘Howay, man!’ at random intervals and amusing my team with my North East colloquialisms.

Contact Karen:

E :

M: 07384 547678


Akin Ajibade - Business Advisor

I have worked within this professional service for over 10 years, and I’m very passionate about helping businesses reach their maximum potential, through our Skills Support for the Workforce contract. We have a lot of great things to offer and I really enjoy supporting both fledgling and large businesses alike.

I have worked for the Growth Company for 18 months and take pride in helping business and the local economy through my work at GC, as it’s a not for profit company that helps local businesses and gives back to the community.

Interesting fact? I also hold an economics degree- the economy is something that is quite fascinating to me and I love being able to boost it!



M: 07747216067 



Anita Duffy - Business Advisor


I joined the Growth Company about 18 months ago, and I’ve been very proud of the work I’ve been able to achieve here. I hold over 20 years of experience working in the workforce development and skills sector, in various roles all centering around supporting businesses with their ongoing growth and productivity.

I am passionate about people development, having achieved a level 4 Learning and Development qualification years ago, and I believe life-long learning and gaining qualifications can support individual career progression. I enjoy working with businesses, encouraging people in all different roles to consider what opportunities are available, supporting businesses to add value to their bottom line through their people.

It’s so rewarding working on the Skills for the Workforce initiative, available to the Greater Manchester business community, providing a flexible, funded skills offer, particularly during this time when training budgets are tight, enabling businesses to still invest in their teams, benefiting their business and their people.

Also, to add a fun fact, I’m a Yorkshire girl, and stayed loyal to my reds, the Donny Rovers- and of course we have reds in Manchester too!


M: 07747217608


Ian Buckley - Business Advisor

I have 10 years’ experience within Skills, Welfare to Work in the North West and working on national & regional contracts as a Business Adviser / Partnership Consultant. From preparing customers for interviews and work trials, to offering training opportunities to assist customers back into work and further training opportunities once in employment.

I have a passion for supporting people and businesses to use the opportunity of fully funded training for their specific business needs, so that it can support their growth. I have worked for the Growth Company for 12 months now, and have just commenced a new chapter working with the Greater Manchester team, and I’m looking forward to an exciting future and growth.

I was born and bred in Bury (Black Pudding country) and am a staunch Manchester City fan. I was once very fit and actually attained a 3rd Dan Black belt, unfortunately now I just ache a lot!

E :

M: 07407 454864


Sam Thorpe - Business Advisor

I have over 20 years’ experience working in the learning/development and recruitment sector, engaging with both employers and learners to enhance and upskill the workforce. I have a passion for working with both businesses and learners to enable growth and assisting individuals to fulfil their potential.

I have worked for the Growth Company for just over a year and I’m looking forward to many more years working for a not-for-profit company which gives back to the community. I work in Bury, Manchester City Centre and at present, Stockport.

If you want a fun fact – in my spare time I have Ballroom and Latin dance lessons- “Keep dancing!”


M: 07407 456061


Tally Panesar - Business Advisor

I have been working as employer facing consultant for over 20 years, worked in Carlisle, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Grimsby and West Yorkshire. I have a wealth of experience and expertise within Skills, Welfare to Work, Recruitment and Apprenticeships.

My passion has been working with employers of all sizes and building purposeful, successful relationships all over the country - the biggest being Cranswick Foods in Hull. I have been with the Growth Company for over 18 months and have enjoyed my time here, being able to help businesses reach their fullest potential.

I’m an avid football fan, and I have always supported Leeds United through thick and thin. I’m also a carpenter and water plumber by trade and do all the DIY for all the family, and as such, most of my weekends are full of this work!


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