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New reports on North East economy reveal impact of COVID-19 and EU Exit

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has published two new reports, one, an annual state of the region report and the other exploring the impact of COVID-19 and EU Exit on the North East economy.

The LEP’s annual Our Economy report has been published in two parts in 2021. The first report tracks the long term performance of the North East LEP economy across a range of key economic indicators and provides an overview of how it is changing over time.

It also includes an update on progress towards the North East LEP’s aim of bringing 100,000 more and better jobs to the region by 2024, and analysis of the impact of emerging policy priorities, like levelling up and decarbonisation, on the North East.

The second report provides a comprehensive and in-depth look at the national and regional data, research, insights and commentary that shows how COVID-19 and EU exit has impacted the regional economy. Drawing on a range of additional and innovative sources of data, ‘Our Economy: Insights into the impact of COVID-19 and EU transition on the North East Economy’ gathers intelligence on the impacts of the pandemic and EU exit on the North East economy from March 2020 to the current day.

Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “This year, perhaps more than any other, developing our shared understanding of change in the regional economy is crucial.

“The work we have done to track, analyse and interpret data and evidence about the performance of our regional economy is central to our role at the North East LEP and a core part of the support we offer our partners.

“It is integral to our economic leadership, our influencing work with government, and underpins our investment decisions and stewardship of public funds, ensuring that regional programmes of delivery are targeted at addressing the key opportunities and challenges we face.”

The reports state that whilst the short-term impact of COVID-19 on the North East was highly disruptive and challenging, the region has continued to sustain increased levels of employment compared with its baseline in 2014, with continued growth of the proportion of better jobs – managers, directors and senior officials; professional occupations; and associate professional and technical occupations – in the region.

They also show the impact of COVID-19 on business and the labour market has been significant. Some sectors, including retail, culture and hospitality, have seen severe changes. Local, regional and national intervention has had an impact in protecting businesses and jobs, but the impact now many of these support measures have ended is unclear.

Inequalities within the region have been exacerbated by the pandemic too, with employers in many industries struggling with skills shortages.

The reports also include data showing that the region’s engagement with the global economy is changing, with the impact of EU Exit creating barriers to trade and the future trading environment still evolving.

Our Economy 2021 also looks at the performance of our programmes and sectors – which have been identified as areas of opportunity for the region, including health and life sciences, digital and energy.

Richard Baker, Strategy and Policy Director at the North East LEP explained: “The economic shock has accelerated a number of opportunities for the North East, with growth and new jobs in some of the key areas of strength and opportunity we have been focused on – in energy, life sciences and digital industries for example.

“Many firms across the economy have changed their operational models, with rapid deployment of digital technology, changing approaches to delivery of goods and services locally and growth in online exporting. There are genuine opportunities for the region to drive forward greener businesses and to drive productivity.”

The evidence provided by Our Economy is used to inform the work of the North East LEP and partners across the region in delivering the North East Strategic Economic Plan – the roadmap for increasing economic growth in the North East.

Our Economy 2021 is available to view on evidencehub.northeastlep.co.uk.

Our Economy: Insights into the impact of COVID-19 and EU transition on the North East Economy is also available to view on evidencehub.northeastlep.co.uk.

The North East Strategic Economic Plan can be read at northeastlep.co.uk.

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New report highlights impact of digital exclusion on access to education and employment in the North East

A new report published by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) has highlighted the impact digital exclusion in the North East LEP area is having on people’s ability to access education, skills and employment.

Commissioned by the North East LEP’s Skills Advisory Panel (SAP), ‘Digital Exclusion in the North East LEP Area’ looks specifically at the economic and skills-related impacts of digital exclusion in County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Published alongside IPPR North’s ‘Addressing digital exclusion in North East England’ research paper, the LEP’s digital exclusion report was carried out by New Skills Consulting.

Using data from the Office for National Statistics, it shows more than 200,000 people in the North East LEP area have either never used the internet, or have not used it in the last three months. It also reinforces existing findings that show people from disadvantaged backgrounds are most affected by digital exclusion.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: ‘Whilst we know digital exclusion is a problem in the North East, the coronavirus pandemic has really exacerbated the issue and highlighted why we must address it now.

“This report has allowed us to see the scale of the problem for the first time, and how COVID-19 has extended the gap that already existed in our region.

“If we truly want to level up the country and provide opportunities for all, we must address the issue of digital exclusion, and we must do it in partnership with businesses, education, the voluntary sector, and the public sector.”

‘Digital Exclusion in the North East LEP Area’ highlights that whilst the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital adoption, it has also widened the gap in areas like education and employment, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. A lack of in-person support during the pandemic has made it easier for people to withdraw, and limited access to digital devices has prevented people from accessing online training, job searches, and interviews.

Employers have also raised concerns about a lack of digital skills within the region’s workforce. A survey by the Department for Education in 2019 found 20% of North East employers found it difficult to recruit applicants with computer literacy or basic IT skills. 26% said they found it difficult to recruit people with advanced or specialist IT skills.

The report also looks at the effectiveness of existing initiatives to address digital exclusion, arguing that the current system is complex, with overlapping programmes and gaps in support. It also argues that much of the support available quickly becomes out of date and doesn’t meet the learning needs of people using the services.

Michelle continued: “If we look to countries like Finland, digital literacy is something that’s taught from kindergarten, it has the same level of importance as reading, writing and math’s.

“Whatever our agreed approach moving forward, we need to recognise that this issue isn’t just something that affects young people; it impacts people of all ages and at every stage in their lives. If people can’t access online tools to extend their learning, or can’t search and apply for employment opportunities online, how can they get into work or move up the career ladder from low-skill to high-skill jobs?”

The report puts forward a series of recommendations, recognising that the region’s response requires the support of academia; business; the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector; and the public sector.

Carol Botten, CEO of VONNE (Voluntary Organisations Network North East) and member of the North East LEP Skills Advisory Panel (SAP), said: “Some of the recommendations in our report can be delivered regionally, but others will need the support of Government and other stakeholders.

“We need to address the problem of access to digital devices, and how connectivity can be an additional barrier to people using digital services.

“We also need to prioritise education in digital skills from an early age, and ensure it becomes part of the curriculum in further and higher education.

“And by working with the business community, we can begin to develop a common framework for basic digital skills that meets the needs of employers.”

Michelle concluded: “Using the insights from this report and the IPPR North report, we plan to raise awareness of the scale of the challenge, agree a collective vision for the North East, and draw up the key areas we need to prioritise and address.

“This is a huge challenge for our region, and we won’t be able to tackle it all in one go. But we can start the process and make sure no one in the North East is left behind because they lack access to the digital skills, equipment and infrastructure so many of us take for granted.”

Read the Executive Summary of Digital Exclusion in the North East LEP Area by visiting the North East Evidence Hub.

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In conversation with Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, Professor Chris Day, about the role of universities in local and national recovery

As Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University – as well as a LEP board member representing further education – Professor Chris Day believes universities are absolutely central to our regional and national recovery. But to achieve all they can, they need to work together, and combine vision with the right support.

The day I started in this job, the first question that people asked me was: “How can you be a local and global university at the same time?”

For me, that’s not a conflict. Those two roles are totally complimentary.

If you’re an ambitious university, you need to deliver research that advances humanity’s shared knowledge. That means it needs to be as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world.

You need to offer an education that will help students to thrive in established and emerging industries, wherever they want to go.

But you also want that research – and those skills – to benefit the people who live here, in the North East of England. You want those people to see the results of your breakthroughs, whether that’s better cancer treatments or innovative processes and technologies.

And, above all, you want to create opportunity, and raise aspirations. A child growing up in the North East should be able to watch these new landmarks and industries rise on the skyline, and say, “One day, I’ll be a part of that. And it’ll change my life”.

Achieving all this needs vision, and dedication. But it also requires collaboration, transparency, and – sometimes – a willingness to try things a little differently.

Our role in the region

Newcastle University was founded in 1834 as a medical school, to produce doctors for the North East. It then became an engineering college, training workers for mining and shipbuilding.

Today, we produce graduates capable of pursuing careers in industries all over the world. But we’ve always taken our role in the region seriously.

When COVID-19 first made its presence felt, cities needed a decisive and connected response. And universities like ours had a key place at that table.

Due to our close links with the City Council and the Local Enterprise Partnerships in the region, we were meeting with major players in the city, managing students and vaccinations, and letting our medical students graduate early to assist with treatment and care.

As we start to allow ourselves to think about recovery, our role is as important as ever. Universities will undoubtedly come under pressure to justify their impact, as the Government considers tough decisions about funding. But the truth is this:

At a time when we need it most, universities have the power to become a valuable driver of our economy. With the right support, and vision.

In many ways, the addition of impact to the Research Excellence Framework has focused the minds of university leaders and academics. We’ve acknowledged that we need to show the benefit we bring to society more clearly, and pursue research that has a direct benefit. But it’s also important that universities undertake research that simply increases knowledge, and do the speculative work that enables us to take greater leaps forward.

Quantum physicists didn’t do research so that we could all have phones in our pockets. But we have these devices today because of what they learned.

Universities are the only place that can do work like this. In the R&D departments of companies with shareholders, you can’t have a few people in the corner simply “trying things out”. But that sort of work is absolutely essential.

If you want an example of that relationship, look at Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Researchers developing, and AstraZeneca putting cash in. The result is vaccines that we can all use, and two institutions playing to their strengths.

At Newcastle University, we’re investing in initiatives that will benefit both the world, and the region. Our Newcastle Helix site is the embodiment of our data and ageing science expertise. It’s home to 65 innovative companies, and more than 2,600 jobs. But it’s also crucial to our plans to assist with the regeneration of the West End of the city.

The old Newcastle General Hospital site will soon transform into the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, which will become a leading site for new drugs and discoveries, as well as a test bed for how to improve treatment and services for our ageing population.

Collaboration is absolutely vital to this work. Up in Blyth, Britishvolt is setting up a £2.6bn battery gigaplant, providing 3,000 highly skilled jobs as well as 5,000 down the supply chain.

One of the reasons that site was selected was because our university has fantastic battery researchers, and that we’re also able to provide the skills and training. We’re also linking our researchers with existing regional industries, such as our work with Nissan on the sustainable automotive industry.

That’s what a university can do, when it has the freedom to think beyond its core teaching, and dream of something bigger and more transformative.

And what’s at risk, if we think too small, or too fearfully.

What can we do better?

Universities UK launched the “Getting Results” campaign this summer because it believes universities have an integral role in developing talent, and building prosperity.

Universities are places of learning, places of innovation, and places of opportunity. But as every industry attempts to rebound from the events of the last two years, we need to respond, and address areas where we can do better.

That means working together. It means lifting each other up. And it means being clearer about what we do, and how we can help others.

For example, COVID-19 has emphasised the disparities in wealth and outcomes across the country. If you mapped areas of child poverty in 1850 across the UK with areas worst hit by COVID-19, they’d be almost identical.

So how do universities and their partners address these differences, and ensure more inclusive growth? The number of students from deprived backgrounds at our university has risen from 7% in 2016 to around 20%. But how do we continue this work, and help others across the country to do the same?

We need to work with Further Education partners to up-skill our current and future workforce for the roles they’ll take in future. And we’re talking about the 40 year olds, as well as the 20 year olds.

We still hear from businesses that don’t know where to go to access university R&D expertise. One of the aims of our campaign is to provide a website where a company can look up the lead contacts at Britain’s universities. We want them to be able to find the people with the expertise they want, form partnerships, and work together on valuable solutions.

Universities the length and breadth of the UK need to raise a flag, and show employers and policymakers that they can be a key player in the economic and social outcomes of our towns and cities, and the country as a whole.

We’re already a big part of our community. Let’s also be a big part of our recovery.

Professor Chris Day is the chair of the Universities UK group behind the “Getting Results” campaign. He is also vice chancellor and president of Newcastle University, as well as a member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership board representing the higher education sector.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)*.

Richard Baker said: “We’re now starting to see the shape of the labour market in the region as the economy moves out of Covid-related restrictions and support.

“The overall picture in today’s figures is of a labour market which is in recovery, but with a changed structure since early 2020. This recovery is tentative, with other data showing a slow-down in recent growth, the influence of other factors such as skills shortages in a number of sectors, and the need for support for workers to adapt to the changing demands of the labour market. There is some way to go to return to the pre-pandemic position.

“The latest regional employment data release covers the May to July three month period, during which some Covid-19 restrictions were eased. The ONS has also released experimental payroll data which provides more up to date data and also new data that provides the first statistics for local areas for a period entirely after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic (Apr 2020-Mar 2021).

“During May-July, the number of people aged 16 and over in employment in the North East region increased by over 7,000 compared to the previous quarter, although the total is still 18,000 less than in the same period during 2020. The number of unemployed people decreased by 12,000, compared to the previous quarter. The data suggests that some of this decrease was due to people leaving the labour market.

“The experimental pay roll measure shows an increase of 2,500 in the number of payrolled employees in the North East LEP area in August, and the total is now 7,500 higher than in March 2020. This source does not cover all people in employment, excluding, for example, self-employed workers.

“Comparing the newly released employment totals in the North East LEP area for the April 2020-March 2021 period with those a year earlier shows the impact of Covid-19 on self-employed and part-time workers in the area. 

“The overall decrease in employment of 10,000 (1.1%) was driven by a fall of over 17,000 in self-employment. Among the area’s part-time workers, employment decreased by 9,500, compared to a drop of 500 in the number of full-time workers. 

“Overall, the North East continues to have the second highest regional unemployment rate (5.3% of the economically active) among the nine English regions. The region also has the highest proportion of 16 to 64-year olds who are economically inactive (23.9%).

“At the end of July, about 41,000 workers in the North East LEP area were still furloughed, representing about 5.2% of all eligible employees. About 22% of these furloughed workers were in manufacturing, with 16% in food and accommodation services and most of the rest in other service sectors. More than half of furloughed workers in the North East region were on partial furlough, highlighting the gradual return to pre-Covid levels of employment.

“This data shows that there are opportunities to drive forward, but a number of challenges which need ongoing stimulus to the economy and support for individuals and businesses. The North East LEP will continue to work with Government and our partners to provide support to our regional economy as we work through the recovery phase and to seek investment into the proposals in our Recovery Plan to help accelerate our recovery.”

*The official data released today includes employment information based on surveys in three month period May to July 2021 for the North East region, which includes the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas. It also includes experimental estimates of payrolled employee numbers for August 2021 and LEP area data for the 12 month period April 2020-March 2021. The data has recently been revised to take account of improved population estimates.

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Just Eat to create over 1,500 new jobs in North East

Just Eat today announces it will create more than 1,500 new customer service jobs over the next 12 months.

The new roles will be based in Houghton le Spring, Sunderland.  Overall, Just Eat is investing more than £100m into the region across the next five years which will go towards creating a modern workspace for the team, equipment, training and jobs.

Recruitment is underway with approximately 300 jobs already created to date. A variety of positions from customer service advisors to team leadership, specialist support roles and management are available.

All new customer service employees will take part in a bespoke and comprehensive training programme before they start their new roles at Just Eat. They will also benefit from longer-term career development plans to enable them to build relevant skills and progress within the business.

Employees will have access to a range of benefits and will be based in a new state of the art office in the heart of Sunderland. Equipped with a gym, catering area and a lounge, the space measures at 20,000 square metres, across four floors. Employees will begin working from home with plans to operate a hybrid model in the coming months.

Just Eat’s UK customer care team supports its 58,000+ restaurant partners and millions of customers on a wide variety of topics from order enquiries to helping restaurants with their menus. The move will help Just Eat improve overall service by increasing employee engagement and providing greater insight into its partners’ and customers’ experience of Just Eat.

Andrew Kenny, UK Managing Director at Just Eat, said: “As part of our ongoing investment in our UK business, we’re delighted to be creating upwards of a thousand new employment opportunities in our customer care department over the next 12 months. Alongside the launch of our worker model for couriers, this move will help us to bring the very best service to our customers and restaurant partners as demand for food delivery goes from strength to strength in the UK.

“As a platform that covers 95% of UK postcodes, we also know the importance of increasing career opportunities outside of London and the South East. We’re pleased to be announcing our commitment to the North East, to help boost the region’s economy.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re thrilled to have supported Just Eat to make its move to Sunderland, joining a dynamic business community and creating jobs and opportunities for people across the city.

“We’re very proud of what Sunderland offers as a place to do business, and it is vindication of that offer when brands like Just Eat are drawn to the city thanks to the work of our team and colleagues from Invest North East England and the North East LEP in attracting them.  We’re immensely proud of our skilled people and look forward to seeing how they drive the onward success of the Just Eat business.”

Andrew Moffat CBE, Chair of the North East LEP Investment Board, added: “Just Eat’s commitment to create more than 1,000 jobs in the North East and continue its investment in apprenticeships and long-term career development is great news for Sunderland, and our region.

“Just Eat is a hugely successful, multinational business, and we’re delighted to have been able to work with them alongside Invest North East England to support them to help secure the North East as the location to continue their growth journey.”

Business Minister Paul Scully said: “It’s great to hear Just Eat are delivering for the North East’s economy by creating 1000 new jobs, from management to customer service, which will help make the region an even better place to build a career.

“This investment drives forward our plan to level up the whole of the UK, ensuring all our regions and nations thrive as we build back better from the pandemic.”

Just Eat’s employment boost in the North East builds on the business’ new worker model for couriers in the UK, which now has more than 4,500 roles. Initially launched in London, the model has since rolled out to Birmingham, Liverpool, Brighton and Cambridge, with further cities in the pipeline across 2021. All couriers contracted through this model are entitled to hourly pay, minimum/living wage, pension contributions and certain statutory benefits including holiday pay and sick pay.

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Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, on the publication of the Green Jobs Taskforce report

In November 2020, government published its ambitious ten point plan for a green industrial revolution in the UK.

Focused on increasing ambition in emerging and growing sectors like offshore wind, low carbon hydrogen, and electrification, it cemented government’s aim to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic, support green jobs, and accelerate the UK’s path to net zero.

Announced as part of the ten point plan was the formation of a new Green Jobs Taskforce – made up of representatives from industry, trade unions, and the skills sector – which would set the direction of travel for the green jobs market.

On 15 July, the Green Jobs Taskforce published its first report to government, industry, and the skills sector, outlining the importance of investing in the UK workforce to ensure people develop the right skills to deliver the country’s net zero transition, and thrive in a green economy it creates.

The report is of particular relevance to the North East, where green jobs are poised to transform our economy. We are already one of the world’s leading destinations for offshore wind, and recent investments from Nissan and Britishvolt have put our region at the forefront of the electric vehicle market. Innovations in heat networks and other forms of low carbon heat – including mine energy – also position the North East to become the UK’s first low carbon heat cluster, which will see the region benefit greatly from the growth of the green economy.

So how do we plan to maximise on this unique opportunity and play a central role in helping the UK reach its net zero target by 2050? Working alongside partners in industry and academia, we’re mapping the current and future skills needs in the green economy to ensure sectors in the North East – particularly those with the biggest potential for growth – have access to the talent and expertise they need to scale.

As facilitator of the skills workstream for Energi Coast – North East England’s offshore wind cluster – the North East Local Enterprise Partnership is working with industry and the education sector to develop an action plan to meet the needs of the sector with demand-led provision. Central to this is the commitment to increase diversity and inclusion in the offshore wind industry, and the group is actively working with employers to review their current recruitment and retention processes to ensure opportunities are provided to all.

The Energi Coast skills group is also working on a series of case studies that will reflect the partnership approach adopted by the offshore wind industry, the education sector, and government, in ensuring green careers advice is available to people in all sectors and at every stage of the career journey; reinforcing the importance of reskilling and retraining in creating new green jobs.

The low carbon heat supply chain is another significant growth area for the region’s economy, and we’ve recently completed a piece of work to identify the opportunities that exist both now, and in the future, for supply chain businesses, and what this will mean for skills demands. Additionally, as outlined in our Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, we’re addressing the need for investment in skills and training around retrofitting by working with the North East and Yorkshire Local Energy Hub on a housing retrofit skills model.

The North East’s significant automotive cluster and hub of activity in the battery and electric vehicles sectors means it’s well placed as a UK centre to meet the global demand for electric vehicles, and help lead innovation in the sector. Nissan’s decision to open a new gigfactory battery plant at its site in Sunderland, and the news Britishvolt will open another gigfactory in Northumberland, demonstrates the industry’s level of confidence in the North East. To ensure we have the skills to meet the demand, we’re working with the North East Automotive Alliance to address skills development in electrification and electric vehicle batteries.

The North East LEP’s Skills team is working alongside the eight early adopter status T-Level providers in the region to help strengthen their links with the business community, ensuring the new vocational qualifications – which include a 45-day industry placement – meet the needs of employers, and help deliver the skills needed to meet the green jobs of the future.

The Skills team is also working with the North East Institute of Technology, local colleges, and major employers like Nissan and Esh Group, to highlight Higher Technical Qualifications in subjects like advanced manufacturing and other STEM topics, as skills in these areas will be central to delivering the green industrial revolution in the UK.

The green economies of the future offer a huge opportunity for the North East to grow its economy and create thousands of more and better jobs. But to do that, we need to invest in skills – both in our future workforce via schools, colleges and universities, but also in our workplaces, by re-training and re-skilling our existing workforce.

In doing so we’ll position the North East as a major destination for skills and talent in green jobs, helping attract more businesses to invest here, ensuring the North East is at the forefront of the UK’s green industrial revolution.

Read more about the North East LEP’s work to support and grow the North East energy sector.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)*.

“The latest data covers the March to May period, during which some COVID-19 restrictions were eased. Despite these changes, the overall labour market picture remained relatively unchanged on the previous (December to February) quarter with both the employment and unemployment rates remaining the same. 

“The North East continues to have the lowest working-age employment rate (72.0%) among the nine English regions and the second highest unemployment rate (5.8% of the economically active). The region also has the highest proportion of people who are economically inactive (23.6%).

“ONS continue to innovate with new data approaches to provide more up to date intelligence to support assessment of the economy, for example, a new experimental measure of payrolled employees. This suggests a more positive picture with the latest monthly estimate showing there was an increase of almost 12,000 payrolled employees in June. This is encouraging and we will monitor how this new data set develops given it is subject to revision and excludes information about self-employed workers.

“Beneath the general figures, COVID-19 continues to have an impact on the working lives of many people in the North East region and appears to be exacerbating inequalities. Whilst people were securing new jobs and there is growth in vacancies, about 4,400 workers experienced redundancy in the latest quarter, more than twice the total in the previous quarter and bringing the total to over 32,000 since March 2020. The latest data shows a particular impact on women in the North East with female employment falling by 3,600 in the latest quarter, in contrast to a 2,800 increase among males.

“Job seekers claimant count data provides indications of the variations of unemployment within the North East LEP area. At constituency level, the rates range from 2.8% in Hexham to 9.0% in South Shields.

“At the end of May, almost 63,000 workers in the North East LEP area were still furloughed, with workers in food and accommodation services still making up almost a quarter of this figure. Manufacturing accounted for 11,000 of the furloughed workers, a total that did not drop during those three months. 

“This provides a strong rationale for the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda with support needed to the North East as a whole and for places within the region. Over the longer term, our Recovery Plan sets out proposals to drive forward our vision of a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive regional economy. As the Prime Minister outlines the next steps with for the Levelling Up strategy, the North East LEP will continue to work with Government and our partners to provide support to our regional economy as we work through the recovery phase to seek investment into these proposals.”

*The official data released today includes employment information based on surveys in three month period March to May 2021 for the North East region, which includes the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas. It also includes experimental estimates of payrolled employee numbers and job seekers claimant count numbers for June 2021. The regional data has been revised to take account of improved population estimates.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“As we mark the anniversary of the first lockdown, today’s data release is a timely reminder of the changes which COVID-19 has meant for our labour market. It provides the latest official data which includes regional employment information for the three months up to and including January 2021 and also annual comparisons.

“In the most recent months, the headline data has been stable. The employment rate in the North East region, which includes the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas, remains the lowest in England at 71.3 per cent, 0.1 percentage points higher than in the last quarter but 0.4 percentage points down on a year ago.

“The region has the second highest unemployment rate (6.2 per cent of the economically active) and the highest proportion of working age people who are economically inactive (23.8 per cent). Almost 30,000 workers in the region have been made redundant during the past year.

“However, some of the recent impact of COVID-19 has been masked by an increase in the use of furlough in the region. Over 114,000 North East employments were furloughed at the end of January, more than double the total of three months earlier. Most furloughed workers continue to be classified as employed in the official statistics.

“The impact on different groups in our population has been different. Younger people have experienced particular challenges both in employment and training and there have also been different patterns in the impact for men and women in the past year. The number of unemployed women has increased by 14 per cent, while male unemployment is lower (by about 8 per cent). Almost 52 per cent of furloughed workers in the North East at the end of January were female.

“The progress we are seeing towards the lifting of lockdown restrictions offers hope for the thousands of businesses unable to trade. Support for these businesses remaining under restrictions needs to continue.

“The North East LEP will continue to work with government as we look to drive forward our economy and address some of the key challenges which COVID-19 has created in our region.”

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Ground-breaking Careers Pilot Hailed a Success

An independent evaluation of the Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Career Guidance Pilot has been releasedThe North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) played a central role in the Pilot and Skills Director Michelle Rainbow reflects on this and how even after the Pilot was completed, the Benchmarks have remained at the heart of the North East Ambition programme.  

I was so proud when I read the evaluation – to hear the Pilot described as transformational and to know that the North East played such a pivotal role has been a real honour.   

We’ve always believed that the right careers education can have lifelong rewards for young people and to see that recognised independently today is fantastic.  

We started with 12 schools, three colleges and one pupil referral unit taking part in the Pilot, which ran across two academic years (2015/2016 and 2016/2017). 

The Pilot was designed to support those schools and colleges to implement the eight Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Career Guidance, evaluate how they were implemented, and identify what impacts might result from this. Today’s report notes the “observable and positive impact on learners, especially those who are most disadvantaged” – demonstrating the value that the Benchmarks can bring.  

The North East Strategic Economic Plan is our blueprint for growth in the North East. We know that skills and people are central to successful economies and through our work with the Pilot we’ve defined a programme with careers at its coreOur approach was bolstered by government integrating the Benchmarks into the national careers strategy, which requires every secondary school to adopt the Benchmarks and North East Ambition is here to support them to do that.  

North East Ambition’s key principle is “each and every”, making sure that every single student has the opportunity to access good careers guidance and recognise what their pathway could be. Why? Because we too believe it can be transformational.  

We have secured £3.1m European and match funding to support our North East Ambition programme that sees us working with 170 secondary schools and all nine of our FE colleges and two 6th form centres. This is a clear demonstration of our commitment to our pledge to work with each and every pupil in our region so that no one is left behind.  

We have also launched a new Pilot to adapt and translate the Benchmarks for primary aged pupils. There’s increasing evidence to show that children begin to form ideas about their futures when they’re as young as five or six. And by the age of 10, many young people have already made career limiting decisions, which are fixed by the time they’re 14. Imagine how we could change that trajectory if we could embed Benchmarks that related to primary aged pupils. We are one year in and our results are extremely encouraging.  

We haven’t let the impact of COVID-19 slow us down either. The trusted relationships we have built with the schools and colleges through over the past five years gave us the established network and routes into schools and colleges that we needed to continue to support young learners at the most challenging time. 

One of the things we have been incredibly keen to keep going is helping young people experience the world of work even during COVID-19 where they can’t physically get into workplaces. This is why, in response to requests from Careers Leaders, we have developed a Work Experience Framework, which will be launched next week. As an online resource, the site will support students and employers to facilitate virtual work experience  

The Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Career Guidance Pilot was an incredible success and we are grateful that our partnership with the Gatsby Foundation enabled us to play such a critical role in it. But the work is not over – this is just the start as we continue to lead the way in showing our young people there is a world of opportunity available to them and anything is possible.