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Ellen Thinnesen appointed to lead North East LEP’s Skills Advisory Panel

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has appointed a new Chair to its Skills Advisory Panel.

Ellen Thinnesen will lead the Skills Advisory Panel as it supports the drive to improve skills in the North East workforce.

Ellen is CEO of Education Partnership North East (EPNE), a partnership between Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College.

EPNE is one of the largest college groups in the country with campuses across the North East region, from Berwick-upon-Tweed to the Tees Valley, and a combined student enrolments of over 21,500.

Ellen first began her career as a qualified nurse and has previously held high-profile positions within the education sector in Manchester and the Yorkshire and Humber regions.

In her previous role as Principal and Chief Executive of Sunderland College, her ambitious vision led the college through two highly successful mergers.

She has held numerous board positions in the education and not-for-profit sectors within the North East and beyond. She continues to contribute nationally to influence education policy and reform.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “Improving skills in the North East workforce is fundamental to our economic future, especially now as we adapt to the significant challenges presented by COVID-19.

“Ellen is an inspiring leader who is truly passionate about making a difference and raising aspirations in the North East. We are delighted to welcome her as Chair of the Skills Advisory Panel.”

Ellen Thinnesen said: “I am honoured to be appointed as Chair of the Skills Advisory Panel. I look forward to working with the other panel members to continue to support the LEP to ensure we have a thriving skills system which meets the current and future needs of employers and drives the goal of creating more and better jobs for our region.”

Through the Skills Advisory Panel, the LEP is working to understand our region’s current and future skills needs and labour market challenges. The panel includes representatives from the North East LEP, the North East Combined Authority and North of Tyne Combined Authority, universities, colleges and local businesses. The work of the Skills Advisory Panel will feed directly into the development and delivery of the North East Local Industrial Strategy.

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Funding on offer for North East employers to help young people into work

New funding from government is on offer to help employers in the North East create job placements for young people who might otherwise be at risk of long-term unemployment.

Applications are now open for the Kickstart Scheme, which offers employers of any size, and operating in any sector, funding to create new, six month job placements for young people who are currently receiving Universal Credit.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, explains: “The aim of this new scheme is to help young people gain the skills, confidence and experience that they need in order to go on and find work once they’ve completed their job placement.

“It’s not just a short-term measure. In the North East we really want to provide high quality job placements that will not only give young people experience of the workplace, but also give them valuable opportunities to learn and progress.”

Businesses that want to create 30 or more job placements can apply directly to the Kickstart Scheme via www.gov.uk. For businesses that plan to create fewer than 30 placements, the North East LEP will apply on their behalf, grouping applications to create clusters of high quality placements across a range of sectors in the North East.

Organisations of any size are eligible to apply, as long as the placements they are creating help young people to become more employable, for example, by helping them develop their skills in the workplace, by providing support with interview preparation and CV development, or by providing careers advice and help with goal-setting.

The funding on offer includes 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. There is also £1,500 per job placement available for setup costs, support and training.

Employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of December 2021.

Michelle Rainbow added: “We know that young people, many of whom have finished school, college or university during the pandemic, are facing a difficult time and might have seen their plans for the future turned upside down.

“That’s why programmes like this are so important, and why we are working with North East employers to help give the next generation the best possible start in what is one of the most difficult times any of us have seen.”

For more information about the Kickstart Scheme visit www.northeastlep.co.uk/kickstart.

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Proposed recovery and renewal deal for post-COVID North East published

North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group outlines proposals to transform and reimagine the North East economy

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has published its Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, which outlines how a thriving post-pandemic economy could potentially be created.

The group is made up of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities with the support of industry, to ensure the North East has strong economic leadership that acts quickly and collaboratively to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

Its proposal reflects on COVID-19 as a catalyst for change and details how the North East is ready and prepared to harness this catalyst to reinvigorate the North East economy.

The document sets out how, with the necessary support from the government, the North East could maximise opportunities to reach a goal of rapidly creating 100,000 good quality and secure jobs.

In the Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, the Group is asking the government for £2.8bn to directly unlock half of required 100,000 additional jobs quickly. It also wants accelerated confirmation of existing business cases, including Transforming Cities funding; a commitment to joint working in areas where the North East can lead the national recovery, specifically low carbon energy; and flexibility within national programmes to allow for maximum leverage of local and national resources.

It is envisioned that this would keep people in jobs and training, support businesses and sectors to restart and recover, and support the transition of our communities and places as they adapt to living with COVID-19.

In the long-term, the deal sets out how our future economy can be built by maximising the potential of our existing assets and exploring new opportunities and by investing in digital and transport connectivity.

Opportunities identified in the document include a series of new projects to empower our rural and coastal areas and reinvigorate our town and city centres; achieving zero carbon emissions targets; utilising new digital construction and advanced manufacturing techniques; leading the national offshore wind revolution; and delivering the first digitally-connected Freeport for the UK.

The proposals give particular focus to jobs in the key areas of data ageing, low carbon, life sciences and pharma. This will help the transition to a stronger, higher-productivity and higher-wage economy, with people primed to adapt to challenges and new opportunities.

Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “The Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East is an ambitious proposal that is designed to create a fair playing field for everyone.

“Through our Strategic Economic Plan, it was our goal to create 100,000 new and better jobs and we were doing well – with 68,000 more jobs in March 2020. But the impact of COVID-19 will reset that, which is why our Recovery and Renewal Deal is so important.

“We have presented a proposal that puts sustainability and decarbonisation at the core. The Recovery and Renewal Deal ensures communities continue to improve and provide a strong offer for people to live, work, study and visit.”

Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director for the CBI North East, said: “Now more than ever we need to be imaginative in our thinking, brave in our approach and robust in our delivery in order to recover and thrive.

“In the Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, we have suggested the way to a new North East. Now is the time to come together to think bigger, greener, more inclusively and with innovation to reimagine our economy.”

Mayor Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Combined Authority said: “The pandemic has hit people hard. Young people need jobs. Businesses need investment. Yet we have the potential to be world leaders in offshore energy, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable transport.

“Our Recovery and Renewal deal will create 100,000 well paid jobs. It supports more affordable homes and better health. It’s what our region needs, and I want central government to back our plan and back the North East.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Chair, North East Combined Authority, said: “It is vital that we have a strong plan in place to help our businesses and communities to recover from this unprecedented crisis.

“The Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East builds on the work we are already doing with government and other partners nationally and regionally to unlock all available support and financial assistance and sets out a bold vision for future prosperity.”

A dedicated North East COVID-19 Response Group web page has been launched for those looking for more information and partners wanting to engage with its work.

North East businesses can also access the North East Growth Hub, where a COVID-19 (coronavirus) toolkit provides the most up to date support and advice, including partner information.

Read the Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East here.

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New role for an Analyst at the North East LEP

In conversation with Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

I’m delighted to share a new and exciting opportunity to join the North East LEP team as an Analyst.

This one-year fixed term role will help the LEP achieve its objective of creating more and better jobs here in the North East.

It’s perfect for someone analytical with the confidence to present and translate data into meaningful messages that will resonate with a wide number of people.

When in post, our new Analyst will regularly update the baseline analysis of the North East economy to inform the work of the LEP and any strategic documents we produce. They will also use toolkits to help us monitor the local economic landscape, including the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

A key part of the job will be working with our excellent Skills team to develop a critical North East Local Skills Report for March 2021. Our new recruit will also update the baseline analysis of the North East skills and labour markets, to inform the work of the Skills Advisory Panel (SAP).

If you’d enjoy working with policy leads, analysts and other key partners across the North East LEP and Central Government to provide analysis and recommendations on the local skills system to feed into the local skills strategy, this could be the role for you.

All new team members are warmly welcomed at the LEP so if this sounds of interest, please find out more here.

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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study about Newcastle University’s Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East programme, which accelerates the North East’s economic impact by pairing Newcastle University’s research, knowledge and innovations with the needs of local SMEs.

Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East gives SMEs access to more than 2,500 academics, innovators and experts at Newcastle University to help them develop new products or services, access new markets, or gain market share.

Arrow matches businesses with academics, innovation specialists and world-class researchers that can provide insight and expertise in areas such as research and product testing, data analysis and artificial intelligence.

The £3.4m innovation programme can also offer eligible SMEs up to £10,000 of match funding to buy services or equipment including; proof of concept and validation; survey and feasibility testing; product design; development and prototyping; analysis and testing; and commercial and contract research.

To date, more than 50 North East SMEs have received intensive innovation support from Arrow, including Your Health and Care Ltd, which provides complimentary services for people suffering from dementia, and Armatrex Ltd, which utilises expanding foam polymers to mobilise and support injuries.

Arrow works with companies to help drive their businesses forward through innovation and R&D support, leading to new investments and jobs. In line with the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan, Arrow’s target sectors are; life sciences and healthcare; advanced manufacturing; creative and digital technologies; offshore, subsea and energy technologies.

To find out more about Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East, visit www.ncl.ac.uk.

Arrow is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Future proofing the North East economy

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a period of accelerated change across the world that has left many businesses thinking long and hard about what the future holds.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) and its partners have been supporting the region’s business community to manage the impact of the pandemic and also plan for our economic recovery. Our work continues to be guided by the North East Strategic Economic Plan, which sets out our ambition to create more and better jobs by growing four specific areas of industry – digital, advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and energy.

To complement and run alongside the North East Strategic Economic Plan, we want to delve even deeper into the emerging markets and future trends that will dominate the UK and global economies. What are the sectors and areas of industry that will provide the greatest economic growth opportunities in the future? And how can the North East capitalise on them?

To help us answer those questions, we’re seeking to appoint a specialist contractor that can undertake an independent markets foresight analysis on behalf of the North East. We want to identify the short, medium and long-term opportunities our region should focus on to support our immediate economic recovery, and those that will help grow our economy in the future too; creating jobs for local people, attracting investment in the region, and improving our economic activity rates and productivity.

Some of the potential areas of opportunity are in response to our current situation. Active and sustainable travel, for example, has rocketed during the coronavirus pandemic and there is more demand for environmentally friendly transport solutions. How can the North East use its world-renowned expertise and skills in the automotive sector to drive forward this green revolution?

Renewable energy made up almost half of Britain’s electricity generation in the first three months 2020, further bolstering the green energy sector. What does that mean for the North East? How can we grow our share of the market?

How well positioned are we in the region to respond to future technology developments that will affect trends in key sectors; for example autonomous vehicles, the ageing population, and the rollout of 5G – or even 6G capability?

This project is about future proofing the North East economy and making sure we’re ready to respond to global economic opportunities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The North East LEP would like to undertake the economic markets foresight analysis this year, and we invite interested suppliers to join us at a online supplier briefing event on Monday 05 October from 10:00-13:00.

Find out more about this exciting opportunity to help the North East shape its future competitiveness, and sign up to attend, by visiting the eventbrite page.

By Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: TechUPWomen

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study about Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme, which took 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands, and retrained them for a career in technology.

Durham University wanted to address the fact that only 17% of the tech workforce is female, and women from Black, Asian and other minority communities are under-represented in the sector.

In 2019 it launched TechUPWomen, a programme that retrained 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands for a career in technology. In spring 2020, the TechUPWomen participants graduated from the six-month programme having developed skills in data science, machine learning, and project management.

Whilst studying for the programme, participant Benedicta Banga launched her own app – Blaqbase. Fellow graduate Shakirah Mustapha-Tahir is now working for HR in One as Content Manager and has been elected Board Trustee of Being Woman UK. Winona Sharpe, who also completed the course, started a new position as Junior Release Associate with Double Eleven Ltd, a games developer based in Teesside.

Other success stories include Jennifer Calland who has a new job as a Google Certified Platform Engineer for Cloud Technology Solutions and has been awarded a place at Edge Hill University to do an MSc in Big Data Analytics. Course graduate Amy Woodget has a new job as Lead Advisor in Earth Observation for the Civil Service, and Katherine Iveson has a new job as a Data Analyst for HMRC.

Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme was named winner of the Employment & Skills category at the Digital Agenda Impact Awards, which celebrates how technology and innovation improves lives.

For more information about Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme, visit www.techupwomen.org.

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Unique new fund announced to protect IP of Health and Life Sciences businesses in the North East

A unique new fund aimed at protecting the intellectual property of high value health and life sciences businesses in the North East has been announced by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP).

The COVID-19 Patent Protection Scheme is a £300,000 grant fund designed to support high-value proposition (pre-commercial) health and life science businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis and at risk of losing their patents and intellectual property due to lack of funds.

The scheme has been developed in direct response to the needs and demands of businesses operating in the health and life sciences sector, many of which have not qualified for government support or local authority grants.

Katherine Forbes, Health and Life Science Programme Lead at the North East LEP, said: “For early stage innovation and research-led businesses in the health and life sciences sector, protecting and retaining intellectual property is vital for securing investment and ensuring a strong commercial footing in the future.

“If we don’t support these businesses now we risk losing significant assets, talent and skills, and our future scale-up businesses from the region, and that will damage the sector as a whole.

“The health and life sciences sector is one of four areas of strategic importance identified in the North East Strategic Economic Plan. It has a vital role to play in our economic recovery, which is why the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group – led by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership – established the COVID-19 Patent Protection Scheme.

“This Grant Fund is unique to the North East. So far, this has not been replicated in other areas of the country. It really demonstrates the North East’s commitment to growing the health and life sciences sector, which contributes more than £1.5bn GVA to the local economy every year.”

Pre-commercial, high value proposition businesses in the North East LEP area with life science-related patent(s) are invited to apply to the fund. Grants of up to £25,000 will be awarded to cover new or essential filings and the costs of retaining patents, or annual renewal fees of patents, incurred from 9 July 2020 – 31 March 2021.

More information is available is available by clicking here. Application forms can be requested by emailing [email protected].

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group was established by the North East LEP at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

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Crowdfund North East LEP: Worldbeaters

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has partnered with Crowdfunder to make up to £5,000 in match funding available to help small businesses continue to trade through the coronavirus pandemic.

Crowdfund North East LEP allows small businesses employing no more than 10 full-time equivalent employees to secure match funding to boost their own crowdfunding efforts.

There are 45,800 eligible small businesses across the North East and many are in urgent need of financial support. The funds released by North East LEP will provide urgent relief for those businesses most in need who do not qualify for other government funding schemes. The match funding is being sourced from the North East Investment Fund and will total up to £1 million.

Below is a case study of Worldbeaters – producers of the acclaimed interactive street theatre show, Spark!, – which has benefited from Crowdfund North East LEP.

To find out more about Crowdfund North East LEP, raise funds for your business, or donate to a small business in need, please click here.

Please introduce yourself, your company, and tell us why you fundraised through Crowdfunder.

I’m Chris Maines-Beasley, a Director of Worldbeaters based in North Shields. We are producers of Spark! – an interactive street theatre show that combines drumming, movement, clowning, dazzling costumes and lots of light! We created the show in 2012 here in the North East, and it has toured the world ever since!

Arts and events have been hit as hard as any other other sector by COVID-19 and we know we have to adapt our show for the new realities ahead. Our biggest asset is our bank of self-employed performers. We depend on them as much as they depend on us, so it was crucial that we found a way to support them during this difficult time. Crowdfunding was a perfect fit as it connected us to our many fans around the world for them to directly support a show they love.

How easy was it to set up your crowdfunding campaign and apply for the North East LEP’s match funding?

It was pretty straightforward. There was minimal form filling: just all the info that any business will already have to hand.

Then came the fun part of creating our ‘message’.  We already had a lot of nice visual material that we could use and we had a real clarity of purpose in that 100% of the money raised is going directly to support our performers to rehearse and rework the show. That clear message was important. Crowdfunder provide lots of useful advice and resources on their site to help with this, and good supportive advice as the process went along.

We did not offer any tangible rewards, so we had to work hard to make the connection between the performers and potential supporters. That was really satisfying. The performers made a nice video speaking directly to supporters, and the feedback we had from those who donated was that that human connection to the ‘story’ of the performers was crucial.

What difference will the match funding from the North East LEP make?

It was absolutely essential for us and we would not have started the Crowdfunder without knowing it was available. To raise our £10,000 target on our own felt a little daunting, but knowing that the North East LEP would match half of that gave us the confidence to start.

We also know the match-funding was very important to our supporters and we made a lot of that fact that their £50 donation would actually be worth £100 to us after the North East LEP matched it. It made people feel like they were giving double and was a real win for us in getting donations.

All of the money raised is going to pay our performers for rehearsals and to adapt the show to be more COVID-ready. It’s crucial to ensure that we still have a show to offer when events resume again in the future.

Would you encourage other businesses to start their own crowdfunding campaign using Crowdfund North East LEP?

Absolutely. Go for it! It’s such a flexible type of fundraising that you really can tailor your approach to fit almost any product or need. As well as the money raised, the act of crowdfunding helped us have a focus during these difficult times and to keep our team motivated for the future.

Upon successful completion of the Crowdfunder, the money was in our account within a few days. We were able to begin our COVID-safe rehearsals and start paying our performers immediately. It feels great to be back working together again.

I really recommend that North East businesses have a go at crowdfunding in this way. It was actually a lot of fun and has helped our business and our team to adapt and be in the best shape to hit-the-ground-running again when things pick up again. Hopefully we’ll see you out on the road soon!