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Crowdfund North East LEP: Heatherslaw Light Railway Company

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 Heatherslaw Light Railway Company – a narrow gauge steam railway tourist attraction based in North Northumberland – who have 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’re fundraising through Crowdfunder.

“I’m Darrell Smith and I’m the finance director of Heatherslaw Light Railway Company, a narrow gauge steam railway tourist attraction based just over the River Till from the Heatherslaw Cornmill in North Northumberland.

“We’re a family business; my father started the company 30 years ago. We employ five full-time members of staff and some seasonal workers too.

“As a seasonal business, we rely on the busy spring/summer period to carry us through the winter. Having been told we can’t open, we’re left with a hole in our revenue. Despite receiving grant funding from the Local Authority under the business rate relief scheme, as well as participating in the Government backed COVID-19 guaranteed loan scheme, our business would have struggled to survive without using Crowdfunder.”

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

“It was great, refreshingly clear and easy. It’s a really good platform and very easy to get your message across.”

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

“It gives us two-three months of covering costs until we can open again. It’ll be the difference between exceeding the overdraft limit, and not. It will also help us manage the lower visitor numbers we’re expecting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Over the winter we have a lot of statutory maintenance works to carry out in preparation of opening in the spring/summer, where we make our revenue.

“As a key attraction for the local area, we attract over 30,000 visitors to the estate, which helps to supports jobs in other local businesses.

“The response to the Crowdfunder has been amazing. Someone donated £400 anonymously and another person donated £500 to have his daughter’s name put on a carriage.”

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

“It depends on the businesses, but as long as you meet the criteria and have goodwill amongst your customers then yes, why wouldn’t you? If you’re providing something people value, it’s the ideal platform. It’s very easy to set up.”

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In conversation with Colin Bell about how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is helping to keep businesses moving

A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. It has a five point plan in place.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explains how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is leading the response in terms of business continuity. 

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has come together to mitigate the shock created by Coronavirus, think about what the recovery looks like, and harness the collective energy and ability of the business community to make that upturn happen.

Now is an extremely challenging time and the biggest issue facing everyone is cash flow. Most self-employed and business owners are doing everything they can to keep their heads above water until they can access some of the support Government has made available. 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme are the most significant measures that have been put in place but there is a period of time before people will be able to access these so it’s about buying time.

A partnership approach

Being able to draw upon the knowledge and expertise of the CBI, which is part of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, along with the North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, is crucial right now as we look at the issues facing large organisations.

These companies have similar issues to smaller companies but on a much larger scale, for example they may be furloughing staff and / or have seen a big drop in demand. Wider challenges for some management teams who continue to operate include trying to manage a reduced workforce where perhaps people are having to take time off to self-isolate, along with the need to reassure those who are still in work and their families about their safety. Where products and services are being supplied to the NHS there is a particular need for business as usual. 

It’s important to recognise that in terms of safety, North East businesses have really stepped up to the plate here. Many could technically still be trading right now but have taken the moral decision to furlough staff and place people before profits and that is to be commended. 

Government is listening

For the self-employed, it was a big win when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the introduction of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, a vital lifeline we had been lobbying on and it reinforces that Government continues to listen and respond. The big challenge is we won’t really understand how people can access this until June, however on the plus side, it seems this group should still be able to generate income in the interim.

Another welcome step forward is the extension of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to smaller businesses who would previously have met the requirements for a commercial facility but not have been eligible to apply. Equally, the removal of personal guarantees for facilities under £250k, and capped recoveries for loans over this figure, is a big game changer and will help big and small companies alike.

As a Group, one of our biggest priorities is ensuring businesses exist in three months’ time. As before the crucial factor in that is the need for working capital so we are signposting hard. 

Diversification can help

Where businesses can trade, for example online and in distribution, we are working flat out to support them as much as possible. Alongside this we are trying to point those in industries where demand may have flattened to those where it has spiked, in case they can capitalise by putting core competencies to use in a way perhaps outside the norm. 

It’s a complex arena but we are trying to identify and share opportunities wherever we can and facilitate that diversification. Similarly we are putting lots of effort into rerouting skilled labour where it can be best utilised during this time of crisis.

There is one area in which people can help us. We’re gathering as much data as we can right now to ensure we’re providing the right support and so we can share this intelligence with Government to help inform what next. This is why we’re asking all businesses owners to complete this survey. If you haven’t done this yet, please do so now. 

To stay up to date with progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page. Lots of helpful support can also be found on the North East Growth Hub.

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In conversation with Matt Joyce, Regional Lead – North East Ambition at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, about National Careers Week

Careers education and guidance, and how it is delivered in schools and colleges, has been transformed in recent years.

The introduction of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks and the closer relationship between industry and education has given young people a better understanding of the world of work and the various pathways open to them, including apprenticeships and traineeships.

Careers education and guidance has become an increasingly important part of school and college curriculums; helping students make more informed decisions about their future lives.

This National Careers Week at the North East LEP, we’re celebrating some of the ways our schools and colleges are putting a focus on careers guidance to improve opportunities for young people and ensure businesses have access to a skilled and talented workforce for the future.

Launched in 2017, North East Ambition builds on the success of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot in the North East LEP region by supporting every school and college to adopt, implement and achieve the eight benchmarks by the year 2024. We’re currently working with more than 160 schools and colleges as part of the region-wide initiative to help improve outcomes for all young people, regardless of their starting points or backgrounds. This includes helping to support the region’s SEND schools and ensuring employers recognise the value SEND students can bring to their organisations.

Within North East Ambition are a number of programmes designed to improve careers guidance in schools and colleges. The Enterprise Adviser Network, for example, embeds business leaders into secondary schools and colleges to help shape the delivery of careers education. More than 140 business leaders are enrolled on the programme, representing a diverse range of industries key to the North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan.

Our Education Challenge programme currently works with five secondary schools and one college to support teachers, school leaders and governors to integrate an understanding of the world of work and career opportunities into the curriculum. The North East LEP’s successful partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning has helped bring the workplace and classroom closer together, giving students the chance to work with local employers on real life projects.

All of this work has helped bridge the gap between education and business so our young people are more aware of the career opportunities available across the region, the routes into them, and the skills and expertise employers need.

The North East LEP, working in partnership with EY Foundation, is also leading a pilot programme looking at how the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks can be adapted for a primary setting. Our North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot is designed to build careers aspiration and inspiration from an early age. We’re currently working with 70 primary schools from across the North East LEP region to see if introducing the Benchmarks can help sow the seeds of ambition from an early age. We’re seeing very promising results so far.

National Careers Week is a fantastic opportunity to share some of the amazing work taking place across the North East LEP region to educate and inform young people about the career opportunities available to them so they can all fulfil their potential and enjoy rewarding and successful lives.

Please follow our Twitter account, @northeastlep, or connect with us on LinkedIn, to take part and show your support for National Careers Week.

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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) Senior Economist, Victoria Sutherland, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics.

The data covers both the North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP areas and is for the final quarter of 2019.

“Employment has fallen, with 12,000 fewer people in work between October and December 2019 than in the previous quarter, and 13,000 fewer than in the same period in 2018. The sharp decline over the last quarter is disappointing news for the North East. It reflects part of a broader trend with the North East being one of four English regions (Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, South West) to experience a decline in employment over the last quarter.

“Within this overall trend, the number of women employed has increased over the quarter by 7,000, while the number of men in employment has declined by 19,000. It is unclear at the moment what is driving these differing trends.

“Unemployment increased by 3,000 over the quarter and by 9,000 over the year, increasing the unemployment rate from 5.4% to 6.1%. The North East is the English region with the highest unemployment rate. Again, the trends differ across genders, with male unemployment increasing over both the quarter and the year, whilst female unemployment has fallen.

“Combined, these figures suggest the North East labour market is less strong than it was a year ago.

“It will be critically important that the North East Local Enterprise Partnership continues to work with partners across the region to deliver the Strategic Economic Plan’s ambition of more and better jobs. The Strategic Economic Plan is the region’s plan for delivering economic growth, but we cannot do it alone. We hope that the upcoming Budget prioritises those investments that partners in the region have highlighted to government as being important to driving growth in our economy.”

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In conversation with Sian Browne, Head of Innovation and School to Works Lead at EY Foundation, about the progress of the North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot

I’ve just returned from my latest visit to the North East to see, in person, the impact the North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot is having in our participating schools.

I can’t believe the first term has finished and we are well into term two! It was fantastic to see how the programme is already having an impact, with some terrific stories emerging from the 70 schools taking part.

We’re delivering the pilot in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP). The aim is to test how the eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks, which form part of statutory guidance for secondary schools in England about how to deliver impactful and effective careers guidance, can be adapted for a primary school setting.

The pilot was launched in recognition of the fact children can start to make career limiting decisions as early as five years old. We hope to change that by sowing the seeds of ambition from an early age.

One highlight from my day in the North East was a visit to Bothal Primary School, which focuses on STEM learning. The school is an inspiring example of new, innovative thinking to engage pupils and industry. Incredibly, the school has a whole wing devoted to STEM, with great facilities, such as 3D printers.

Local and global businesses are providing support, with a BMW room next to the AkzoNobel inspiration suite. This is providing a great environment for pupils to understand the skills needed for different careers and to realise there is more to getting a good job than academic qualifications.

My next stop was Lingey House Primary School, which is developing new ways to support ‘career related learning’ through workbooks. These are used to demonstrate the huge range of career options available in different subject areas. For example, working in creative arts and design can lead to becoming a fashion designer, a photographer, a fine artist, a make-up artist, an animator, a dancer, an illustrator and many more. All these roles are described in detail, setting out what the job entails, the qualifications needed and salary expectations.

To bring career options to life, I saw that lots of schools in the pilot are inviting people working in different roles to come in and talk about their job. It’s a great way to engage and inspire the next generation.

A final example of how a school is responding to the challenge of building interest in future work is Percy Main Primary School in North Shields. They are working with a local museum to give the children an opportunity to role play a wide variety of the jobs available within the sector from archaeologist to receptionist. Their parents were then invited in to see their children in action, which is so important in terms of building involvement and engagement in this project.

I can’t wait until my next trip in April to find out what happens next in the schools I’ve been lucky enough to visit. But in the meantime, please look out for more wonderful case studies from this project. They’ll be hosted on the North East Ambition website and available on the EY Foundation social media channels.

The North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot is supported by funding from the European Social Fund, EY Foundation and the Local Growth Fund.

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In conversation with Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, about National Apprenticeship Week

03-07 February 2020 sees the arrival of National Apprenticeship Week, putting this important route to employment in the spotlight. Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, highlights the benefits that apprentices can bring to businesses and new support that’s on offer from 2020.

If you’re a business planning for 2020 and beyond, it’s likely that staffing and skills will be on your list of priorities.

Apprenticeships can be a great way of bringing fresh talent and skills to your business, by employing an apprentice or upskilling staff via an apprenticeship scheme, with qualifications going all the way up to degree-level.

From 2020, larger employers who pay the Apprenticeship Levy can transfer up to 25 percent of their funds to smaller businesses to support them to take on an apprentice, which is great news for SMEs.

However, smaller businesses often tell us that they struggle with ‘where to start’ when it comes to hiring an apprentice; from how to fund an apprenticeship to recruiting the right person for the job.

To support businesses in that situation, we’ve just updated our Apprenticeship Toolkit on the North East Growth Hub to offer simple and clear advice on where to start and where to get support.

The Toolkit brings together useful information to help businesses find, recruit, train and develop an apprentice. It also includes case studies from local businesses that have benefited from employing apprentices.

On a national level, a significant development for 2020 is that all employers in England will soon have access to all the benefits of the National Apprenticeship Service – including greater choice of quality training providers, more control over how they pay for training, and how they access and recruit apprentices.

The transition of non-levy paying businesses onto the full apprenticeship service will take place from early 2020 and extra funding will be available to support up to 5,000 new apprenticeship starts through the service every month until March 2020.

If you’re not able to offer an apprenticeship, you might want to consider offering a traineeship instead, which consist of 20 percent on-the-job and 80 percent off-the-job training.

Traineeships help 16 to 24-year-olds get ready for a job or apprenticeship if they don’t have the appropriate skills or experience. It involves a minimum of 100 hours of work experience over a maximum of six months. Employers need to deliver a meaningful work experience to the trainee, but it’s a much smaller time commitment than an apprenticeship. It’s a great way to give someone their first step onto the career ladder, and your business gets to benefit from an injection of fresh ideas and talent too.

During 2018/19, we saw over 15,500 apprenticeships start in our region. By offering an apprenticeship or traineeship, businesses can help to improve skills across the North East, boosting the economy and creating more and better jobs. It would be fantastic to see these numbers really grow from 2020 onwards.

To find out more about the benefits of apprenticeships and the value they can add to your business, visit the Apprenticeship Toolkit on the North East Growth Hub.

You can also find more information about apprenticeships and traineeships by visiting www.gov.uk or www.apprenticeships.gov.uk.


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In conversation with Andrew Moffat, Board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), about investment in the East Coast Mainline

A key driver for a strong and resilient economy is good connectivity. Without it, people, goods and data can’t be moved easily and efficiently, which impacts productivity and performance.

Connectivity is even more important to us here in the North East because of our geography. We, more than many other regions in the UK, rely heavily on road, rail, air and sea links to help us do business in the region, across the country and all over the world.

Our assets include the largest light railway system outside of London, an international airport, three major ports and a road network that links us to the rest of the country.

We also have an extensive rail network that provides us with regular and direct services to Scotland, London, Manchester and other key economic hubs in the UK.

Of course to remain competitive and to access markets, it’s essential we continually invest in our infrastructure to ensure it is future proof and fit for purpose. It’s for that reason I support the call for government to pledge significant investment in the East Coast Mainline.

The current East Coast Mainline is unable to cope with growing demand on the route. As well as carrying 15 million passengers from the region each year, the East Coast Mainline is a major freight route that supports the region’s expanding automotive industry and transports goods including coal and biomass.

The line reduces from four to two tracks north of Northallerton, which reduces capacity on the network and impacts its efficiency. Services on the line have also been subject to delays or cancellation because of ongoing under-investment.

For us to achieve the aims set out in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan and ensure the North East remains a key player in the Northern Powerhouse, we must build capacity on the network and make sure it’s ready to support HS2 services by 2033.

As the former Chief Executive of Port of Tyne, I know – first hand – how important our region’s rail system, and particularly the East Coast Mainline, is to our economy. Without it, Port of Tyne would have missed out on major contracts that helped us create jobs and boost the local economy.

Transport for the North is campaigning for better connectivity to unlock the economic potential of the North. Its proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail network would transform how people travel across the North and boost productivity by closing the gap with the South. The East Coast Mainline will have a major role to play so it is vital government make the funding available to carry out works the line so desperately needs.

A recent report into the benefits of investment in the East Coast Mainline found the impact of HS2 and investment in the line between York and Newcastle would generate around £493m of GVA to the UK economy each year and £100.42m GVA per annum for the North East.

As a region we must be better connected so we can access new markets and position ourselves as a major economic hub in the UK. We already have to work harder than other areas because of our physical location but by improving our transport infrastructure and ensuring it’s future proof, we can compete globally, grow our economy, create more and better jobs and bring more investment into the region.

By Andrew Moffat
Board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

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Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, provides an update on the North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot

In 2015, the North East LEP began work on a pilot programme that would go on to directly influence statutory guidance for every school in England on how to deliver effective and impactful careers guidance.

Fast forward to 2019 and we’re now running a second pilot in the North East LEP region, this time focusing on primary schools.

The North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot aims to sow the seeds of ambition from an early age in recognition of the fact children can start to make career limiting decisions as early as five years old.

In partnership with the EY Foundation, a charity that supports young people from low income backgrounds get into work, we’re working with 70 primary schools from across the North East. The purpose of the project is to test how the eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks can be adapted for a primary school setting.

Since launching the pilot, each of the schools has used our North East Ambition online audit tool to assess their current careers education provision and identify which, if any, of the Benchmarks they are delivering.

Using this information, they have then gone on to develop an individual action plan that outlines how they will implement and achieve the Benchmarks.

The North East LEP has supported them through this process by providing expert help and advice in the form of two primary facilitators that work directly with the schools. We’ve also arranged two area meetings giving pilot schools the chance to come together, share ideas, discuss best practice and access resources, toolkits and learning to help them deliver their action plans.

It’s been fascinating to see the progress that the schools have made at this early stage of the pilot and we are delighted with the level of commitment from the staff at each of the schools, including from Head Teachers and Governors.

We’re seeing schools integrate careers education into its existing work, which is a great way to deliver the Benchmarks. Our facilitators have also supported teachers to introduce careers into lesson plans and help students understand the range of jobs available to them. For example, pupils at Newsham Primary School in Blyth worked with ambassadors from Blyth STEM Hub and the Greenpower Foundation to help build an electric car. Students at Percy Main Primary School in North Shields learnt how to be museum curators as part of a visit to Segedunum Roman Fort, and pupils at Kings Priory School in Tynemouth enjoyed a careers event with over 25 activities that explored different job roles – from chocolatiers to engineers.

It’s also been great to see our primary and secondary schools beginning to work together to support achievement of the Benchmarks and this whole school, and collaborative, approach is a really positive sign for the pilot’s success.

In all, we’ve had a fantastic start to the North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot and I’d like to thank all 70 primary schools for their commitment, hard work and enthusiasm.

It will be exciting to see what progress we’ve made in another six months.

If you’d like to learn more about our North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot, please visit www.northeastambition.co.uk. You can also email us with any questions via [email protected].

By Michelle Rainbow
Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

The North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot is supported by funding from the European Social Fund, EY Foundation and the Local Growth Fund.

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East Durham College launches Careers Leadership Committee

East Durham College operates across three campuses and serves a wide and varied group of students studying both academic and vocational courses at various different levels, including GCSE, BTEC, NVQ, A Level and Higher Education.

Because of this, East Durham College was keen to explore a new approach to careers education, one that met the needs of each and every student.

In recognition of its unique offer, the College chose to establish a Careers Leadership Committee that could work effectively across all three of the college’s sites and better represent its students by offering a diverse range of views and experience.

To support its work establishing a Careers Leadership Committee, East Durham College used its learning as part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Gatsby Good Career Benchmarks pilot to map out how each department engaged with careers. The exercise showed some excellent careers education provision within its curriculum areas and some in need of improvement.

Based on this research, and following recommendations from The Careers & Enterprises Company, East Durham College established a Careers Leadership Committee that comprises a Board member, two members of the College Leadership Group, the Vice Principal Curriculum and Performance and:

  • Director of Student Experience, Engagement and Wellbeing
  • Director of Inclusive Learning
  • Programme Leader for Progression Coaches
  • Curriculum Manager 14-16
  • Curriculum Directors from across all campuses
  • Careers Co-ordinator
  • NECOP Co-ordinator (FutureMe)
  • Quality Co-ordinator

Since forming, the Careers Leadership Committee has helped ensure careers education is at the heart of East Durham College. It is now a regular agenda item at all Curriculum meetings where it is planned, reviewed and assessed as part of each Curriculum Area’s SAR & QIP.

The Student Service department has increased its careers advice provision and more cross-college events are taking place to support students and parents.

The Careers Leadership Committee has also begun to record and capture careers activity across the college’s three campuses to identify which teams are performing well, and which teams may need some additional support.

The only costs associated with the new Careers Leadership Committee is staff time, meaning it is a sustainable and long-term way of delivering effective and impactful careers guidance that will benefit all students at the College.

East Durham College is one of 11 colleges and sixth form centres involved in the only national College Careers Hub in the country. Careers Hubs are a central part of the Government’s Careers Strategy, which aims to improve careers education and help prepare young people for the world of work.

The College Careers Hub pilot is facilitated by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.