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In conversation with Dr Yvonne Gale, Chief Executive of NEL Fund Managers Limited and Business Growth Board member at the North East LEP

As a newly appointed member of the Business Growth Board, how will your skills and experience support the North East LEP’s aim to increase the density of scaleups in the region?

“I have been working with scaling up local businesses my whole career, first in professional services, then running the finance teams inside several high growth local businesses, and now as CEO of NEL Fund Management who have funds specifically targeted at scaling up businesses. You could say I’m a finance for scale-ups expert – helping businesses to grow with the finance they need is what I do every day.

“I bring to the Business Growth Board the knowledge of what scaleups need so we can ensure, as a Board, we create a joined up system to empower businesses with growth potential and provide them with the wide range of ingredients they need, including finance. The more businesses with scaleup potential that are financed for deliverable business plans, the more we together increase the density of scaleups in the North East LEP region.”

How important will access to finance be for our regional economic recovery as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?

“Economically we are a long way both physically and culturally from City of London approaches to finance, but we don’t want any business to suffer for the lack of access to the right finance. Like most imbalances, the coronavirus pandemic has made more pronounced the existing disconnects.

“For years I’ve been advocating that accessing finance from a computer portal or call centre is fantastic until there’s a problem. An example is how many local businesses struggled to get through to their finance providers when they desperately needed to talk because they didn’t have a person-to-person relationship.

“Being able to access finance is about knowing where to go and who to talk to as much as it’s about the amounts involved and the level of cash. Central government created some fantastic interventions but these were for the heat of the emergency and not designed to be permanent or perfect. The recovery will take time and access to finance is likely to be a problem both in who will put up the finance in uncertain times, and does that finance fit the recovery, as every business will be different. As a Board, we need to ensure there is finance available that fills in any gaps over the medium to long term for regional businesses to deliver their potential.”

How will a recession further impact the North East, and what can businesses do to survive?

“I advocate three actions. First, good cashflow planning helps every business owner make informed decisions. As a chartered accountant, I would always advocate spending time on a good long range forecast, but almost anything is better than knee jerk reactions based on today’s bank account balance.

“Second, relationships matter when times are tough. The current situation presents an opportunity to forge deeper relationships with customers and suppliers. Now more than ever, people are logging who helps and who doesn’t. This creates opportunities for developing your business with new and existing partners.

“Third, the business world is in a state of flux and ‘fortune favours the brave’. It is difficult for complex organisations to be nimble but local businesses don’t need to wait for permission from head office. Now is the moment to think big and bold, striding out while others are busy elsewhere.”

Many small businesses are struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. What support is available for them in the North East?

“There is an immense amount of support available in the North East, all of which have rapidly adapted so they can help now. The list is so long that it’s not possible to cover it in a blog. My best suggestion is to talk to people; be that your existing trusted advisors as there may be many ways they can help that you’ve never needed to ask about.

“If you want to widen your pool of who can help, consult the North East Growth Hub or make an appointment to talk to the Growth Hub Connectors. The Growth Hub is a comprehensive portal of the support available in the region.

“Of course if you need information on finance, I’m happy to help. You can reach me by emailing [email protected].”

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In conversation with Paul Butler, CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance and newly appointed Business Growth Board member at the North East LEP

Paul Butler, CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance, explains how the Business Growth Board at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership – of which he is a member – is backing business to support more and better jobs.

Strong leadership is critical right now. What role will you be playing as a newly appointed Business Growth Board member?

The Business Growth Board has a key role to play in helping support the North East region, and the companies within it, to ensure we’re in a strong position when we come out the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is a lot of work we need to do, but I believe we have a strong board and we are focused on providing the right support at the right time to speed up recovery.

In my role as CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance, I represent over 270 companies across the automotive sector and associated supply chains. Prior to that I worked in the Chemical and Pharmaceutical sectors with NEPIC and during that time supported the delivery of the regional UKTI services so I have a broad knowledge of the North East business base – particularly across the key manufacturing sectors. I am also a cluster management expert and have knowledge of the business support frameworks deployed in other countries, especially across Europe.

I bring all that experience to my role on the Business Growth Board so I can help the North East LEP bring together the right business support that’s required at this very challenging time.

From my very first meetings with the Business Growth Board I’ve been very impressed with its response. There is a real drive and desire to get the right framework to support businesses. In the longer-term, it’s about continuing that so we can deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan, the Local Industrial Strategy, and really drive the region forward.

What are the biggest challenges facing the North East manufacturing sector right now?

Given my role I have a bias towards the automotive sector but the challenges we face are common with other manufacturing sectors.

The coronavirus pandemic is a global crisis and as a global sector the impact has been felt hard by automotive companies and their associated supply chains. We are driven by demand so as countries entered strict lockdown measures the markets effectively closed. Thankfully, we have seen dealerships starting to open from the 1st June in the UK and other important markets are also opening, this is an important first step in the recovery for the sector.

As we come out of lockdown and begin the recovery the biggest challenge faced by the sector is managing the recovery – reacting to a very turbulent market and providing safe working environments for our excellent workforce as they return to work. As a cluster we have been doing a lot of work to share best practice around restart planning which has been shared with networks here in the North East, and across the UK.

We will continue to see a technological revolution as we see the introduction of new technologies linked to the global carbon emissions and climate change challenges; and the UK Government’s NetZero 2050 target and subsequent announcement that it was set to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2035. This had an immediate impact on the market and accelerated the move towards electrification.

I also believe the Covid-19 pandemic will hasten the move towards connected and autonomous mobility (CAM) to provide safe transportation for vulnerable people and zero touch logistics.

The region has strengths in both electrification and CAM which I am sure we can capitalise on for the betterment of the region.

Forecasting demand must be hard for the manufacturing industry during the pandemic. What words of advice can you share?

Demand is extremely difficult to forecast and that is a key challenge for manufacturing businesses.

Government support for the industry has been excellent, its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has definitely saved a huge number of jobs. But as we begin to return to work, demand is difficult to predict. It’s important we work with government to make sure the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or an equivalent, is put in place that allows more flexibility. We don’t want to be in a position where we bring people out of furlough to find demand is not as expected and we need to take them out the business again.

We need more flexibility to bring back the employees we need at the right time. It’s going to be a very turbulent period. If we see a second spike across Europe and the UK, markets could go into lockdown again.

I’m not from the North East originally but I’ve lived here for 19 years. The manufacturing base in the North East has a very adaptable workforce; one of our key strengths is our people. I have no doubt that the workforce and companies based in the region will be able to adapt quickly to any flux in demand. Our agility is our strength.

How can manufacturers get employees back on site safely as we see a return to the workplace?

There is lots of guidance available that companies need to follow. Government has released up-to-date guidance for a range of different workplaces.

We’ve been taking into account guidance from across the country and abroad, and disseminating strategies through a global network so companies have access to best practice on restart planning. We’ve taken the best ideas from around the world and looked at how we can implement them here in the North East.

I’m a member of a European cluster network and having reviewed what others have done, the North East is right up there with the best. And I think that’s been due to our willingness to share knowledge and experience with others.

All our businesses have been looking to ensure workers return to a safe working environment. We’re really going over and above in the North East.

A key part of our success is communication with employees; companies are constantly engaging with their workforce. Businesses are communicating all the measures they are introducing to keep people safe, for example, conducting risk assessments, adopting PPE, introducing COVID-19 champions to help implement changes, and amending working practices to mitigate risk by adding protective screens and having staff members face the same direction at work. Businesses are taking every measure they can.

Other measures include temperature testing on arrival at work, increased cleaning regimes, and one way systems to avoid cross over points in the workplace. Induction days have been introduced to take employees around sites so they can see the changes and return to work knowing every precaution has been taken to keep them safe.

In fact, since going back to work, many people have said they feel safer at work that other environments outside the home.

The North East Automotive Alliance is a partner of Supply Chain North East. What advice and support can this give business owners as they navigate this turbulence

Many businesses are predicting it’s going to take 12 months to two years to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and get back to normal market conditions. As it’s going to be a long recovery period it’s important, we engage and support as many SMEs across the North East.

Supply Chain North East is a key programme for the region and the North East Automotive Alliance is one of four partners involved in the programme alongside RTC North, Generator and NEPIC.

The premise of Supply Chain North East is to either help companies strengthen their business base in the sectors they work in – for example, an automotive businesses looking to expand and grow in its sector – or the other side is to help companies diversify and use their skills to work in different sectors of industry.

Across the programme we have a lot of skill sets to support businesses. The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the economy and Supply Chain North East can help businesses to either grow their existing business base or help them to move into new markets.

In addition, our capital grants programme has been updated. SMEs can access up to 60% in grants (increased from a cap of 40%) towards stalled pipeline projects due to COVID-19 or activities aimed at developing the supply chain; and payments can be made at the start of a project. Critically, grants up to 80% are available for companies which can potentially support supply chain needs relating to the health and social care sectors.

We’re currently talking to businesses, discussing the challenges they are facing, and working with them to put together an action plan to help them come through the other side of this crisis.

More information is available at www.supplychainnortheast.co.uk.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership publishes its Annual Review 2019-2020

Tribute paid to its ‘exceptional’ team and the resilience of the North East’s business community.

The Chief Executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Helen Golightly, has paid tribute to the LEP’s ‘exceptional’ team and spoken about how the region’s inbuilt resilience and strong community will see it through the coronavirus crisis, in its Annual Review, published today.

Referencing the annual government review of all Local Enterprise Partnerships, which resulted in the North East LEP being marked exceptional for its delivery, Golightly said: “This demonstrates our strong leadership and solid implementation to ensure that our strategic projects are delivered to make the maximum impact to boost economic development and create more and better jobs.”

The Annual Review 2019-2020 sets out the progress that has been made against the six targets in the Strategic Economic Plan, in relation to the number, quality and type of employment opportunities available, the proportion of the workforce that is in employment and economically active, and productivity.

The two headline targets are to increase the number of jobs between 2014-2024 by 100,000 and for 70% of these jobs to be ‘better jobs’.

While COVID-19 has since made these targets more difficult to achieve, by December 2019 total employment had increased by 57,000. Employment in ‘better jobs’ had increased by 70,400.

Other key achievements in the last twelve months have included the North East Growth Hub becoming a critical resource for North East businesses, offering support on the EU Exit and how to best mitigate the impact of coronavirus. The launch of a second Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot has also taken place in the North East LEP region, this time focusing on primary schools.

The government announced in March 2020 that the North East will be at the centre of investment in innovation, while a highlight within the North East LEP’s transport programme has been the region collectively securing £198m from the Transforming Cities Fund to invest in key sustainable transport projects.

Speaking about the challenges currently being faced by businesses, North East LEP Chief Executive Helen Golightly said: “These may be truly uncertain and turbulent times but rest assured, we continue to support businesses and communities.

“This region is not frightened of a challenge and I am confident that our inbuilt resilience and strong community identity will carry us through to the recovery when we will do everything we possibly can to ensure our regional economy is back to pre-COVID-19 levels – and stronger again.”

Click here to read the North East LEP’s Annual Review 2019-2020.

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Crowdfund North East LEP: Shoe Tree Cafe

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 Shoe Tree Cafe – a vegan and vegetarian cafe in Heaton, Newcastle – that 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.

My name is Joe and I’m one of the owners of Shoe Tree Cafe, a veggie and vegan cafe based in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Due to the uncertainty of this time we decided to raise money to help us diversify and alter our business model to one that can operate safely in the current climate, as well as support our staff and the wider community.

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

Everything was really easy to setup through Crowdfunder. Choosing rewards was fun and it’s nice to know that folks are getting something back for their investment in your business, rather than just being encouraged to give you money for nothing.

Crowdfunder informed us there was potential match funding available and I was able to apply the same day through a simple form. It only took four or five days to be informed we’d got it, and then it was just a case of getting our supporters on board to hit the 25% and 75% targets to get the full funding.

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

Without the match funding it would have taken a lot longer for us to get the cafe up and running again. We’ve now got a really nice little pot of money to get us going and diversify our business model.

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

Absolutely! What have you got to lose?

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Supporting innovative North East firms to help lead the region’s economic recovery

The North East LEP is hosting a special event to help the North East’s innovation and technology sector understand and ask questions about the newly announced Future Fund.

Innovation, digital and technology-led businesses will power the engine that drives growth in the UK economy, and help lead the country’s, and our region’s, financial recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The presence and potential of technology startups is an indicator of a healthy, ambitious and resilient economy. These innovative, high potential firms feed cycles – they are a route to retaining and attracting talent in a place; they create the scale-ups of tomorrow; they can establish and support ecosystems for entrepreneurs to invest back into, which in turn attracts more entrepreneurs to a region. They build the technological innovations that will create jobs; develop supply chains; become our next exports.

This is why the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury has announced a financial support package – Future Fund – to protect UK businesses driving innovation and development from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Future Fund

Launching today (Wednesday 20 May), Future Fund will give high-growth companies across the UK the investment they need to continue during this crisis. Providing loans between £125,000 and £5m from the government, private investors are required to at least match the government commitment. Future Fund is delivered through the British Business Bank.

Supporting North East businesses to access funding

To help our region’s dynamic businesses bid for funding, the North East LEP is hosting a webinar to explore the specifics of the Future Fund, including eligibility criteria and the application process. This is an opportunity to hear directly from regional investors and operators, including Northstar Ventures and SeedLegals. Tech founder and entrepreneur, Paul Smith, will chair the event.

The webinar will take place at 2pm on Thursday 28 May. For further information and to register your place, please visit the eventbrite page.

We welcome registrations from technology start-ups, investors, founders and innovation-led firms across all sectors.

Looking to the future of the sector

As well as discussing the immediate funding opportunity to support businesses through the coronavirus pandemic, we will also be using this event to take a longer-term view of the digital/tech/innovation sector in the North East and explore barriers to its growth.

The North East digital strategy recognises the huge importance of our tech community, which is driven, passionate and entrepreneurial. We want to support more of this by enabling greater cross-sectoral collaboration and raising the profile of our tech sector with investors and collaborators – from across the region and beyond.

We want to strengthen the relationship between creativity and innovation to maximise the translation of ideas into new products, solutions and businesses. And we want to support the wider ecosystem so that we see more innovative start-ups launching, flourishing and staying in the North East.

Join us on 28 May at 2pm to learn more about government’s support for innovative businesses and discuss how we, as a sector, can build the right environment for high growth businesses to thrive in the North East.

By Laura Partridge, Digital Programme Lead at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

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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.”