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The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group: Keeping people in employment

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.

In our latest blog, Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), outlines the response in terms of keeping people in employment. 

The impact of Coronavirus on the North East marketplace has been hard and fast. As such, it won’t surprise anyone that one of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group’s immediate priorities is to ensure that businesses keep people in employment and avoid shedding jobs.

In the first instance we are working hard to signpost employers to relevant information and financial support so they have options. Similarly, we are directing employees to advice so they are fully aware of their rights. 

Alongside this, we are coordinating a region-wide response to the more medium-term impact on jobs. This includes trying to capitalise on opportunities for redeployment; thinking about where there may be new and emerging roles; and supporting those who find themselves out of work both now and in the future.

Things are moving rapidly

This is a rapidly developing situation and it is hard to get a real reading on the current level of unemployment in the North East but we continue to gather intelligence and data, such as redundancy figures, and monitor the situation so we can provide appropriate interventions in a timely fashion. It’s likely we won’t have a true reflection until we are well past the other side of the lockdown. 

It’s really important that anyone affected can make sense of the regular updates coming from central Government so we have coordinated a response via the North East Growth Hub. This provides an up to date resource that simplifies things and people can trust. It features frequently asked questions and there is an opportunity to speak to experts if there is something specific visitors to the Hub need help with.

Help at the right time

The recent Government interventions came at a very timely moment. The opportunity to furlough workers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a lifeline for a lot of companies and it has been very positive to see take up of this. 

It’s also been good to see many organisations move their workforces to home working so they can keep trading. There is definitely a pattern emerging where staff are being moved to shorter hours to keep them on the payroll while business is quiet. Everything like this helps right now.

Redeployment will be crucial to keeping people in jobs. Some sectors such as retail and tourism have been severely impacted so it’s crucial we look at how the transferable skills available can be used elsewhere, particularly where resource might be tight, for example in the health and social care sector. With the right training and background checks this is achievable and something I believe businesses will quickly get their heads round.

We’re on your side

Everyone is anxious right now, even those with jobs who are wondering what the new world will look like post Coronavirus. My advice is to check out the wealth of excellent advice available, such as on the Government site and via organisations such as TUC, all of which can be found by visiting the North East Growth Hub website. 

Ultimately, people can feel confident that this North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is working with the North East Skills Advisory Panel and other partners to do absolutely everything it can to help the North East community weather this crisis and to make sure regional businesses remain well represented to Government.

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.

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North East LEP signs School Governor Champion Charter

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) has become the first LEP in the country to sign the School Governor Champion Charter, which aims to champion the role of school governor and support staff members to become governors in local schools.

Developed by national school governor recruitment service, Inspiring Governance, the School Governor Champion Charter is a five-step charter employers can sign to pledge their support to champion school governance opportunities in their area and encourage staff to take up the role.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Businesses have an increasingly important role to play in our education institutions. As an active partner, they can support students to learn more about the world and work and help them progress into fulfilling careers.

“Being a school governor is a rewarding experience and people from all sectors of industry have valuable skills and experience to share and gain. Schools and colleges in the North East are actively seeking people from the business community to help shape their strategic direction and ensure they operate in a way that meets performance standards.

“The education sector has become increasingly business-led in its approach, which is why having a varied and diverse school governing body that includes people from different industries and sectors is of huge benefit.”

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership is a public, private and education sector partnership that works with industry, education and partners to deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan. One of its core aims is to improve skills in the region, helping to boost the economy and create more and better jobs.

Its North East Ambition initiative supports all schools and colleges in the North East LEP area to achieve the government’s Good Career Guidance Benchmarks, ensuring every young person has access to excellent careers guidance that enables them to identify routes to a successful working life, make more informed decisions about their future and be better prepared for the workplace.

The North East LEP is also working with EY Foundation and 70 primary schools from across the North East LEP as part of the North East Ambition: Careers Benchmarks Primary Pilot, which is testing how Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks can be adapted for primary schools.

Michelle continued: “The North East LEP works collaboratively with business and education through our Skills programme to improve opportunities and outcomes for children and young people across the LEP region. Over the past four years we have seen the progress that can be made through effective school governance.

“By signing the School Governor Champion Charter, we are recognising the value and importance of school governance and how, as an organisation, we can help promote opportunities in our area and support staff and colleagues to become governors themselves.

“If anyone would like to know more about becoming a school governor, or would like their organisation to sign the charter, do please get in touch by emailing [email protected].”