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Paul Woolston welcomes research excellence results of local universities

Paul Woolston, North East LEP Chair, today welcomed the outstanding research excellence results of local universities, setting them amongst the best in the UK.

Results from the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) unveiled today assess the research activity of universities over the past six years, its quality and its impact.

Newcastle University is ranked 16th in the UK, Durham 18th, Northumbria 52nd and Sunderland 103rd.

Mr Woolston said: “The REF results are proof positive of the overall quality of our superb universities and the impact their research makes on our economy and wider society.

“The results pinpointed the sheer depth and reach of the world leading and internationally excellent research at our universities, in areas key to our economic success such as sciences, engineering and educational attainment.

“They are leading the way in our region, nationally and internationally with pioneering research and innovation that brings with it huge economic benefits for the North East.

“The innovation they lead working closely with business helps support the delivery of the North East Economic Plan, creating new, high quality jobs, fresh ideas and intellectual property which play such a major part in creating new growth and prosperity in the North East.”

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Delivering more and better apprenticeships

Increasing the number of higher level apprenticeships is a priority for the North East. They offer learners and employers a real alternative choice and are fundamental to tackling the growing skills gap. And, research clearly shows there is the demand for apprenticeships, with higher than national numbers of young people in the North East choosing them to launch their careers.

We’ve already started the journey – working with skills providers we have helped deliver an additional 150 higher lever apprenticeships for next year. But it is not just about numbers though, it’s also about tailoring apprenticeships to meet market demands.

Working with partners we are delivering projects and interventions to make this happen. We have set ourselves some ambitious targets and are delivering projects to meet them.

Working together to deliver more apprenticeships 

The North East Apprenticeship Hub is a partner initiative with the ultimate aim of increasing the number of the right apprenticeships for the North East.

By providing a focal point for local action and support it will promote the benefits of apprenticeships to potential employers and applicants and encourage more businesses to take on apprentices. It will bring together partners to join together priorities, resources and activities around apprenticeships. And working with providers it will help to create the right programmes to meet local business needs, providing locally tailored and easily accessible advice and guidance.

Independent support will be available through a website, containing helpful guides and advice on funding. It will bring people together in one place, to liaise, learn and share knowledge and better understand why and how to take on an apprentice. The site is due to launch early next year.

Understanding the best way forward 

The North East has great support for apprenticeships – with programmes such as the Journal’s Proud to Back Apprenticeships already championing the benefits. It’s critical that the Hub builds on this work, rather than just replicating it under a different name.

Earlier this year we commissioned New Skills Consulting and TBR to undertake research to better understand the needs and potential of apprenticeships in the North East. It looked at what are the true barriers to apprenticeships and what is needed to overcome these.

It focused on three specific areas – analysis of current data and statistics to provide baseline of current activity and attitudes; talking to businesses, training providers other stakeholders to build up a true understanding of barriers and possible solutions to the take up of apprenticeships; presenting the findings and providing recommendations.

The report will be instrumental to shaping the direction of apprenticeship programmes in the North East and support continued economic growth. The findings of the research set out four areas of activity which are around improving engagement with schools; co-ordinating a pre-apprenticeship programme; improving information and support for employers new to apprenticeships and increasing marketing and PR activity.

The full report will be published in the new year

Supporting higher apprenticeships 

Its not just about increasing numbers – to be successful in tackling the skills gap they also have to be the right apprenticeships, of which higher apprenticeships are essential.

This month we brought together training and education providers in a seminar to look at best practice in developing a higher apprenticeship programme. The sold out seminar included speakers from Accenture, ID training, University of Sunderland and the SFA, raised the profile and the benefits of higher apprenticeships and is a step towards bringing more and better apprenticeships to the North East.

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North East employment grows by 40,000 – a recored 1.2m in work

Employment in the North East of England increased by 40,000 in the last quarter compared to the same time last year, meaning the region now has a record 1.2 million people in work.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures for December 2013 to February 2014 have been welcomed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership as evidence that the private sector is growing rapidly and creating new jobs at record levels.

These data follow a 25,000 jump in regional employment for the quarter November 2013-January 2014 compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

The ONS data refers to the North East region as a whole. An estimated three-quarters of the new employment, or 30,000 jobs, are in the North East LEP area of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham.

North East LEP chief economist, Mauricio Armellini said: “This confirms the trend we observed in the previous quarter’s data. To give a sense of scale, one of the biggest success stories in the North East is Nissan which employs 6,000-7,000 people directly. So 40,000 new jobs is an increase in employment equivalent to six Nissans in a year, which is pretty impressive in any context.

“With 900,000 people now in employment in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area we’re in a strong position to reach our vision of one million people in employment by 2024. We must ensure that these jobs are inclusive and reach all communities, but equally that they are the better jobs we need to keep productivity growth high and maintain our competitiveness.”

‘More and Better Jobs’, the recently published North East LEP Strategic Economic Plan, builds on many of the recommendations put forward last year by Lord Andrew Adonis in his Economic Review and includes closing the employment rate gap between the LEP area and the rest of the UK.
It also aims to halve the gap between the region and the national average (excluding London) on the key economic indicators of gross value added (GVA) per full time equivalent, private sector employment density, and activity rate.

This week’s positive employment figures follow recent ONS data that showed the North East’s labour productivity is growing at the fastest rate in the UK, using both the GVA measure and hours worked, and the alternative GVA/job filled indicator.
This more comprehensive economic measure shows people and businesses in the North East LEP area are winning the competition with the rest of the country to produce more valuable goods and services for each hour worked. To achieve this whilst also enjoying significant jobs growth is a sign of a real competitive edge.

Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP, said: “The new employment data, coming on top of the positive productivity figures, shows a sustained upwards curve in the region’s economy.

“The 40,000 increase in employment in the last quarter compared to last year’s figures is excellent news, and proves that our ambitious job creation aims contained in the strategic plan are both realistic and achievable over the next decade.”

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North East LEP selects Ingeus UK to improve local skills

For any ambitious business or organisation, building a dynamic workforce – finding the right people and giving them the skills they need – is the key to success. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) clearly recognises this and has identified improving the skills base in the area as one of its key economic priorities, fundamental to underpinning business creation, innovation and growth in the area.

Working with the Skills Funding Agency, they have selected Ingeus UK to help deliver high impact short courses, bespoke skills training and accredited qualifications to North East SMEs as part of the European Social Fund (ESF) programme in the area. Ingeus is now overseeing the delivery of a significant ESF investment to provide a wide range of training to local employees. They have developed the Workforce Investment Network (WIN), an ambitious programme to help businesses by identifying their growth plans and workforce needs before matching them up to the best available training for their people.

The company has also been selected to oversee the delivery of the Local Response Fund (LRF) for the North East LEP. Local Response Funds have been put in place for each LEP area across the country and this additional ESF funding will enable LEPs to respond flexibly to a range of identified local skills priorities with a focus on upskilling employed individuals and helping SMEs in key sectors to become more competitive.

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Board member with the lead on skills, is encouraged by the opportunity afforded by this initiative:
“The Local Response Fund represents a significant investment in skills in the North East LEP area and we are determined to ensure that we support a range of projects which both add value in the short term and leave a lasting legacy. Ingeus have demonstrated a strong commitment to delivering against the priorities we have identified; they have taken the initiative and shown flexibility in shaping their offer to meet with our existing and emerging strategic objectives.”

Ingeus UK is now working closely with the North East LEP and other key stakeholders across the area to ensure that a range of innovative projects will be funded through LRF which both address local priorities and lead to a lasting benefit for the North East. This close co-operation resulted in the North East identifying and developing one of the first LRF projects in the country to be approved by the SFA National Panel.

This first project is with a leading North East partnership, NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV) and the LRF investment will allow NGCV to develop its own workforce and encourage access to training for the wider cultural sector.

Anthony Baker, Joint Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Dance City and the Chair of the NGCV Skills Group said:
“As a partnership, we are excited to be working on this important initiative for the sector. It marks a real step change to NGCV’s work in this area by creating a progressive training and development programme which works across cultural forms and is built around identifiable workforce needs. It is designed to develop individuals and businesses which already have strong creative or technical skills, but not necessarily all of the business thinking and practical skills which will enhance the performance of the overall cultural business. Our project also seeks to strengthen the profile of the cultural sector across the whole North East LEP area, as an important sector for investment, and aims to provide a lasting benefit for the North East”

Ingeus and NGCV have developed a strong working partnership and this first project will have a number of tangible results:

– Mapping the knowledge, skills and expertise of existing staff to determine needs and priority areas of the partnership
– Establishing a multi-layered training programme which addresses core skills as well as progressive training and development opportunities
– Increasing the capacity of the sector to train itself, sharing skills across and beyond the partnership
– Creation of new pathways for smaller, regional organisations and individuals to benefit from and feed into a regional training model, supporting the cultural infrastructure more widely
– Establishment of a sustainable and accredited training and development model for the wider sector which will see NGCV partners becoming training providers regionally and nationally

David Gallagher, who is the Head of Employer Services for Ingeus, based in their offices in Team Valley, said:
“We are delighted to be working with the North East LEP, SFA and key stakeholders in the North East to deliver the Workforce Investment Network and the Local Response Fund. This new initiative brings together the best of the region’s training providers and could make a real difference to local businesses. This is a great offer for them: there is no cost to the business or their staff for any of the support, analysis or training received. WIN and LRF are about working together to invest experience and expertise into North East businesses to help them to succeed and grow. This is good for local business and the success it leads to is good news for the area’s economy.”

For further information, call 0845 330 8184 or email [email protected]

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North East LEP working with universities to drive innovation

Automotive event links businesses with academic technical experts.

Connecting automotive businesses with the expertise of four of the region’s universities to boost innovation and growth will be under the spotlight next week.

A major event staged by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) and the universities of Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham and Sunderland, is aiming to act as a catalyst for increased collaboration between industry and academics to create new investment, businesses and products.

Driving Innovation 2013, a free half-day event at Gosforth Park Marriott on October 23, will give automotive businesses the opportunity to talk about technical or developmental challenges that are putting the brakes on improvements or the creation of new products and services. Experts from the four universities will be able to provide guidance on setting up new collaborations for bespoke projects or ongoing work.

The day will showcase a number of areas where the region’s universities are leading the field in innovative automotive technology, including energy recovery, engine development, precision/micro-manufacturing, autonomous driving, electric vehicles and sensors, smart electronics, and lighting.

Keynote speaker Richard Ebrahim, who is heading production of Nissan’s new Infiniti luxury model at Sunderland, will speak at the event about the automotive industry in the region. The Japanese car giant has a successful track record of collaboration with academia in its research and development work, both in conventional vehicles and the new generation of electric cars.

The event is the first of its kind co-organised by the North East LEP to drive its North East Innovation programme.
North East LEP director Edward Twiddy, who will also address the conference, said: “Driving Innovation 2013 is a key building block to encourage universities and local businesses to work together to encourage growth, as recommended by the Witty Review carried out for the Government.

“One of our key remits is to lead innovation-driven work, and find ways to bring together applied research, academia and industry. The event also highlights how our universities are collaborating on important sectors such as the automotive industry, to share their collective expertise for the benefit of the North East economy.”

International innovator Prof Roy Sandbach, who spent three decades with global consumer products giant Procter & Gamble and who leads the North East LEP’s innovation strategy, will be at Driving Innovation.
Prof Sandbach, who is the current David Goldman visiting Professor of Innovation & Enterprise at Newcastle University Business School, said: “This is a great example of the new sense of focused collaboration that the North East LEP must foster. It really deserves active support.

“We all need to show our commitment to economic growth through collaboration across institutions, businesses and innovation agencies. This is a team game. And I am very happy that the universities are taking the lead on this. This is perfectly consistent with the strategic direction outlined in the just-published Witty report to focus on strengths and create collaborative networks with universities at the heart. We are at the front of the pack with this event.”

He said the North East LEP’s innovation strategy is now crystallising to build on innovation hubs and support networks.

“The North East LEP will build a credible outward-facing engagement with global innovation opportunities and it will develop a vibrant innovation culture through training and mentoring,” said Prof Sandbach.

“This demands cross-organisational leadership and I am confident that all the key players will step up. They have to, for the region to thrive.

“We all want this region to be recognised for innovation. It is in our DNA.”

Driving Innovation takes place on Wednesday October 23 at Gosforth Park Marriott from 8am to 1pm. To book a place, register online at www.ncl.ac.uk/sage/drivinginnovation2013 or contact Nicola Taylor, Newcastle University email: [email protected] or phone: 0191 208 5488.

The initiative is funded and supported by the North East LEP and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Further information from Christine Holland, Holland PR & Marketing Ltd. Tel 01670 790246 or 07711 698246.

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Major conference focuses on jobs, skills and economic growth

Lord Adonis returns to the region to chart the North East’s progress.

The region’s progress towards achieving the recommendations of Lord Adonis’s Independent Economic Review and the next steps in accelerating growth and job creation are coming under the spotlight in a major one-day event on Friday, 6 September.

The Driving Forward Economic Growth Conference, organised by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), will examine how far the region has come since Lord Adonis’s Review was published in April.

The next steps, including creation of more and better jobs to drive the region’s role in the global economy, the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan and the 2014-2021 European Funding Strategy, will be at the heart of the discussions.

The conference, at the Centre for Life in Newcastle on September 6, will include keynote speeches, panel discussions and workshop sessions exploring issues highlighted in the Review from job creation to accessing finance and the region’s infrastructure.

Lord Adonis is returning to the North East to speak at the event and give an external view of the region’s progress towards his recommendations.

Keynote speakers include Chair of the Humber LEP Lord Christopher Haskins, who will discuss developing strategic relationships, and Gateshead Council leader and chair of the North East leadership board, Councillor Mick Henry. The panel discussions will focus on the region’s challenges and opportunities for economic growth.

Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP, said:
“We are delighted to welcome Lord Adonis and members of his review team back to the region to chart our progress on meeting the Review’s recommendations.

“The Driving Forward Economic Growth Conference will also give key stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the next steps towards achieving those aims and examine in detail how we can move forward, creating more jobs and prosperity for the region.

“Our response, centring on the North East Strategic Economic Plan and European Strategy, shows the significant impact the review has already achieved.”

Councillor Mick Henry, Chair of the North East Leadership Board, said:
“We are already making real progress in implementing the recommendations from Lord Adonis.

“The Adonis Review has had a catalytic effect in the region, accelerating productive collaboration between universities, private and voluntary sectors and local authorities, on a shared agenda for economic growth.
“The Review strongly supports the establishment of a Combined Authority across the North East LEP area and we expect this to be operational by April next year. This will place the North East at the vanguard of new arrangements, to enable more devolution for local decision-making.”

Since Lord Adonis’ Review was published, the North East LEP has made a number of notable strides towards its recommendations. In July, it was awarded £7.5m in European funding from the fourth round of the Regional Growth Fund to boost the resources available to support small and medium sized companies; a North East Combined Authority is being formed; Professor Roy Sandbach was appointed to head the LEP’s innovation strategy, and the LEP was one of just three in the UK chosen by the Government to pilot innovative new approaches to skills development funding.

Professor Roy Sandbach, the David Goldman visiting Professor of Innovation & Enterprise at Newcastle University Business School, has three decades’ experience of commercial innovation with Procter and Gamble under his belt. He will be part of the conference’s panel discussion on the role of partners in delivering economic growth.
He said: “Partnerships are central to my remit to drive recognition of the North East LEP area as an international centre for innovation growth. I will be looking at the challenges of building and mapping the region’s future innovation networks internationally and ensuring our businesses and universities engage with the big global players.”

Conference delegates have a choice of different workshop sessions in the afternoon tackling the practical issues of finding finance for growth, developing a skilled economy with more and better jobs, the region’s transport, housing and infrastructure, and creating productive and innovative businesses.

North East LEP board member Andrew Hodgson, who is responsible for skills development alongside Sunderland College’s Anne Isherwood, will lead the session on developing a skilled economy.

He said: “Lord Adonis’s Review focused on the necessity of matching the region’s skills with the demands of the labour market and tackling the shortfall. Since the recommendations were published, the Business Secretary Vince Cable has chosen the region to develop a new skills model, which gives the North East LEP more influence on how skills funding is targeted.

“We are working with the North East Leadership Board of seven councils and the Skills Funding Agency to develop this skills model, with input from employers, colleges and training providers.”

Northern MPs will discuss the North East Independent Economic Review in a parliamentary debate on September 5, the day before the Driving Forward Economic Growth Conference takes place. Attendance at the conference is by invitation only and there is now a waiting list for cancellation of tickets.

Further information from Christine Holland, Holland PR & Marketing Ltd. Tel 01670 790246 or 07711 698246.

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North East LEP leads the country in government pilot

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) has been chosen by government as one of only three LEPs across the country to pilot innovative new approaches to skills development funding to help boost local jobs and business growth. The opportunity presented by Business Secretary Vince Cable is for the North East to enjoy much greater influence and decision-making about skills funding in the LEP area.

NELEP and the North East Leadership Board of seven councils will work jointly with the Skills Funding Agency to develop the skills model, which could operate from as early as September this year through shadow arrangements with existing skills provision.

Its success, however, will depend on a strong partnership with colleges and independent training providers. Employer input will also be critical and the aim is to improve the outcomes for individuals and businesses at a time when skills have been identified as the most critical issue for growing businesses.

Andrew Hodgson, NELEP board member who leads on skills development alongside fellow board member Anne Isherwood of Sunderland College said: “It’s great news that the ideas we put forward to government for the skills funding model are now being driven forward, and that the North East LEP is one of only three in the country to pilot this innovative skills funding model.

“The LEP has put the focus firmly on skills from the outset, and this model will be hugely important in helping to develop skills at every level, essential to the development of individual people, as well as economic performance. Effective skills and training programmes tailored to fit our area’s key sectors, for all ages of workers, answer the immediate needs of employers as well as the future demands of our local economy.”

Lord Andrew Adonis, who led the North East Independent Economic Review, said: “Our review of the North East economy highlighted the importance of matching current and future skills provision to demand in the labour market. As an area with a diverse and growing private sector economy that faces skills shortages in a number of sectors this new-found opportunity is a major step forward.

“I’m delighted that the leadership of the North East in this debate is being recognised with this additional form of devolution, which is a major fillip for the combined authority and LEP. I look forward to seeing this brave new approach realise its target of more and better jobs in the future.”

Andrew Hodgson added: “It’s clear that we need to think and act locally to create and strengthen a workforce with skills clearly linked to the North East economy and its key sectors. With the LEP, North East Leadership Board, businesses, colleges, and training companies working closely together we will help to drive growth through the capabilities of highly skilled people, trained and working in the North East.”

The two other LEPs taking part in the pilot are Stoke and Staffordshire and West of England.

Further information from Christine Holland, Holland PR & Marketing Ltd. Tel 01670 790246 or 07711 698246.