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In conversation with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Regional Lead – North East Ambition, Matt Joyce; and College Hub Facilitator, Kim Smith, about the new WorldSkills UK Higher Technical Education Toolkit

In July of this year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a major overhaul of higher technical education in Britain.

The announcement follows a government review that found higher technical education can help unlock the skills employers need and lead to highly skilled, well paid jobs for young people.

Part of the reason for the changes to higher technical education are a result of the low level of uptake in courses, and the outdated perception that this important route to employment is in some way inferior to gaining a degree, which is not the case at all.

One of the biggest differences will be the introduction of a new quality mark, signaling that technical education courses provide the skills employers need. This is really important as it demonstrates the key role industry plays in technical education, and how employer standards sit at their very heart.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership is well placed to promote higher technical education as a prestigious career route for young people thanks to its dedicated College Hub, which comprises all nine general FE Colleges and two of the largest sixth form institutions in North East LEP area. The North East LEP is also committed to the Independent Training Provider network through both the LEP’s Apprenticeship Group and Skills Advisory Panel.

Because of our role in supporting colleges to design and implement quality careers education – including the Good Career Guidance benchmarks – we were approached by The Gatsby Foundation and WorldSkills UK to contribute to their digital careers toolkit, which has a focus on higher technical education. The resource is designed specifically for career leaders, young people, parents and employers.

WorldSkills UK is an independent charity supported by 80 member countries that works to raise the standards in apprenticeships and technical education so more young people get the best start in work and life. We were very proud to be asked to take part and have the opportunity to profile the great work of our further education institutions in the North East.

Newcastle College, New College Durham and Education Partnership North East were invited to contribute to an educational video resource about higher technical education, with each institution providing a unique perspective on the matter. Newcastle College is part of the country’s largest college group and has higher education awarding powers. New College Durham leads the new North East Institute of Technology (IOT) – of which the North East LEP is a key strategic partner – and Education Partnership North East has a strong technical education offer and plays an integral role in influencing the national careers agenda through engagement on National FE & Skills steering groups.

The video looks at how higher technical education offers a route into skilled work, the subjects people can study, and raises awareness of the role further education colleges play in the delivery of higher technical qualifications that complement the higher education offers provided at universities. The video is available to view here.

It’s really important that careers leaders, young people, parents and employees and employers know more about technical education. The academic route to employment isn’t for everyone, and we need to remove the stigma around practical, skills based qualifications like Apprenticeships, T-levels, Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas. They don’t ‘lock you in’ to sectors at too young an age, and they are not inferior qualifications; in fact outcomes suggest quite the opposite. They are excellent pathways for creating a positive identity for young people that are motivated by having a professional identity.

Higher technical qualifications provide entry into the jobs of the future. The first qualifications available from 2022 will focus exclusively on digital; supporting people into occupations like network engineers, cyber-security technologists and software developers. In 2023 more higher technical qualifications will be available, covering the construction and health and sciences sectors. It’s important we remember that some young people know what they want to do as a career, and that professional identity motivates them through education.

Within the North East LEP area we have a really strong offering around higher technical education and that will help us build a skilled workforce for the future, drive economic growth, and create more and better jobs for the North East.

By Matt Joyce, Regional Lead – North East Ambition, and Kim Smith, College Hub Facilitator, at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

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North East employers asked to share their experiences as part of a study on flexible working

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Durham University are launching a joint project exploring how flexible working practices can benefit businesses and communities in the North East.

The Good Work Agenda project aims to identify how businesses and employees can adapt to new ways of working after the impact of COVID-19, and to highlight organisations that have successfully adopted flexible working practices.

The team is now looking for North East businesses that have examples of successful flexible working to share.

Professor Jo McBride from Durham University said: “We know that flexible working, when done in a way that works both for organisations and the whole workforce, can help make businesses more successful, and employees feel more supported and engaged.

COVID-19 is challenging the notion of what ‘normal’ working looks like, and we are temporarily working with a ‘new form of flexibility’. As a result of the pandemic, employers are discovering what is and is not possible and we are also facing an opportunity to reflect on the way we work, and how we can encourage ‘good working’ in the future.”

The project builds on ‘The Forgotten Workers’ research by Prof Jo McBride at Durham University and Dr Andrew Smith from Bradford University, and work previously carried out by the North East LEP. Both projects identified flexible working and underemployment – when employees’ skills and experience aren’t fully utilised – as areas where improvements could have a positive impact on the North East regional economy.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “When flexible working is at its best, it allows people to work to the best of their ability, to make the most of their skills, and to feel secure in their roles.

“As our region begins to recover from the impact of COVID-19, we want to hear from businesses about their experiences of managing flexibility before and after the pandemic, and to learn how we can all work in a better way in the future.”

Emma Ward, Research and Evaluation Manager at the North East LEP, added: This is part of a wider programme of research between the University and the North East LEP and we aim to develop a closer research relationship, drawing particularly on Durham University’s expertise in social and economic research.

“We’re committed to delivering a North East Strategic Economic Plan that is underpinned by robust evidence, and a key commitment of Durham University’s strategy is for research to have a positive impact on regional challenges, with cultural, social and economic benefits.”  

The research team is very keen to hear from North East employers in any sector who have good examples of flexible working practices to share.

Businesses will take part in an online interview with the academic researchers, and the findings will be shared through a series of case studies in 2021.

The project complements the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s Good Work pledge and aims to help employers across the whole North East LEP area benefit from successful flexible working.

To take part in the research or to share an example of flexible working, contact [email protected] and [email protected].


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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: Innovation Northumbria: Incubator

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

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

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

Below is a case study from Northumbria University about it’s new Innovation Northumbria: Incubator, which supports its flourishing community of student and graduate start-ups, and provides opportunities for business partners to offer mentoring and financial backing.

Opened in October 2019 next to the University’s main campus, the state-of the-art facility provides high-quality support for student and graduate entrepreneurs, giving them the best possible opportunity to establish and grow thriving businesses.

The initiative has already received financial support from Santander Universities UK, Sir James Knott Trust, North East Times Magazine, Space Group and the North East LEP.

Northumbria is looking for additional support to set up an Enterprise Club, where members can offer pro-bono advice and expertise, and an Enterprise Fund through which they can pledge financial support to help fledgling start-ups develop proof-of-concept and feasibility business plans.

The initiative reinforces Northumbria’s reputation as a university that champions enterprise and innovation through its teaching, and the support it offers start-ups through the Student and Graduate Enterprise Service. Pioneering courses such as Entrepreneurial Business Management – where students run their own businesses – and the student-led consultancy service delivered on the Business Clinic programme, have also established Northumbria as a leader in entrepreneurial education.

The University has been ranked in the top three for graduate start-ups in the UK – based on estimated turnover – since 2011, including five years in first place. Businesses developed by Northumbria graduates had an estimated turnover on £84 million in 2018/19.

Since 2009, Northumbria has supported the development of nearly 300 new businesses which have led to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs, the vast majority of which are in the North East.

To find out more about the Innovation Northumbria: Incubator visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/incubatorlaunch.

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

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

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New website helps people access job and training opportunities in the North East

A new website with job opportunities, apprenticeships and training courses in the North East has been launched to support people in the North East who have lost their job as a result of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

www.northeastopportunities.co.uk lists opportunities in the North East, with similar sites available in other regions across the North of England.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Businesses and communities in the North East have been hit hard by the pandemic, and we have seen our rate of unemployment increase. This new website is the result of collaboration across the North and makes it easy for people to see the employment and training opportunities that are available in our region.”

The North has been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, suffering an estimated decline of 20.7% in GVA between 2019 and Q2 2020. The NP11 – a group of all 11 Northern local enterprise partnerships – has partnered with software specialist PDMS, to launch a pilot of their innovative online service called SignedUp Skills to help those affected. The pilot will run until the end of 2020, with the aim that if successful, it could develop into a long-term initiative.

The free-to-use platform makes it easier for those across the North, who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, to find new employment and training opportunities in their local area. The website is a comprehensive resource for accessing real-time vacancies, training courses, and apprenticeships across the region, as well as finding opportunities from throughout the UK.

More than just a traditional online jobs board, the service provides users with unique insights into their region’s growing industries and identify the skills and training most in demand in their communities. This includes information and signposting towards industries where there is particular demand and important regional sectors.

People from across the North can use the platform to access a wealth of employment and training opportunities immediately. This resource will enable those who have been adversely affected economically by COVID-19 to plan their next career steps in confidence. Careers guidance, information, and advice will also be provided on the website.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the NP11 and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, commented: “Many people and businesses across the North find themselves facing an uncertain economic future.

“Now more than ever, to achieve a confident North with the skills it needs to thrive, we must work across sectors to build a culture of  progression and development in our business that helps both companies and individuals flourish.

“The North will be integral to the future economic recovery and prosperity of the nation. However, our region’s recovery can only be as strong as the economic strength and security of the people living here. To deliver extraordinary economic and social transformation, we must not only invest in the technology and the skills for today, but also for the future.

“Working together with LEPs, combined authorities, Mayors and civic leaders to address the skills gap, our ambition is to create a careers platform for the whole of the North, which will guide people through these difficult times and help connect them with prospective job opportunities.”

Chris Gledhill, Managing Director of PDMS, commented: “Throughout the pandemic, technology has allowed us to stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues. As we enter a new phase of this crisis, we can draw upon our software expertise to now connect people with new employment and training opportunities.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with the NP11 in this pilot project which creates a platform to transform the lives of its users for the future and establishes a new starting point for labour market interventions.”

Visit the North East website at www.northeastopportunities.co.uk.


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North East Local Enterprise Partnership 2020 AGM 

Businesses will be given an update on plans to build a stronger North East post-pandemic economy at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) 2020 Annual General Meeting.

Taking place online on Tuesday 24 November, the event will include a welcome from the recently-appointed Chair of the North East LEP, Lucy Winskell.

Lucy Winskell said: “As 2020 began, we were making good progress towards our goal of creating 100,000 more and better jobs here in the North East by 2024.

“However, we know that COVID-19 has hit businesses and communities in our region hard. That’s why we acted quickly to create the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group with the CBI and the North of Tyne and North East combined authorities, which has recently published its proposal for counteracting this damage and creating a thriving post-pandemic economy.”

The AGM will also include updates on business growth, innovation, skills, transport connectivity, investment and infrastructure in the region, and how businesses are preparing for next year’s EU Exit.

Speakers at the event include Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East LEP; Helen Golightly, Chief Executive of the North East LEP; and Paul Woods, Chief Finance Officer at the North East LEP.

Lucy Winskell added: “It’s been a tough year but there is still positive news to share as we look to the future of our region and the opportunities we have in sectors including digital, low carbon, life sciences and pharma.”

The 2020 North East LEP AGM will take place on Tuesday 24 November from 9.30am to 10.45am. Book your place here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colleges Week 2020

Kim Smith, College Careers Hub Facilitator at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), talks about colleges and their role at the centre of the economic rebuild as we celebrate Colleges Week 2020

Further Education Colleges have long been important economic drivers within our communities and their positive impact upon the wider regional economy has been growing dramatically.

It may be tempting to see colleges simply as teaching and training centres and to neglect the wider impact and effects they have upon the local and regional community.

However, the contribution that colleges make to their community is huge, and much bigger than many would have credited them with. Much of this impact and value goes unseen, but it is very real and it affects a range of people and groups, including local businesses, employers, learners, society and taxpayers.

There are nine Further Education colleges within the North East LEP area. As well as being significant employers of both teaching and non-teaching staff, these colleges help to strengthen the local economy through the regeneration of their communities.

A great example of this is Bishop Auckland College and the work it is doing with key partners as part of the Bishop Auckland Strong Town Board to start formulating a bid for up to £25 million from the Government’s Stronger Town’s Fund.

We know that colleges are strategic leaders in their locality to ensure an effective skills system that responds to the needs of local communities and businesses. Colleges are also key partners for translating the LEP’s economic vision of more and better jobs into a reality. In recognition of this, Ellen Thinnesen, CEO of Education Partnership North East (EPNE), a partnership between Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College, was recently appointed as Chair of the Skills Advisory Panel (SAP).

Colleges provide a clear line of sight to the world of work for young people, playing a pivotal role in developing tomorrow’s workforce and supporting those who are unemployed to retrain and/or upskill, they stimulate local economic growth and job creation, and they create meaningful partnerships with schools, universities and employers.

That’s why the North East LEP earlier this year made a Local Growth Fund grant of £954,983 to support New College Durham’s Institute of Technology (IoT). The IoT will see New College Durham work in partnership with Nissan, Esh Group and Newcastle University to deliver quality higher-level technical training in subjects such as digital, advanced manufacturing and engineering.

Further education and private training providers also collaborating are Sunderland College, Tyne Coast College, East Durham College, Middlesbrough College, and NA College Trust.

There is also the North East LEP College Hub, which I facilitate. The College Hub brings together the Colleges based in the LEP area, and two of the largest Sixth Form Institutions. It was initially tasked with supporting the adoption, implementation and achievement of the Gatsby Good Career Guidance Benchmarks and assessing how transferable they are from school settings to further education.

The College Hub is now taking on a broader remit to include Apprenticeships, T-levels, Higher Technical Education and the brokering of strategic employer partnerships with Further Education Institutions. Through the Enterprise Advisor Network, we are privileged to have supported positive working relationships between colleges and employers such as Bowmer + Kirkland, AkzoNobel, Accenture and Sunderland Software City, as well as public sector organisations NHS, Northumbria Police, Durham Constabulary, DWP and HMRC.

As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges play a central role in our economic recovery. Despite budgets cuts of 30% since 2009, colleges remain large employers in their own right, champions of the future workforce and anchors within the towns and cities they serve.

In short, colleges are at the heart of our communities, adapting and doing more than ever to drive economic prosperity and helping to build a stronger future for our region.

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Innovative data-driven approach to shape careers guidance for young people in the North East

A ground-breaking pilot project is providing North East schools, employers, further education, higher education and training providers with live data on young people’s career aspirations and understanding of the different options open to them when they leave school.

In the first project of its kind, a new digital tool developed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), allows educators to use current data from pupils at 16 pilot schools to tailor careers guidance and training opportunities for young people in the North East.

Neill Willis, Regional Lead, Education Challenge, at the North East LEP, said: “Much of the data regarding young people’s progression that can be used to inform careers education, information, advice and guidance strategic planning is historic, with time lags of up to two years. For the first time, we now have up to date data, based on hundreds of students, which we can use to help improve the prospects of young people across our region.

“This data tells us, for example, how many young people want to pursue a career in health and life sciences, how many are interested in higher education or how many need more help in understanding what apprenticeships are and how to apply. The data will be used and shared with partners to ensure further guidance and experiences are tailored to fit with their needs.”

The data is gathered through careers leaders and careers interviews with students at the 16 pilot schools. The students meet with a qualified careers adviser seven times across two academic years and, in between each meeting, their feedback is used to shape the guidance and interventions they receive.

The impact of interventions such as careers workshops, encounters with employers, and mock interviews, can also be more accurately tracked using the data.

“Data is collected as students move through year 10 and 11, so it’s not just a snapshot,” said Neil Willis. “After each interview, the students’ data is fed into a digital tool which collates and analyses it, giving us the ability to see individual information, and regional trends, in young people’s understanding of their possible choices and their post-16 intended destinations.

“This has the potential to further transform careers education, information, advice and guidance in the North East, making it more targeted and impactful, and giving young people the best possible start in their careers, training or further education.”

The findings from the project will be shared with schools and colleges across the North East, as well as employers and training providers, enabling them to base their programmes and engagement with education on an accurate understanding of young people’s needs and ambitions.

The pilot project is part of the Department for Education-funded Opportunity North East, which is designed to ensure all pupils have the same opportunities to learn, develop and achieve success, regardless of their background or where they live. The pilot focuses on Challenge 4: too few young people find a pathway to a good career. The pilot is delivered jointly by the North East LEP and Tees Valley Combined Authority where a further 12 secondary schools are involved.

To find out more, contact Neil Willis on [email protected].