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North East businesses helping the ‘COVID generation’ find a pathway to the workplace

Across the North East, partnerships have been formed between people working in sectors from marketing to manufacturing and their local school or college.

Across the North East, partnerships have been formed between people working in sectors from marketing to manufacturing and their local school or college. Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) explains how the Enterprise Adviser network works, and how it’s survived the pandemic.

Enterprise Advisers are people who’ve signed up to help the senior management team at their local school or college better align careers guidance with what businesses need.

At the start of 2020, we had a fantastic network of 250 people who have volunteered to share their knowledge to help bridge the gap between education and industry. This happens by embedding careers in the curriculum and giving young people real-world experience of the workplace.

But when the pandemic hit, businesses were under such pressure that we thought we may lose the entire network. However, we were absolutely delighted and surprised that the majority of our Enterprise Advisers were able to continue and we’re really grateful for their contributions.

The activities our Enterprise Advisers have been able to help their schools undertake during COVID have been extraordinary and, for a generation of young people who will see the lasting effect of COVID on their employment opportunities, it’s been so important that the North East business community has continued to support them and help them see the opportunities that are out there when they leave education.

At St Robert of Newminster Catholic School in Washington, our Enterprise Adviser, Carole White, who is CEO at TEDCO Business Support, secured 10 businesses to meet year 10 pupils and tell them about careers in their sector. While at Bishop Auckland College, employability skills workshops and virtual work experience was put in place by the college’s Enterprise Adviser from Bowmer & Kirkland construction.

Businesses in our region genuinely want to give back to the local community and help young people build a brighter future and I want to thank every person who’s already helped make a difference through the Enterprise Adviser network, especially throughout the pandemic.

Now we’re wanting to grow our Enterprise Adviser network even further. We’re looking for people of any age, from businesses in any sector and of any size, who want to help schools give young people a better experience of careers guidance. We recognise one size doesn’t fit all and people have different amount of time to commit, so whether you’re a one-man-band or a multinational company, we can work something out to suit you.

We want all young people across the North East to have the opportunity to interact with businesses and employers. It gives them something that’s tangible in terms of understanding future career options and just one interaction, like a visit to your workplace, or the chance to work on a real-life project with an employer like you, can be the trigger that helps a young person see a future for themselves in your business.

Find out about being an Enterprise Adviser at NorthEastAmbition.co.uk.

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Bridging the gap between industry and education

As summer fades into a new academic year, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) continues its drive to bring industry and education closer, with the ultimate aim of improving skills in the North East workforce. Skills Director, Michelle Rainbow, gives a preview of what’s to come in the three main skills programmes, and how business can get involved.

North East Ambition: Working with schools, colleges and employers to deliver outstanding careers guidance from primary education to employment.

Since the pandemic, we want to harness the positives that have come from new ways of working and highlight the great work that is still being done by businesses to build relationships with schools and colleges.

We’ve produced a work experience framework which will make it easier for businesses to deliver work placements, virtually or in-person, giving young people valuable experience and creating links with the next generation of employees.

The process of embedding age-appropriate careers guidance in primary schools is making huge progress and evidence around the importance of introducing younger children to the opportunities open to them is building.

And business leaders continue to support schools and colleges as Enterprise Advisers, lending their expertise to bridge the gap between education and industry. We’re aiming to partner more Enterprise Advisers with SEND schools in the region, and help businesses develop high quality work experience for pupils with special educational needs, so that no child is left behind when it comes to realising their ambitions.

Education Challenge: Working with partners to support school leaders, teachers and governors to reduce the gap between our best and lowest performing schools.

Businesses are central to this work, as we know that placing employer engagement at the heart of the curriculum has huge benefits for children and young people. That’s why we’re continuing to support the expansion of the Ford Next Generation Learning pilot, which creates employer-led learning partnerships with schools.

We’ve also developed a new, data-driven approach to personalising careers guidance, using live data from students to help schools and employers make sure that the experiences they’re providing are having results and match the interests of young people. So if a school has a large number of pupils who want to go into engineering, we can help the staff work with local employers that fit their needs.

We’re also working to raise awareness around the opportunity to be a school governor. Strong and diverse governance is essential in achieving high quality education, and we want businesses – especially SMEs – to understand more about how they can get involved in governance.

Post-16 skills: Placing employers at the heart of meeting skills needs in post-16 education.

In January the government published its Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth white paper which sets out reforms to post-16 technical education to help people to gain skills they need in the workplace. One of the ways we’re supporting this agenda is through a series of industry insight sessions, which help curriculum staff and careers leaders understand the changes and growth affecting industries from electrification and the wider green economy agenda through to the life sciences and digitalisation of construction.

We’re also involved in supporting the broader technical education agenda through working to promote apprenticeships, supporting the roll out of the new T-level qualifications which involves cross sector working with employers and universities, together with ensuring progression pathways into higher technical skills through our partnership with the region’s Institute of Technology.

The North East is also home to the country’s only College Careers Hub, bringing colleges together to prepare students for the world of work. Ensuring a pipeline of skilled talent is available to business is crucial if we’re to achieve our aim of creating 100,000 more and better jobs for the North East by 2024.

By working with schools and colleges in the North East, your business can create strong links with the next generation of employees. Find out more at www.NorthEastAmbition.co.uk.

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No limits: helping primary pupils fulfil their potential

A year on from the start of a new project to improve careers guidance for primary pupils, Matt Joyce, Regional Lead – North East Ambition, at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, takes a look at what’s been achieved so far.

There’s increasing evidence to show that children begin to form ideas about their futures when they’re as young as five or six. And by the age of 10, many young people have already made career limiting decisions, which are fixed by the time they’re 14.

That’s why, in 2019, we began working with 70 primary schools in the North East to pilot a new approach to careers education for younger school children.

The Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot project builds on what we learnt when the North East was the pilot region for implementing the Gatsby Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks – which lay out requirements for different elements of careers guidance, from encounters with employers, to engagement with further and higher education providers – in secondary schools and colleges. The project has had a remarkable impact on the quality of careers guidance young people receive and we knew there was the potential to adapt the framework to meet the needs of younger children as well.

In September 2019 we began work on the primary pilot, testing the new framework with primary schools spanning a range of geographies and settings. Each school carried out an initial audit of their careers provision and we worked with Careers Leaders to identify gaps in provision and to create an action plan for each school.

So, has the project had the impact we hoped for? It’s been more than a year since we set out on this journey and we’re now in a position to look at what’s been achieved so far and whether it is helping primary-age children to learn about the full range of possibilities open to them in the future.

The interim evaluation which we commissioned has shown evidence of a positive impact on pupils already, with some massive improvements in young people’s ability to talk about and understand their career options being reported. 81% of the schools surveyed said that pupils better understand the links between what they are studying and future career options, and 89% that pupils are able to talk more about their career plans.

There’s been a jump in primary Careers Leaders’ confidence as well, with 88% saying they now rate their knowledge, skills and understanding as good or very good, compared with 10% when we started.

The evaluation also shows significant progress is being made against the Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks, and 82% of survey respondents say careers-related learning is now part of their school’s general curriculum, and no longer a standalone activity or an extra-curricular specialism. Activity also ranges across the key stages, while remaining age-appropriate.

These improvements are shown across the board, in schools with a range of Ofsted ratings and with diverse cohorts of pupils. And the work within primary schools links directly with the Benchmarks framework which is in place in secondary and further education, easing young people’s transition from primary school and giving them a better baseline of understanding and experiences when they start secondary school.

Going forward we’ll be implementing the various recommendations that came out of the evaluation and I hope that, once the pilot finishes in just under a year’s time, we’ll be able to expand our work to help more primary schools improve their careers guidance.

There’s currently no statutory requirement for primary schools to provide careers guidance but we know it’s vital if young people are to be given the best possible start in life. The engagement we’ve seen from the 70 schools involved in the pilot has been amazing and shows that they see the importance of this work as well. I hope that, together, we can help more children reach their full potential.

Read the Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot evaluation report on the North East Data Hub here.

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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].

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In conversation with Neil Willis, Regional Lead, Education Challenge at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

In conversation with Neil Willis, Regional Lead, Education Challenge at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, reflecting on the impact Opportunity North East has had so far, and looking forward to its next phase.

For the past year, we (the North East Local Enterprise Partnership) have been working with colleagues from Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) to develop a joint approach to support a strand of The Department for Education’s pioneering Opportunity North East (ONE) programme.

Designed to ensure all pupils have the same opportunities to learn, develop and achieve success, regardless of their background or where they live, Opportunity North East is an absolute determination that no child should be left behind.

It’s fantastic to see to see The Department for Education has unveiled its delivery plan for the next phase of Opportunity North East (ONE), which includes a £24 million investment to tackle the challenges facing some of our region’s lowest-performing schools.

This significant investment will mean we can continue to work in partnership with Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) to ensure a consistent approach and maximum impact for young people across our region.

Since the programme began, we’ve worked with 28 ONE Vision schools to help identify the complex challenges and barriers that can hinder pupils’ success. This next phase will build on our work to date so we can provide even more support to all 28 schools.

Looking forward to the next phase

The latest Opportunity North East Delivery Plan sets out five main challenges that exist across the region. Our area of focus will be to lead work around Challenge 4, supporting our young people to find pathways to a good career.

Currently, the North East is the region with the lowest percentage of young people in a sustained education, employment or training destination after key stage 4 and key stage 5. That’s something we need to change.

To help us do that, we’ve worked with all 28 ONE Vision schools to understand how we can help make a difference to young people when it comes to securing employment, apprenticeships or moving to further education. Thanks to the feedback we’ve received, we plan to deliver an enhanced offer of careers and business engagement support for these ONE Vision schools, including plans for monitoring impact. Pupils will benefit from a programme of support that really makes a difference to their lives.

We’ll be working with partners including the Department for Education, our universities and local employers, as well as with our colleagues in Tees Valley, to collectively and intensively support up to 30 young people from each school into sustained education, employment or training.

Pupils will be supported from Year 9 right through to the end of Year 11. They’ll get access to high quality destinations guidance, personalised interventions and one to one guidance to support them in their next steps, including the opportunities available to them.

Our target is that by 2022, all ONE Vision schools will have achieved all eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks and we’ll see an increased percentage of young people from those schools in a sustained education, employment or training destination after key stage 4 and key stage 5.

This, of course, is in addition to work we’re already doing through North East Ambition; supporting every school and college in the North East to achieve the eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks, as well as through our Education Challenge and Ford Next Generation Learning Programmes – supporting teachers, school leaders and governors to integrate an understanding of the world of work and career opportunities into the curriculum.

We want each and every young person in our region to have the best possible start to their working life, and we are determined that no pupil will be left behind.

We can’t wait to get started on the next phase of this incredibly important work.

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In conversation with Matt Joyce, Regional Lead for North East Ambition, about the importance of connecting careers guidance to employment opportunities.

A report published this week (22 January 2020) by the Education and Employers charity, highlights concerns around a gap between the career aspirations of young people in the UK and the reality of the labour market.

It calls for more to be done to address an ‘aspiration-reality disconnect’ in the UK – where the ambitions of our young people don’t match the jobs that are out there.

Recommendations include more support for careers guidance at secondary school level and better labour market information for young people. The report also calls for a significant expansion of career-related learning at primary level.

Here in the North East, we’re already working with partners to achieve all these aims – and have been for some time.

We recently expanded our work to primary level, working with the EY Foundation on a pilot to explore what good career guidance looks like across all phases of primary education, including how schools can connect with local employers to offer primary pupils a range of age-appropriate, meaningful encounters with the world of work. We want to support children to be ambitious from the earliest possible age and start challenging any limiting beliefs they have about themselves, based on their gender or socio-economic background.

The primary pilot is just one strand of our North East Ambition programme, which is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and led by the North East LEP working with partners. Through North East Ambition, we’re also actively supporting all the region’s secondary schools and colleges to meet the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks – placing a strong emphasis on engagement with employers, experiences of the workplace and linking learning to labour market information and the region’s employment sectors.

North East Ambition is integral to our work around skills development and the delivery of our Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) for the North East. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that our young people leave education or training with the skills, qualifications and personal qualities that employers look for. To achieve that, we need real involvement from employers in our schools and colleges, so they can help to shape a future talent pipeline.

If we want to support our young people to understand the realities of the workplace, the expectations of employers and the opportunities open to them, it’s vital that we connect education and employment at every opportunity.

Matt Joyce, Regional Lead, North East Ambition.

Watch now – Meaningful encounters: Year 6 pupils from Bexhill Primary Academy, Sunderland visit advanced manufacturing employer Unipres to discover more about the world of work.

Watch now – Learning from LMI: Year 9 students from Norham High School explore four key regional employment sectors, the roles within them and the skills and qualifications you might need.

You can find out more about what we’re achieving through North East Ambition by visiting northeastambition.co.uk

North East Ambition is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

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Mock interviews help Gateshead students prepare to enter the world of work

Year 11 students at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy in Gateshead have been preparing for the world of work, college or university, thanks to a North East construction company.

The MGL Group, which is based in Durham, partnered with the school to provide every student in the year group with support in researching job opportunities and preparing for interviews.

Working with the school’s Careers Lead, MGL Group provided each student with details of a range of apprenticeship roles that exist within the construction industry. After choosing a role and carrying out further research, students attended a 15 minute mock interview, carried out by members of MGL Group’s HR team.

MGL Group Director Gillian Reader explained: “The students learnt about CV design, the accompanying letter, job applications and how to approach them, and the interview process. Finishing up with a realistic mock interview helped them to put these practical skills into action and also stands them in good stead for attending future interviews.”

“Students applied for positions including Accountancy Technician Apprenticeship, HR Support, Trainee Buyer, Civil Engineer, Highways Maintenance and Quantity Surveyor, depending on their own individual skills and interests.

“During the interviews, we use the same approach as we use with applicants to our apprenticeship programmes, so, while the students were supported throughout the process, it was also realistic enough to help prepare them for similar situations once they have left school. It’s also a great way for MGL Group as a business to inform young people about some of the opportunities that exist in our industry, and help to secure our future pipeline of talent.”

Each student received feedback after their interview, helping them to understand what they need to do in order to give themselves the best possible start when it comes to applying for further study, jobs or apprenticeships.

In total, 240 students went through the application and interview process, and the project is due to be repeated in 2019-20 with the next cohort of year 11s.

This project is part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Enterprise Adviser programme, which embeds business leaders into secondary schools and colleges to help them shape the delivery of careers education. Find out more at www.northeastambition.co.uk.

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Planning for our region’s ‘upskill battle’

This week, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report into the importance of lifelong learning in our modern economy.

They’ve entitled it ‘An upskill battle’, which perfectly encapsulates the challenge we face as we respond to an ever-changing sector and skills landscape, and as we work to develop a more competitive economy for the North East.

The very nature of this challenge – particularly around technology, digitalisation and innovation – is that the landscape will continue to evolve and change. It is indeed an uphill battle. So how do we plan and prepare for a future that could change the very moment we think we’ve caught up with it?

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has been working for some time now – with employers, training providers, schools, colleges and other partners – to explore these challenges and keep them at the top of the agenda when it comes to future planning around employability and skills in the region.

And as highlighted by the CBI in their report, lifelong adult education and careers guidance need to be a fundamental part of the solution.

The demands of today’s global, digitally-driven economy require a broader, more agile skillset than ever before. It’s a fast-moving landscape that waits for no-one. Employers and government need to recognise this quickly and work together to make sure that people can access the training and support they need to remain productive throughout their working lives.

Employers need to build training and skills development into their business models, and government needs to ensure that training is accessible and affordable for those who need to pay for it themselves.

We also agree with the CBI that we need to extend careers guidance beyond 19 and abandon the idea that teachers can equip young people with all the knowledge they need at the start.

Instead, we need to think about careers guidance as a journey from primary-age to retirement, and this is particularly important for those who experience loss of work or whose skills face becoming obsolete.

If we can put the right support, guidance and training opportunities in place in our region, we can revive, revitalise and extend working lives and create a workforce that’s adaptable and ready to take on whatever the future economy may throw at us.

An important part of this will be around supporting people to understand how they can map and transfer their strengths, skills and knowledge from one role to another throughout their career.

That’s why we particularly support the CBI’s suggestion that government should look to develop a nationally recognised skills ‘passporting’ tool as part of the National Retraining Scheme, so that informal training and skills are taken into account when looking for future employment. The Department for Education’s Get Help to Retrain scheme, piloted in the North East, is a good step towards this, supporting people to map their current skills and signposting opportunities.

This CBI report highlights some very stark realities; people will typically work up to twenty years longer than their parents, well into their 70s, meaning the growing need for adult education and a shift towards a lifelong learning culture is critical.

Working into our 70s and beyond is a challenge that many of us will personally face. The time to plan for that future, is now.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.


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Bringing careers strategy into reality, and into life

Newcastle College is the North East’s largest college, with more than 16,000 students. It is also part of Newcastle College Group (NCG) – one of the largest not-for-profit education and training groups in the UK, made up of seven colleges.

The college is supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s North East Ambition programme, which helps every secondary school and college in the region towards achieving the government’s Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks.

In just 12 months, the college has successfully improved the coherence and visibility of careers guidance across the whole organisation.

A dedicated Careers Portal is now prominent on the college website and every newly-enrolled student receives a clear and user-friendly Skills and Careers Programme Plan.

More than 5,000 16 to 18-year-old students, including apprentices, received this during their induction activities at the start of their qualifications this year.

Ronnie Burn, Head of Student Services and Careers Leader at Newcastle College, explains how they achieved this success, including the challenges they have navigated along the way:

Supporting the progression and next steps for our students was always at the very heart of our work. We set out to create a plan that could and would be embedded at a college-wide level, to ensure that all our students would be fully aware of our careers guidance and curriculum offer and could make informed decisions for themselves, at every opportunity.

One of our primary goals was to ensure that ownership and responsibility of careers guidance within the college is a key feature for each and every staff member.

We started our journey by completing North East Ambition’s benchmarks audit tool. We also used the Careers and Enterprise Company’s Compass assessment tool.

Doing all of this gave us a great starting point for creating a three-year action plan.

What we did next

Through North East Ambition, we were given the opportunity to join the country’s only regional College Hub, and this gave us many opportunities to consult on best practice models, drawing from career guidance peers from across the region.

The external evolution of careers guidance development work over the last two years, both nationally and regionally, has provided a network to share and test new thinking in developing working career guidance models that operationally fit with the college.

One of our priorities was to identify those colleagues with a responsibility for the provision of careers guidance from across the college, and ensure they were included in the planning from the start.

We consulted right across the college to gain feedback on the first edition of the Skills and Careers Programme Plan, and this included discussions with NCG Executive Directors, members of the college Principalship Team, college Directors, Heads of Curriculum and Service Managers, the Quality Team, Central Support staff and Marketing services.

The impact of this has been that our plan reflects a number of aspects of curriculum content delivery and developing practice.

These include the development of ‘schemes of learning’ incorporating the skills, knowledge and behaviours required in the context of a job role, as well as a focus on the relevance of English and Maths.

The process has also helped us to look at the expectations around work experience and engagement with employers, which has resulted in us developing the role of Enterprise Advisors by curriculum area.

Our continuing collaborative work with staff ensures that our next Skills and Careers Programme Plan aligns with the quality assurance cycle and the student journey, becoming a natural development within the business planning process.

Initial indications suggest we’ve achieved positive reinforcement of careers guidance from all staff and students across the college.

Our biggest challenges

Our biggest challenges have been around developing a sustainable model that is embedded across the college and is accessible to all.

What we learned

It was vital to involve colleagues from across the college, to ensure that responsibility and accountability was transparent. We scheduled fortnightly meetings with curriculum directors and managers to promote the context of the plan and embed this into the business planning process.

Top takeaways

Acknowledge the diversity and social mobility of your students and recognise that ‘one size does not fit all’, so build flexibility into your programme.

Early buy-in and agreement from senior leaders provides a springboard for the careers leader to accelerate action plans.


Visit Newcastle College’s careers portal at ncl-coll.ac.uk/careers

Read the latest Skills and Careers Programme Plan for 2019/20

Find out more about North East Ambition at northeastambition.co.uk