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In conversation with Linda Conlon, Chief Executive of the International Centre for Life, about inspiring young people through careers education

The world of work today is very different to the one I first joined. It’s estimated young people can expect to change careers between five and seven times, and at least two of those will not be of their choosing. Looking back with what may be rose-tinted glasses, it seemed easier to move around and experience different jobs when I began my career.

I think if I was looking to offer some general advice to young people today it would be to keep your career options open. Don’t close them down before you have to and focus on one specific area.

It’s a positive thing to sample different work environments. I’ve worked for a multinational company, the government, a regional development agency, and for a number of years I ran my own marketing consultancy, which allowed me to work with a range of businesses and clients.

It’s not always about what you do, but the environment that you work in. If you’re happy and comfortable in your chosen environment you feel like you belong, and that gives you the best chance of a fulfilling and rewarding career.

It always strikes me as sad when some people are stuck in jobs they don’t like. You spend more time at work – in normal circumstances – with your work colleagues than you do at home. Why then would you do something you don’t enjoy?

When I was at school, I didn’t really benefit from any specific careers advice; there certainly wasn’t a sustained programme to recognise talent. Someone would come to the school for half a day and ask what you liked doing. I do remember someone saying they wanted to travel and they were advised to be a bus driver.

It was also quite common at the time to choose between arts-based or science-based subjects. Now, people don’t necessarily have to do the classic trio of subjects – maths, physics and chemistry. People can choose to study a mix of subjects that gives them a breadth of knowledge.

It’s really important to introduce people to the world of work from an early stage and that’s something we try to do in the centre’s visitor attraction, Life Science Centre. We offer an informal learning environment and we want to inspire people when they visit, ignite their curiosity and get them thinking in different ways. We encourage people to think creatively and imaginatively. Those skills are important in the world of work, particularly in science.

We have a mantra at Life Science Centre, which is ‘hands on, minds on, hearts on’. I firmly believe people learn better when they’re actively engaged in something that interests them.

It’s also important to say it’s okay to not know what you want to do in the future; people shouldn’t be worried or ashamed about that. Take your time and get it right.

We often talk about change in the workplace, and we’re currently seeing that at an unprecedented rate. That’s why I think young people should be flexible and not take themselves down a route they’re not sure of.

Parents have an important role to play in that, too. Young people often find they move unconsciously down a career path prompted by their parents.

Sadly, stereotypes still prevail in the science and technology sector, and some of that can come from parents, especially those without an interest in the area. That can discourage young people from pursuing STEM subjects, so we need to help students and their parents understand how science qualifications can stand them in good stead across many different careers.

In the gaming sector, for example, a large majority of people have qualifications in maths and physics. Unfortunately, young people don’t often make the connection between those exciting, emerging jobs and science subjects.

I’m often asked about my role within the science sector, and what skills and qualifications it takes to become a chief executive.

The first skill is to learn from your mistakes. We all make them, but it’s how you learn from the experience that’s important. I think it also benefits your staff to see someone in a senior leadership position make a mistake and own up to it. It gives them the courage to do the same.

Something that’s always been, and will continue to be important, is communication. It’s essential to be able to explain to people not just what, but why they’re doing something. When people don’t know what’s happening, they fill in the gaps themselves. Communications is something I feel I have a particular strength in, as I worked in the industry for a long time. I believe communications should be frequent, honest and simple.

Developing effective relationships is vital, too. I think a lot of people forget when you have a relationship with an organisation, it’s with the people within it.

Whilst it might sound obvious, listening skills are very important. If you think about our current situation, senior leaders need to understand how it’s impacting staff, their families and their lives. You only get that from listening.

You also need to take risks, and that’s something we’re very good at in Life. As a not-for-profit independent trust, we have a lot of autonomy and entrepreneurial spirit. We used that to adapt during the coronavirus pandemic to become an NHS large vaccination centre.

Taking risks fits with my next attribute, which is thinking outside the box. Despite being a not-for-profit, we think commercially at Life. By making a profit we can improve and expand the job we do – and do it better. That’s why it’s key to learn from other sectors and other businesses.

If I wasn’t chief executive of Life, I’d like to be either a wildly successful criminal barrister, or a wildly successful crime fiction writer. I’m always told only a small handful of people become successful criminal barristers. I’d definitely want to be one of the rich ones.

Linda Conlon is Chief Executive of the International Centre for Life, which opened in May 2000, with the purpose of inspiring everyone in North East England to explore and enjoy science and to discover its relevance to their own lives.

Linda is the first woman from Europe to be elected as Chair of the Association of Science and Technology Centres (ASTC), a body which represents more than 600 centres from over 50 countries. Linda is also a former board member of Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums, and former Chair of its UK equivalent.

In recognition of her outstanding service to science and science education in North East England, she was awarded an MBE in January 2016.


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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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North East LEP expands innovative Ford Next Generation Learning pilot programme

Three new education institutions have joined the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s pioneering Ford Next Generation Learning pilot, which supports careers education in schools and colleges by bringing the workplace and classroom closer together.

Castleview Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, James Calvert Spence College in Amble and Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form – which constitute Education Partnership North East – join Excelsior Academy in Newcastle and Churchill Community College and Norham High School, North Tyneside, on the innovative pilot programme that sees students learn through engagement with employers.

Originally piloted in Nashville, USA, the Ford Next Generation Learning model has resulted in an almost 23% rise in graduation rates and significant improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance in the district. It’s since been adopted by more than 30 US school districts.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The North East region is leading the way when it comes to new approaches to careers education.

“From our successful pilot of the Gatsby Career Guidance Benchmarks to our Education Challenge programme, we have identified new ways of helping young people connect with employers so they have a better understanding of the world of work.

“The Ford Next Generation Learning pilot has been a huge success and I’m delighted to welcome another three institutions onto the programme. Castleview Enterprise Academy, James Calvert Spence College and Education Partnership North East joined us on a recent visit to Nashville to see the model in action and hear from schools and students about the positive impact it’s having.

“Here in the North East we’re seeing an improvement in students’ motivation, oracy, teamwork skills and overall confidence. Students themselves have told us that they now have a much better understanding of why they are studying different topics, through linking the curriculum to real life situations.”

As part of the North East LEP’s Ford Next Generation Learning pilot, which is delivered in partnership with education charity the Edge Foundation, students have worked with employers including Go North East and Great North Run on real life projects that allows them to interact with people who work in businesses in their local area. They’ve also had the opportunity to meet surgeons, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Industry Alignment Support Officers, recruited by the North East LEP, work directly in schools and colleges to help them better engage with local businesses and apply real life work situations to the school curriculum. The North East LEP has appointed three new Industry Alignment Support Officers – Naznin Ahmed, Rachael Church and David Gibson – to work with the new intake of institutions.

Judith Quinn, Deputy Principal, Education Partnership North East, said: “The knowledge and experience gained from our visit and linking in with Ford Next Generation Learning, Academies of Nashville and the partners of the project will enable us to further implement career focussed relevant teaching and learning.

“We look forward to generating further excellence with our employer engagement links to the benefit of our Health and Life Sciences students career progression.

“The positive impact of this innovative project will drive a holistic approach for the development of students’ employability skills including maths and English skills.”

Emma McDermott, Assistant Vice Principal at Castle View Enterprise Academy, said: “The visit was truly inspirational. The opportunity to visit schools in Nashville provided us with a great insight into how employer engagement and vocational education can be integrated into a students’ curriculum.

“Whilst reflecting some of the good practice we have already established at Castle View Enterprise Academy, the visit also highlighted areas for development. For example, the importance of a partnership approach with the wider community right from the outset, from planning stage rather than just working together on the delivery aspect of projects.

“We are excited to see how this project develops the learner experience and our curriculum at Castle View Enterprise Academy.”

James Moore, Head of Sixth Form and Careers at James Calvert Spence College, said: “The international study visit to Nashville with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership in partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning was an amazing opportunity to transform our approaches to careers and curriculum learning.”

Scott Palmer, Ford Next Generation Learning Community Coach, said: “We are really excited to see the partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership expand with a cohort of three new Education Institutions in the North East. We value and appreciate the first cohort of institutions pioneering the way on how the guiding principles of our framework translate to the UK Education System. We learn so much from all of the institutions we work with which will help us to develop our approach and impact as we grow the network internationally.”

Starr Herrman, Ford Next Generation Learning Implementation Coach, said: “As a former Director of the Academies of Nashville, and now as a Ford NGL Coach in the North East, I am thrilled and encouraged to see progress from our Phase 1 pilot to Phase 2 with our new cohort of schools and colleges. There is new energy and intentionality that will allow the partnership of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Edge Foundation and Ford Next Generation Learning to transform education for students, teachers and partners with a community connected approach.”

The Ford Next Generation Learning pilot is part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge programme, which aims to reduce the gap between the North East’s best and lowest performing schools and to integrate an understanding of the world of work and career opportunities into the curriculum.

Find out more at northeastambition.co.uk/education-challenge.

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In conversation with Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, about the North East Regional Careers Leaders Network Meeting

Friday 29 November is an exciting day for us as we welcome 140 colleagues from schools and colleges across the LEP area to the first Regional Careers Leaders Network Meeting of the academic year.

Taking its turn this time in Newcastle, at St James’ Park, the event is an opportunity for us to discuss the latest developments in careers education and hear from guest speakers working in the education and careers sector. This is the largest meeting we’ve held to date, which really demonstrates the region-wide commitment to delivering quality careers education in our schools, colleges and universities.

The theme for this event is ‘Careers: The bigger picture’, and our invited keynote speaker is Steve Hailstone, Senior HMI further education and skills in the North East, who will take us through the new Education Inspection Framework and what it means for Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) in our schools and colleges.

We’ll also hear from guest speakers representing National Careers Week, NatWest and HMRC about the ways they can support careers provision in the LEP area and offer opportunities to students.

I’m personally really looking forward to the first ever screening of a new film we’ve developed in partnership with students from Norham High School in North Shields. For the past few months, students have been looking at the career opportunities available in the four sectors identified in the LEP’s North East Strategic Economic Plan as contributing to the growth of our economy – digital, advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and energy. The film will be available to view on the North East Ambition website after the event.

We’ll also be providing an update on the North East LEP’s North East Ambition programme, including our recently launched North East Ambition: Careers Benchmarks Primary Pilot, which aims to build ambition from an early age. We’ll also be discussing how the education sector can engage with the LEP’s new Digital for Growth strategy.

There will be some interactive and collaborative activities too so colleagues have the chance to network and share some of the brilliant work they do.

Our North East Regional Careers Leaders Network Meetings are a fantastic way for careers leaders and people supporting careers education in schools, colleges and universities to come together, improve their knowledge, and learn from each other. There is a huge amount of inspiring and innovative work taking place in our region and this event is also a great opportunity to share and celebrate the achievements of colleagues helping to improve opportunities for young people in the North East.

If you’d like to join us at the next meeting, or would like to know more about careers education and North East Ambition, please visit www.northeastambition.co.uk and sign up to our opportunities bulletin, or email us via [email protected].

 The North East Regional Careers Leaders Network is supported by the European Social Fund through the North East Ambition programme. The North East Ambition programme receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.
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In conversation with Sian Browne, School to Work Lead for the EY Foundation, about the North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot

Here in the North East, we’re leading the way in testing how we can offer inspiring careers guidance to primary school pupils.

The North East Ambition Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot takes the Government’s Good Career Guidance Benchmarks, originally developed for secondary schools, and adapts them for primaries.

Over two years, 70 pilot schools will test how they can implement and achieve the benchmarks; examining what works, where extra support might be needed and what impact the work has at a pupil and whole-school level.

The project is being led by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, supported by the EY Foundation and the European Social Fund.

Sian Browne, School to Work Lead for the EY Foundation, describes her recent visit to the North East to see some of the work that primary schools are already doing.

“The name ‘career enabling primary pilot’ is a bit of a mouthful, but it is something that I believe will have a massive impact. So, what does it mean? Put simply, it is a new programme designed to help children better understand possible future job opportunities available to them. It seems a long way off, but choices made at primary age can be crucial in shaping their future career.

“Developing this project with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been a passion of mine for almost two years, so the chance to see it in action was a huge thrill.

“Arriving in Newcastle, I spent a couple of days with our fantastic facilitator team. We started off with an inspiring meeting with the teachers who will be leading on delivering the pilot in their schools. Each of them showed impressive commitment, asking lots of questions, bringing loads of ideas and sharing good experiences.

“That was followed by a visit to a primary school taking part in the pilot. I met with a careers leader and headteacher who are already achieving great results with their pupils by introducing careers into their curriculum – so they seemed to already be one step ahead! They also talked to us of their meetings with interesting people from different fields of work, who shared their experiences with the children, including a geophysicist and a female naval surgeon.

“Perhaps my favourite moment was when I saw the pupils setting out their aspirations in their career books, with one young reception pupil saying they wanted to be a “tooth fairy”, a job I certainly did on many occasions!

“Next stop was the global automotive supplier Unipres, who hosted 72 students. Watching the young people try out virtual reality to load trucks and donning their special protective gear provided a glimpse of the future and was so uplifting. The apprentices spent time with each of them and were terrific role models. I’m certain some of those pupils now have their eye on an engineering apprenticeship when they get older.

“After so much time in the planning it was brilliant to see the early impact on all the children I met. We are so looking forward to working with them and their teachers over the next two years as they continue along the journey of improving careers enabling experiences.”

For more information visit northeastambition.co.uk.

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North East LEP supports conference aimed at inspiring next generation of female leaders

Hundreds of schoolgirls from across the region gathered at Northumbria University on Monday 16 September to attend Newcastle High School for Girls (NHSG), one-day biennial North East Women (NEW) Leaders Conference.

Supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership through its North East Ambition initiative, the conference brought together female leaders from both within and outside the region to share their knowledge and experience with the aim of challenging gender inequalities and inspiring young women to take a leading role in whatever career or profession they choose.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “This event provided a great opportunity for young women to hear first-hand about the career journeys of exceptional, hard-working and brilliantly successful females.

“We want all young people to be ambitious about the career opportunities that await them, no matter what their background or gender. Through our North East Ambition programme, we’re supporting schools and colleges across the region to offer a range of high-quality careers activities and experiences and achieve the government’s Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks.

“North East Ambition also links schools and employers more closely together, to identify and meet the skills demands of the future and support our aim of driving an uplift of 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.”

Speakers at the event included Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute; Debbie Edwards, CEO of FDisruptors; and Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director of the CBI.

The young delegates attended a series of Power Up Workshops offering tools to boost the girls’ futures, focusing on areas such personal branding, jargon busting and getting the best out of people. They also explored what leadership looks like now and in the future, and how they can develop their own personal authentic leadership attributes.

The North East LEP’s North East Ambition programme aims to ensure all North East schools and colleges achieve the government’s Good Career Guidance Benchmarks by 2024. By doing so, every young person should have 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.

For more information, visit www.northeastambition.co.uk.

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In conversation with… North East LEP chair, Andrew Hodgson, who discusses our Industry Alignment pilot project

The North East LEP is recognised as a national leader in careers education policy, pioneering the delivery of the Gatsby Benchmarks for good careers guidance we’ve helped embed in regional schools.

We don’t believe in resting on our laurels and are looking to go one step further to ensure every child in the North East has access to the very best in careers engagement.

As part of this commitment, we’ve looked over the Atlantic to the United States to draw upon the best of their work bringing the classroom and the boardroom closer together.

So it’s especially pleasing to see the impact being made in one regional school in particular by the North East LEP’s Education Challenge.

Pupils aged seven and eight at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy are spearheading an industry alignment pilot project uniting big business with cutting edge teaching.

The project – piloted by our partner The Edge Foundation education charity – builds on the best of the highly successful Ford Next Generation Learning programme embedded in schools across Nashville, Tennessee, and other US cities.

The US programme run with car manufacturing giant Ford registered great success in both the classroom and the boardroom.

In Newcastle, experts from Virgin Trains East Coast worked with Excelsior Academy primary pupils to teach them about the essential workings of their business and the different skills of its employees needed to run the company.

Project manager Hannah Cummins helped capture the creative spark of youngsters in the classroom, drawing up business plans to underpin the building of solar-powered models.

The final step in the project was to present their plans and models in the main school hall to the project partners, family and friends.

No small task, but one they delivered with great aplomb!

The impact of the project is many fold. Children have been introduced to the professional and personal skills needed to fulfil roles such as in finance, engineering and marketing.

As well as the professional skills, youngsters now know the importance to employers of personal qualities like a positive attitude, resilience, teamwork and self confidence.

Excelsior headteacher Craig Taylor plans to roll out the project to Year 7 and Year 8 pupils from next September.

The project also worked with Future Me – a collaboration between the five North East universities to help raise children’s aspirations further.

The main aim of the Education Challenge is to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve the social mobility of young people.

It’s helping teachers and governors at Excelsior, Norham High in North Shields and Churchill Community College in Wallsend to integrate careers learning into the curriculum. 

The US model is informing our Education Challenge which we hope will be introduced into schools across the country.

A bold ambition, but one that is built on firm foundations with outstanding partner support.

It’s off to a flying start at Excelsior Academy where youngsters are the standard bearers for its success.









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US-style industry learning shines in North East classrooms

An Industry Alignment Project piloted by the Edge Foundation at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy has proven such a success, it will now be rolled out to two new year groups.

Focused on equipping young people with the skills they need to reach their full potential, the project recognises the need for young people to have skills appropriate to today’s global and digital economy, so that organisations have a pipeline of talent ready for the workplace.

Education charity Edge’s work with Excelsior forms part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Education Challenge programme, designed to address the gap between the best and least well performing schools in the region.

The initial pilot was carried out with Excelsior’s Rainbird Primary pupils, working to a global sustainable energy theme.

Students had the chance to build solar-powered models of cars, windmills and boats, working to plan and budget under the guidance of Virgin Trains experts and showcase their models to family and business leaders at a school event.

The work will now be extended to years seven and eight.

Hannah Cummins, Industry Alignment Manager at Excelsior Academy, said: “We wanted to introduce our students to skills that employers value – confidence, resilience and team work – and raise their aspirations when considering their future careers. They may only be seven and eight years old, but seeing the relevance of classroom subjects in real life can make learning much more engaging.”

Craig Taylor, Excelsior Academy Executive Principal, added: “The impact of the Industry Alignment Project on our primary pupils is profound. We want to take this success and embed it next year into our wider curriculum with students in years seven and eight.”

Michelle Dickinson, Community Engagement Manager for Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “We partnered with Excelsior Academy because we are looking for a future talent pipeline for our business, to support the younger generation to think about jobs earlier in their lives. Getting involved with local schools is a fantastic and rewarding way to do this.”

The North East LEP’s Education Challenge, which the Industry Alignment Project is part of, is built on the highly successful Ford Next Generation Learning programme embedded in schools across Nashville, Tennessee, and other US cities.

The long-term aim is to introduce the programme into schools across the country, reducing the gap between the best and lowest performing secondary schools and improving social mobility.

A North East delegation visited Nashville schools last year to see how their industry alignment projects work in practice with local employers.

When introduced to Nashville schools, high school graduation rates rose by almost 23% as well as improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

Neil Willis, North East LEP Education Challenge Regional Lead, said: “We are looking at how we can best support schools, colleges and higher education in the drive to engage all students and the Industry Alignment Project with the Edge Foundation and Excelsior Academy is a key part of this.

“Even though the Excelsior pupils were very young, they articulated their project competently, demonstrated their skills development very well and showed how their curriculum is linked to the amazing work they’ve completed.”

“The fact the project will now be rolled out to years seven and eight shows just what a success this has been.”

The project also worked with Future Me – a collaboration between the five North East universities to help raise school children’s aspirations.

Helen Beardmore, The Edge Foundation Education Delivery Manager, said: “The key aim is to help teachers access different employability skills. The curriculum is very knowledge based and by linking the schools with employers the students get to develop their skills and knowledge, working with businesses to bring the curriculum alive.”

The North East schools involved in the pilot are Excelsior Academy, Churchill Community College and Norham High School.


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Representing the North East at National Careers Week

As National Careers Week Ambassador for the North East of England, I’ve been delighted to be able to take a proactive role in encouraging employer engagement across the region and promote the benchmarks within the Good Career Guidance Report, which identifies what ‘good’ careers guidance looks like.

Networking across the North East is key to careers guidance success and the generation of meaningful encounters. Experiences of the workplace, between employers and young people is critical in achieving the benchmarks. My role involves liaising with the national ambassador team, sharing resources and case studies to encourage and promote these meaningful experiences.

As an Enterprise Adviser for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, I strongly support the delivery of its North East Ambition programme, which promotes skills across the region to improve the economy of the North East. Good careers guidance and the access to employment that is right for the individual, is a critical part of this drive around skills.

During National Careers Week (5-10March), I attended a series of events, actively promoting the fantastic work that is being delivered across the North East on careers guidance benchmarking and best practice working with employers.

I have been working particularly closely with Sue Taylor, the careers lead at Heaton Manor School in Newcastle upon Tyne. The school has been making great strides to achieve the benchmarks. Sue and the team have identified where the gaps are, and they are taking an innovative approach to making real connections between employers and young people.

To give the students access and exposure to a range of businesses, Heaton Manor School held a series of lunchtime talks for the duration of National Careers Week and beyond for a further week.

Attending employers include Accenture, Tarmac, Virgin Money, Digital Union, NBS, Ronald James, Baltic Training and Equiwatt, a green energy start-up company.

What an amazing opportunity for that group of Year 9’s to get first-hand information from a diverse range of employers, including small business, corporates, membership organisations and self-employed business people – all willing to talk to these students and create just the right conditions for excellent careers guidance.

This is just one example of how the North East is generating engagement between schools and employers and there is a real understanding of the benefits of developing these meaningful encounters with young people.

I am looking for more schools and business leaders across the North East that are making great strides in careers advice, generating real connections and headway in achieving the benchmarks, to use as positive case studies for our region and showcase them on a national platform.

Please communicate your successes on social media, using the hashtag #NorthEastAmbition when you tweet and tag us @northeastlep

Let’s shout about our careers guidance successes across the North East and on the national stage.

I welcome contact from schools, colleges and business leaders that would like to discuss future opportunities to network and create meaningful careers guidance opportunities.

Catherine Boland is currently HR Director at Printed.com until she moves to her new role as Business and Community Engagement Lead with Baltic Training at the end of April. Catherine is National Careers Week Ambassador for the North East of England.