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North East Economic Partners provide joint response to government’s report on immigration

As Brexit talks continue between the UK and European Union, North East economic partners including the CBI, North East Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, Entrepreneurs Forum, TUC, North East LEP and North East Combined Authority, continue to work together to advise government on important issues for the North East economy implied by the decision to leave the European Union.

One of those areas is the future shape of the labour market, and in particular the availability of the skills we need to enable the delivery of the strategic economic plan.

Immigration, the economic and social impacts of Brexit and how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy, are key issues under consideration by the Government. In July, Home Secretary Amber Rudd commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise government on migration trends to and from the European Economic Area and the UK, their impact on current recruitment, training and skills practice in the UK and on the economic, social and fiscal impacts of EEA migration and the potential impacts of any changes in UK policy.

The North East Economic Partners – working on behalf of the wider business, education and industry sectors – have delivered a combined response reflecting the current and future labour supply in the area, the role of EEA migrants in the North East labour force and survey evidence and case studies of the experience and views of North East businesses.

The key findings and recommendations were:

It is important that the composition of immigration data in the North East is understood

Whilst numbers of migrants in the North East population are relatively small compared with other regions of the UK, there are a high number of students enrolled in our region’s four universities and these are included in the data. Immigration data from the EEA also includes large numbers of older UK citizens and forces personnel returning from parts of Europe.

The concentration of migration in specific places and roles and the skill levels of these posts

Within the North East, there is a high concentration of migrants in cities and urban centres, in particular around Newcastle. Migrants in the labour force have a relatively high skill profile; working in higher value industrial jobs and in professional, managerial and technical roles across the economy including universities and healthcare.

The important contribution migrants have made to overall population growth experienced in region

The North East has recently returned to population growth, but at the same time seen significant population ageing. Our labour market growth and balance across age groups has been supported by migration and the higher birth rates amongst migrant populations.

Looking forward, there will job opportunities from both new jobs, and significant ‘replacement demand’ as older workers leave the labour market. We will need to replace these valuable skills by ensuring that people in all parts of the region have the skills to fill the jobs in the North East economy and by attracting people to the region from other parts of the UK and internationally at all levels of the labour force.

Internationalisation of North East business

The North East has secured significant foreign direct investment over recent years with many investors regarding our region as an opportunity to access European markets and supply chains. Parts of the region have a significantly higher proportion of employment in foreign owned businesses compared with other parts of the UK. Whilst the number of businesses hosting high numbers of international workers is small, the common framework of regulation and employment policy and the opportunity to recruit has been an important factor in decision making. There is already concern about the tone of the discussion on migration.

Businesses and economic development agencies work hard to secure skills and invest in training

North East businesses and agencies work hard to secure the skills they need and have invested in training and apprenticeship schemes, as well as seeking skills overseas, especially for high level skills. There is more to do and the area of skills and labour market development is a key priority within the strategic economic plan.

A post-Brexit immigration policy needs to consider potential dynamic effects on the North East

North East based EEA migrants include a higher proportion of higher skilled staff than in other areas in occupations such as engineering, digital, education and healthcare. There is a concern that the overall numbers in these occupations are restricted. Areas with a ‘thicker’ jobs market, London for example, may draw EEA migrants away from the North East. North East partners encouraged the MAC to recognise the potential dynamic impact on the North East labour market of migration controls elsewhere in the UK.

Read the North East Economic Partners full response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) here.


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Retrain, regain, retain – how the North East LEP is driving the #fullerworkinglives agenda

This week the North East LEP held an event with the CIPD North East on unlocking the value of the older workforce – the first of its kind in the UK. Here our Skills Director Michelle Rainbow reports back.

Retrain, regain and retain – three words which are already critical to the success of every organisation.

With an ageing population; fewer younger people entering the labour market; and a drop in the number of skilled workers entering the country due to Brexit, it is more important than ever that employers look to the over 50s to help them drive their businesses forward.

And this is why the North East LEP held an event for employers investigating how those aged over 50 can help them succeed.


The government sees the older workforce as a priority

Here at the North East LEP we have long been advocating the Fuller Working Lives approach set by the Government, which sees the UK’s ageing workforce as an economic priority.

It’s a critical area for action. According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employers are aware in general of an ageing population, but an ageing workforce is not yet a prominent concern and only few employers are taking active steps to change their policies and practices to take this into account.

NIESR’s 2017 findings that having more older workers does not impact on workplace financial performance or quality of outputs will play a key part in challenging bias and increasingly the appeal of this valuable talent pool.



It makes commercial sense

There are a range of benefits to employing and retaining older workers, from increased loyalty and productivity to lower recruitment costs as staff churn reduces.

It doesn’t stop there though. Age diverse workplaces benefit from a range of experiences, ideas and ways of thinking. As one of our panelists Di Keller from Sage plc noted, diversity of age is critical if an organisation is to offer products and services relevant to their audiences.


Get involved with our pilot

We expect interest and engagement with the Fuller Working Lives agenda to continue to rise. In light of this, the North East LEP is working with the DWP and National Careers Service (NCS) to explore how the NCS could provide individuals with better careers and skills advice and how this might have an impact on the retention, retraining and recruitment of workers aged 50 and over.

Participating employers will have free access to help and assistance, including an on-site visit designed to help them manage and skill an ageing workforce – and much more.

If you’d like more information about how the pilot could benefit your business, please contact Jill Greatorex at NCS on 0191 731 4750 – all you have to do is quote North East LEP when you call.

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North East LEP ONS Labour Market Statistics reaction

Victoria Sutherland, North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Senior Economist, today welcomed the continuing employment performance of the regional economy.

“Today’s ONS statistics show sustained and continuing employment growth and falling unemployment,” she said.

“Over the past year, the number of people in work has increased by 26,000 and 25,000 fewer are unemployed. Women account for almost two-thirds of the increase in employment, with an additional 17,000 women in work compared to a year ago.

“Amongst the 16-64-year-old population, the unemployment rate is 5.5%, compared to 7.4% last year.

“The employment rate is now 72.2%, up from 70.5% a year ago.

“Importantly, the North East continues to close the employment rate gap with the national average. This is one of the key performance targets in the Strategic Economic Plan, with the aspiration for the North East region to provide more and better employment opportunities in the decade up to 2024.”


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Voluntary sector is vitally important for economic growth

At a recent LEP Employment and Skills Board meeting, the importance of the third sector to our sustainable economic growth was again brought home to me.

Board member Carol Botten, deputy chief executive of VONNE, reinforced how voluntary organisations are changing, adapting to a world where business acumen is a priority as grant funding becomes scarce.

More of their income is derived from delivering contracts and services with an emphasis on being commercially focused and sustainable to ensure future viability.

Carol played a leading role in refreshing the employability and social inclusion section of our new Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), to better recognise the job and wealth creation value of our third sector to the North East economy.

Voluntary organisations often reach out to those people deemed by some to be ‘unemployable’.

Using their care and expertise, they are helping the North East LEP and its other partners implement the SEP’s employability and social inclusion agenda on the ground.

Strengthening our employment rate is crucial to sustainable economic growth, and for those on the margins of society, finding meaningful employment is a fundamental route out of poverty and exclusion.

Newly released Third Sector Trends Data for 2017 underlines the economic importance of voluntary organisations and their activity. Figures show there are 7,000 formal voluntary groups based in our region.

They employ 37,500 full-time equivalent employees. Across the whole of the North of England, the third sector is a larger employer than the finance and insurance industry.

Its value to the North East economy through salaries is estimated at £750m.

A growing number of third sector organisations are experiencing rapid growth, such as Changing Lives in Gateshead.

Back in 2006 it was a North East focused employer of 84 people with a £2.2m turnover.

Fast forward just over a decade and it works with disadvantaged people from the Midlands to Berwick, with 465 staff on its books and a turnover of £16.3m.

As my fellow board member Paul Varley tells me, profit is no longer a dirty word in the third sector.

Paul is chair of Northern Rights, an acclaimed social enterprise managed by local people helping the disadvantaged find work.

Taking surplus profits and investing them into doing even more good through the core services they deliver well, means charities reach more people who need their help.

The North East LEP and its partners have set the region the bold target of creating 100,000 more and better jobs over the next seven years.

In doing so, we recognise the growing contribution of organisations such as the Tyne Gateway Trust, its sharp business acumen creating the revenue to be able to invest into the business and grow.

Pauline Wonders, the trust’s strategic director, and her team work with the long-term unemployed, people whose self-confidence has been shattered to the point where some don’t consider themselves worthy of work.

Her team of 24 staff – all of whom were previously unemployed themselves – connect with people, nurture their self-esteem and give them the tools to start their own community enterprises or support them into sustained work.

Inspiring, important activity with real economic value.

Andrew Hodgson,

North East LEP Chair.

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Accelerating Opportunities for North East Teens

Ryan Gibson reports on how the National Citizen Service (NCS) is supporting schools and enhancing vital careers education – accelerating opportunities for young people in the North East.

At the NCS North East stakeholder group meeting last month, I was encouraged by progress toward a permanent statutory footing for this incredibly important programme. The move is especially welcome here in the North East, a region in which I am extremely proud to say a staggering 95% of our schools are working with NCS right now.

Now the biggest youth movement of its kind, NCS is for 15-17 year olds. Like the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot, for which I am facilitator, its inclusive approach aims to create long-term impact that benefits individuals, schools and communities as a whole. Indeed, the NCS programme is mapped against the eight Benchmarks of ‘good career guidance’. Both programmes seek to improve social mobility, by ensuring that all young people benefit from extended networks of support – whether these are within the community, with information or with employers who can help them.

Many young people have internalised ideas about what ‘people like them’ might do and where they might fit into the education system and the labour market. For some it is about class, for others its ethnicity or gender. Good careers guidance, enhanced by the work of NCS, actively tackles these assumptions by allowing young people to challenge themselves and explore talents they never knew they had. Young people gain the confidence to apply their skills in practical contexts – meaningful experiences that will help them when it comes to applying for jobs or engaging in job, apprenticeship or university applications and interviews.

Through NCS, teenagers gain confidence, leadership and communication skills – as well as resilience and grit – which are vital for employability and life.

Last year alone, teenagers in our region gave over 214,000 hours volunteering through NCS – equivalent to £1million invested into the regional economy. Youth-led community projects offer teenagers compelling real world opportunities to develop and evidence skills that make CVs and UCAS statements stand out. The NCS enterprise agenda produces mature and capable young people.

In addition, when they enter the world of work or university, with all its diversity and challenges, young people are better prepared – thanks to the unique NCS social mix and its focus on stepping out of comfort zones. Wonderfully, the programme also nurtures British values such as tolerance, respect and inclusion; and offers positive outlets and role models for young people.

In our region, NCS is delivered by a partnership of youth charities; V•Inspired and National Youth Agency, working with 13 grassroots organisations right across the region. Since the partnership took on the contract in 2015, nearly 6,000 of our young people have taken part in the scheme.

A dozen North East schools have been lauded for their exemplary support for NCS through the exciting Star Schools Awards whilst over 20 others have scooped Champion School status. Good luck to the many schools already working toward these accolades in 2017.

This year, there are more NCS places than ever before: offering significant investment in developing learners across the region. Schools particularly benefit from the programme’s support with learner progression into work or studies, and they recognise the direct contribution NCS makes to Ofsted judgements.

It’s great to be working together with schools, stakeholders and other partners to help as many North East teenagers as possible access the life-changing experience that is NCS.

Thousands of North East teenagers have already booked their Summer NCS experience. Support young people you work with by engaging and finding out more at NCSNORTHEAST.CO.UK

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North East LEP reaction to latest employment data

The North East economy is performing positively against a number of key indicators but the stubborn challenge of unemployment remains a concern, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership said today commenting on the latest ONS employment statistics.

Helen Golightly, North East LEP Chief Operating Officer, said that the rise in the number of people out of work between last November and January was concerning, but that deeper analysis of data revealed a more buoyant regional economic picture.

“The North East economy is performing positively with a strong base making us more resilient to the challenges posed by a rise in unemployment,” said Helen.

“The longer term picture shows that the number of people out of work a year ago was a full percentage point higher than it is now and we still have near record numbers of people in work.

“Over the past three years, the number of full-time workers in the North East has grown from 804,000 to 857,000 – in the past 12 months alone 16,000 more people found full-time work.

“We’ve seen a particularly healthy growth in the number of young people finding employment and amongst people aged 50 to 64 in the year up to last September.

“There has also been a 20% fall in the number of 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed and a 15% drop in the number of 25 to 34-year-olds out of work during that period.”


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North East LEP Autumn Statement reaction

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership today welcomed Government focus on boosting productivity through infrastructure, innovation and business growth measures in the Autumn Statement.

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair said:

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s focus on raising national productivity through substantial infrastructure and innovation investment mirrors the approach of the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan.

We welcome the Chancellor’s recognition that we are making a stronger contribution to the national economy through the creation of more and better jobs.

The Government has committed to investing £23bn into a National Productivity Investment Fund to boost innovation and infrastructure over the next five years which provides opportunities for our region to exploit.

We welcome the Chancellor’s focus on 5G broadband development through a £1bn fund and trials programme – the region has written to the Chancellor with a proposal to create a trial site for 5G in the North East.

The £220m funding for pinch points on strategic roads gives the North East an opportunity to further develop schemes in relation to the strategic highway network in the region.

Investment into the ultra-low emission vehicles sector represents a major opportunity for the North East with its strong automotive sector and highly developed low carbon vehicle programme.

We are delighted that our joint proposal for a Science and Innovation Audit with other Northern LEPs will be going ahead in round two.

A group of tax changes will benefit companies in the region’s rural and urban communities.

We look forward to learning in the coming days the allocation of funding to the individual Northern LEPs through the Local Growth Fund to finance strategic capital projects.

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North East closing employment gap – good progress but work still to be done

Richard Baker, North East LEP Head of Strategy and Policy, today welcomed the latest employment figures which revealed the continuing rise in the number of people in work in the region.
The Office for National Statistics data shows a record high employment rate in the North East standing at 71.1% – continuing to close the gap with the national average rate over the past year by two percentage points – and within 2% of the target set in the Strategic Economic Plan.

While unemployment grew slightly nationally between June and August this year, it fell in the North East by 8,000 people.

“These latest statistics show continued progress towards the target we set in the Strategic Economic Plan of growing the number of jobs in the North East economy and closing the employment rate gap with the national average,” said Richard.

“Other recent evidence suggests that almost 60% of the North East jobs growth is in higher productivity roles. Clearly, there are concerns about making sure that people in less stable employment can progress into more stable jobs and we will be looking at provisional figures in this part of the labour market carefully.

“The overall picture though from today’s statistics is good news for the North East in that there are more employment opportunities for people who are finding work to move out of unemployment and into work.

“Unemployment over the past year has seen a marked and welcome fall – down by 20,000 people which is an 18.8% rate fall compared to a 2.7% decline nationally.”

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North East LEP seeking Government assurances on EU structural funding

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is seeking reassurance that European (EU) funded projects already signed off by Government will continue to be delivered.

To date, the North East LEP area has £89.5million of its £437million EU structural funding committed to projects for the 2014-2020 period.

A further £104.5million worth of projects were put forward to Government for approval in advance of the Referendum.

Collectively these projects will support over 7,400 businesses across the North East LEP area, which covers Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, driving growth and job creation.

The funding will also support almost 30,000 local people into employment and provide those in employment with the skills they need to progress in work.

Chair of the North East LEP Andrew Hodgson said: “We are hopeful that these projects will be honoured by Government and deliver important support to businesses and local people before Brexit happens.

“It is important to realise we will not be immediately losing the opportunities that EU funding has historically brought to the North East.

“Millions of pounds of projects are still likely to go ahead, bringing new jobs and closing the skills gap in the North East. The truth is that we just don’t know yet if or when we will see changes.

“EU funding has hugely benefitted the North East over the last few decades and we are lobbying Government for clarity and seeking assurances that any potential future funding gap will be filled. We urge the Government to provide this guidance quickly to ensure opportunities to create jobs and growth are not lost.”

There is no formal Government guidance available currently following the EU Referendum result on the amount of European funding that will be available in the future for North East businesses and organisations beyond the projects already approved.