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A partnership that works both ways


Jane Austin, Head of HR and Communications at water retail company Wave, became involved in the North East LEP’s Enterprise Adviser programme after Wave’s CEO heard about the programme at a conference.

Jane was matched with a school just a couple of miles from where she lives and is now working in partnership with Fiona Brennan, (pictured left), Work-Related Learning Co-ordinator at Marden High School in North Tyneside.

Together, Jane (pictured below) and Fiona aim to strengthen careers guidance at the school, ensuring that the school achieves the eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks which have been successfully piloted here in the North East and now form a central part of the Government’s new careers strategy.

“We had already completed an internal audit to see how the school was performing against the eight benchmarks, and this helped us to identify our priorities for the academic year, and for our work with Jane,” explained Fiona. “For example, we found that our careers provision varied across year groups and that we needed to provide more opportunities for our younger pupils.”

 “Working together with Jane has been a really positive experience and I feel that we’re making good progress towards achieving the benchmarks. The most useful thing has been having the support of someone who is looking at our situation from a different perspective.

 “We want to make sure that students come away from our career events feeling inspired and wanting to know more. We need to spark their interest and give them experiences which they can relate to.

 “We now have a number of careers-focused events planned for different year groups in the New Year and more in the pipeline – these include a half day event where pupils will run their own business, learning how to make business decisions in areas such as pricing, HR and production. We’re also challenging stereotypes, with younger pupils meeting people who work in all sorts of different careers, from firefighters to marketers.

“I’m really, really happy with our partnership and Jane’s experience and passion means we work very well together.

 Jane Austin added: “Working together, we’ve made huge progress in a short time. We’ve moved towards filling the gaps in provision which the school had already identified and we’re in a position now where we have a plan for the careers offering for every year group and we can evidence the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks in a more robust way across all ages.

 “While I’m working with the school on a strategic level, I’ll still be supporting them at events which is great as I have the pleasure of watching the students grow and, every time, I come away astounded by them.

 “There’s something amazing about a partnership between business and education. The school gains from it but so does the business.

 “I’ll be calling on my colleagues in finance, sales and our CEO, who will all be volunteering at events and sharing their knowledge with pupils. Our employees get a lot out of being involved and opportunities to volunteer are really valued by people at all levels – the partnership really does work both ways and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

 Find out more about the North East LEP Enterprise Adviser programme.


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Innovation, Skills, Funding and Growth Opportunities for North East businesses

Innovation, Skills, Funding and Growth Opportunities for North East businesses.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is calling on the North East business community to come together in January to hear about opportunities to be involved with plans to create 100,000 more and better jobs for the region.

Members of the LEP’s senior management team will outline how businesses can get involved in the various programmes run by the LEP, covering areas such as funding, innovations, skills and business growth.

Helen Golightly, Executive Director at the North East LEP, explained: “This event is open to all businesses and intermediary organisations who want to find out more about our plans to grow the economy here in the North East.

“It’s a chance to ask questions and find out how you, your organisation and your clients could be a part of some of the exciting opportunities for businesses here in the region.”

The North East LEP manages over £500 million of public funding and plays an influencing role in the allocation of regional European funding and the event will include a briefing from the North East LEP Executive Director, Helen Golightly, on the funding landscape.

Innovation, and opportunities for businesses to get involved with innovation events and initiatives across the North East will also be discussed, including an outline of the innovation priorities which are set out in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan – the document which lays out a clear roadmap for creating more and better jobs.

There will also be opportunities for business leaders to find out how they can support the LEP’s work in the skills arena, including building on this year’s national pilot of careers benchmarks in North East schools, and the successful Enterprise Advisers programme, which pairs business leaders with schools’ senior management teams.
Attendees will also find out how they can make use of the North East Growth Hub, a free resource which brings together initiatives for growing businesses and scaleups.
Helen added: “We have one of the fastest growing regional economies outside London and as we enter 2018 we are working hard to continue this growth.

“We’re calling on the business community here in the North East to continue to support the delivery of the region’s Strategic Economic Plan and we also want to make sure that everyone who could benefit from our programmes is doing so.”

North East LEP Chair Andrew Hodgson will lead the event, which takes place on Friday 19 January, from 8.30am to 10.30am, at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

The event is free to attend and is aimed at those in financial, professional and business services in the North East LEP area (Sunderland, Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland).

Register for a free place here.

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Education Challenge: Join the team responsible for trialling next generation of learning in North East Schools

During 2017 we’ve been working closely with colleagues in Nashville, USA and across the UK as the North East prepares to be the first place outside America to trial elements of a new model of learning, which has already transformed the way young people learn and achieve across more than 30 school districts in the USA.

We visited Nashville in September and hosted a return visit to the North East in November, and have been inspired by the way this approach can really make a difference to young people’s futures – it’s a proven example of international best practice and the fact that we have the opportunity to develop it here in the North East LEP area is hugely exciting.

The Academies Nashville model places employer engagement at the centre of education and, when it was implemented in Nashville, resulted in an almost 23% rise in high school graduation rates as well as improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

Pupils learn through project-based learning, completing courses which relate to sectors they’re interested in – from healthcare to hospitality – while close partnerships with employers result in industry placements for both students and teachers.

It’s now time for us to start translating elements of the model for use in the North East so as we enter the New Year, we’re looking for four people to join our project team and help us to make this happen.

We’re already working with three schools – Excelsior Academy, Norham High School and Churchill Community College – who will be the first to trial the approach. These schools will work closely with the North East LEP and our partners at The Edge Foundation, Future Me and businesses across the region.

The first post we’re recruiting for is a Regional ‘Careers in the Curriculum’ Project Lead who will be based here at the North East LEP offices in Newcastle. This person will liaise with employers and teachers across the region, developing opportunities for teacher CPD placements in industry and co-designing project-based learning for pupils. This person will also be responsible for sharing what we learn with the wider region, making sure that as many schools as possible benefit from this project.

We’re also recruiting three Industry Alignment Managers who will be based in each of the three pilot schools. They will work with teaching staff to develop project-based learning approaches in the school, evaluating the impact of the approach and managing relationships with employers.

Each of these four posts will play a key part in this ambitious and exciting project. The project is a core element of the region’s strategic economic plan, where our education challenge. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something which can make a real difference to outcomes for our young people, preparing them with the skills they need to start their careers and helping businesses and schools work more closely together within the curriculum.

We need to find people who are creative thinkers, who can connect a variety of stakeholders with a common aim and who, above all, are enthusiastic and motivated about making a difference for young people in the North East.

Could that be you or someone you know?

The ‘Next Generation Learning’ project is part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge, which aims to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve social mobility in our young people. The education challenge will support teachers, schools, governors and leaders to integrate careers learning into the curriculum to ensure those entering the workforce in the future have the skill level to support our diverse economy and are fully aware of the progression routes available to make this happen.

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Our Plan for Higher Education – Diverse, Employment-focused, Value for Money

New independent report points the way forward for Higher Education

We welcome the publication of the Edge Foundation’s Plan for Higher Education which sets out how greater diversity of provision, more employer engagement and a keen focus on value for money can ensure that HE helps to close the skills gap.

Here, Olly Newton, Director of Policy and Research at The Edge Foundation sets out his thoughts on Higher Education Diversification

New polling data commissioned by Edge for the report raises some significant questions about perceptions of value for money amongst graduates. The percentage who felt they received good value for money for their degree has fallen steadily from 93% of those who graduated before 1980 to just 58% amongst recent graduates. Meanwhile, the majority of graduates from the last five decades (52%) would choose not to go to university in the current funding regime.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The report highlights some amazing programmes here and abroad that are helping to ensure excellent employment outcomes for students. This includes a diversification of provision to include accelerated, part-time and sandwich courses and a reinvigoration of L4 and L5 qualifications to give us the technicians we need to power industry in the North East. It also includes high quality careers services and employer engagement, which many of the universities in our region pride themselves on.

The report also points to two ambitious international models to provide inspiration for the future. DHBW in Stuttgart is a University entirely made up of degree apprentices studying whilst employed with leading firms and their supply chains. The Minerva Schools based in California is an international university with no campus that achieves excellent results at a fraction of the cost of traditional tuition through innovative online seminars.

We are blessed in the North East with fantastic Higher Education partners and we are keen to learn from the best models nationally and internationally to help them continue to be a powerhouse for skills and growth in the region.

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North East LEP welcomes Careers Strategy and celebrates Gatsby Career Benchmarks success

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has today welcomed the news that the Government’s new Careers Strategy will centre around the eight Gatsby Good Career Guidance Benchmarks piloted here in the North East.

In September 2015, sixteen schools and colleges within the North East LEP area became the first in the UK to test the benchmarks, designed to equip the next generation with the skills needed by employers.

Within a year the North East LEP’s groundbreaking work in rolling out this pilot had attracted national acclaim.

Andrew Hodgson, chair of the North East LEP, said: “Good career guidance is crucial for social mobility.  We are delighted to see the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks front and centre of the Government’s national careers strategy.

“After piloting this approach in the North East over the past two years, and with over 100 schools now working to achieve the Benchmarks, we are seeing the hugely positive impact they can make to each and every pupil in schools and colleges.”

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director for the North East LEP said: “I’d like to thank Gatsby for trusting in us to deliver the pilot and for recognising the North East LEP’s ability to influence national education policy.

“I’d also like to thank those schools and colleges who were initially involved through the pilot and to those who have since shown their support by signing up. The scale of the project has been critical in demonstrating the transformative power of the eight Gatsby benchmarks.

“Finally it’s important to recognise the team at the North East LEP who have worked tirelessly to roll out this initiative. Through our collaborative approach we have been able to demonstrate the resounding success of the Gatsby Good Career Guidance Benchmarks on a national level and showcase the excellent practice taking place here in the region.”

The Careers Strategy is backed by £4m of funding and includes a dedicated careers leader in all schools and colleges in the country to ensure people have access to the best careers support, giving them the best possible start to their professional life.

Sir John Holman, senior advisor to the Gatsby Foundation and author of the Gatsby Career Benchmark report, said: “Good Career Guidance is the key to social mobility. For young people coming from a background of low socioeconomic aspirations, school career guidance is their best hope of charting the way to a rewarding future career.

“We now know, from our international study and from the work of career guidance experts, what makes for good career guidance: it is described by the eight Gatsby benchmarks which have been shown by the pilot in the North East of England to have such a powerful positive effect in schools and colleges.

“I am very pleased that the Department for Education has put these benchmarks at the heart of its strategy.”

The North East LEP’s national facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot, Ryan Gibson, said: “Since the North East became the first UK region to pilot the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks, the approach has proved to be transformational for careers guidance in our schools and colleges.

“At the pilot’s start, no UK school was achieving more than five benchmarks and 50% of schools and colleges in this region weren’t achieving any at all. Now 88% of our schools and colleges are achieving six to eight, with every single one achieving a minimum of four – the benchmarks are a vital part of our plan to ensure that every young person in the North East can make a successful transition into their future career.”

More information on the new Careers Strategy can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/careers-guidance-for-modern-country-unveiled.

Details of the eight Gatsby Career Benchmarks can be found here: www.goodcareerguidance.org.uk

For more information about the North East LEP’s Skills programme, please visit www.nelep.co.uk.



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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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In conversation with Anne Casey, Regional Adviser at Academy Ambassadors

Thanks to Anne Casey, Regional Adviser, Academy Ambassadors for providing this blog about being part of a school leadership team:

Providing strong leadership is important for any organisation. It ensures stability, growth and a strategic plan for the future.

Schools demand the same, which is why we’re on a recruitment drive in the North East for non-executive directors to support the increasing number of Academy Schools opening in the region.

Academy Ambassadors is a non-profit organisation set up to bring inspirational educationalists together with talented business leaders to build better multi-academy trust boards.

We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the North East LEP to offer business leaders in the region the opportunity to support all established and future Academies.

We want to address the gap between the performance of schools in the North and South and we believe the business community can help us address that by providing strong leadership in our Academy Trusts, with business acumen, experience and strategic vision applied directly to academy boards through pro bono trustee roles.

We recruit from a range of different industries and disciplines including the corporate sector, HR, IT, marketing & PR and the financial services. It’s this range of skills that supports the work of CEOs and executive principals in Academies to provide the highest standard of education to our young people.

Academy Ambassadors has to date recruited more than 500 business leaders to non-executive directorship or trustee roles; around 134 of those are in the North of the country. Non-executive directors can sit on a trust board of a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) which can have anywhere from two to 65 or more academies, with budgets ranging from £10m for a small trust to £100m + for the largest. With the potential for such scale – and associated accountability – the need for experienced business leaders is evident.

Some of the North East businesses already working with Academy Ambassadors include BT, Lloyds Banking Group and PwC, however we are also working with SMEs across the region.

We’re committed to recruiting the right kind of people, which is why we look to the business community who can provide the right kind of strategic skills modern Academies demand. We need Boards with diverse skills, an aptitude for governance and an understanding of the local and regional context. Boards should be diverse and reflect their local communities, which is again something the business community can support.

Experience of working in education is not a pre-requisite to become an Academy Ambassadors-placed non-executive director. The ability to think strategically, hold people to account and deploy resources efficiently to make a real difference to young people’s futures are just some of the skills we’re looking for in non-executive directors or trustees.

Academies are experiencing a period of rapid growth, from 200 to 5,000 in just five years. They demand real business acumen and a range of skills that business leaders in the North East have in spades.

If you’d like to know more about the opportunities available at Academy Ambassadors, please visit our website – www.academyambassadors.org – or contact me direct via the email address [email protected]

Academy Ambassadors works closely with Inspiring Governance to share knowledge and help build relationships. Like Academy Ambassadors, Inspiring Governance is a free, national matchmaking service specialising in connecting volunteers with schools looking for governors and trustees, though its focus is on the Local Governing Body (LGB) level, providing school governors as well as trustees. More information is available at inspiringgovernance.org

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Growing our Digital Future

We are working closely with Accenture to encourage schools to participate in their Digital Skills programme – a free initiative for schools to help students enhance their experiences of digital communications.

Thanks to Ryan Gibson, Facilitator for the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot, for this blog about digital careers in the North East, and the many reasons why teachers should encourage students to participate in the programme.

I wonder if like me, you have often heard phrases such as the ‘digital economy’, ‘digital literacy’ or ‘digital community’ but not really taken the time to reflect on what these actually mean, their impact on economic growth, the prosperity of the region, more and better jobs and the implications for how we prepare young people to enter and thrive in an ever changing labour market.

A North East of England Chamber of Commerce survey in 2015 found that 66% of businesses believed that education was not effectively preparing young people for work. The House of Lords have stated that digital skills should be taught as a third core subject, valued as important as achievement in Maths and English.

How many of us now check the news using an app on our phone, connect with friends and family on facebook, use internet banking, shop online, follow people on twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn. When reflecting on your own professional role, I wonder if you recognise similar things to me? I am increasingly working with platforms such as Google Docs and Dropbox, collecting, collating, presenting and evaluating big data, tweeting, using LinkedIn, using Skype and writing blogs! It is challenging isn’t it and certainly something I was not prepared for. I had to learn as I went, picking up bits and pieces from colleagues who seemed to have mastered this whole new world.

Businesses, and especially SMEs, report that digital skills are becoming essential in all areas of work, regardless of the sector. Indeed a quick glance at online job posts and vacancy websites reinforces the growing demand for digitally competent individuals. While it is not possible to predict exactly what digital skills a young person may need in the future, it is important that we work to ensure that they can evidence a level of digital skills that will appeal to an employer – ensuring that they are both prepared and equipped to take advantage of better job opportunities.

So what exactly are those job opportunities in the North East. Well, take a look at our refreshed Strategic Economic Plan for the region. The North East digital community is one of the most vibrant, productive and rapidly developing in the UK.

With over 29,000 IT and digital employees working in the region and a further 15,250 creative industries employees, we have a technology industry valued at £2 billion – part of a northern ICT economy worth £12 billion. And isn’t it fantastic that the Headquarters of FTSE 100 listed software leader, Sage, shared service centres for HP, BT, Accenture and IBM are all located in the North East.

There is also a fantastic network of business support organisations operating here in the region, which I will talk about in a future blog.

So, with fantastic opportunities comes a key challenge – how can we better prepare and equip each and every young person with the digital skills they need to take advantage of job opportunities and thrive in this hotbed of digital activity? We are delighted to support Accenture’s ‘Digital Skills’ programme, as it’s a fantastic way of doing just that.

This free online course, designed by Accenture, is available to 16+ year olds and focuses on six modules:

  • Digital fundamentals
  • Social media
  • Digital marketing
  • User Experience
  • Mobility
  • Analytics

These six units can be integrated into sixth form / college curriculum or can be studied by students in their own time and at their own pace. The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) uses the Future Learn platform to deliver an innovative social learning approach, supported with over 90 bitesize videos and individualised assessments to recognize achievement. On completion, students receive an Accenture ‘digital badge’, accrediting and validating their learning and allowing them to evidence their skills to employers across the region.

As an educator, I can’t help but see how beneficial this could be on a student’s UCAS, apprenticeship or job application form and how important it is to help young people build their professional online profile. With 27% growth in digital salaries in the North East, over 1500 current vacancies in the region, a projected 745000 more workers needed with digital skills by the end of 2017 and 49% of SMEs saying they lack workers with basic digital skills – can we really afford not to take advantage of such amazing opportunities?

If you think that your students could benefit from this free programme, please contact [email protected] by the end of June. Sign up now and be ready to begin the course in September.

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Celebrating success: The Enterprise Adviser Network

The North East LEP’s Enterprise Adviser Network connects senior business leaders with schools and colleges, working closely with their senior leadership team to develop and drive a careers strategy that helps young people gain more experience of the world of work and have meaningful encounters with employers.

Lindsey Peek, North East LEP Enterprise Co-ordinator, gives an update on the Network’s success so far:

We’ve had an excellent response from the region’s schools, colleges and businesses since we started the North East’s Enterprise Adviser Network in 2015.


To date we’ve partnered 45 Enterprise Advisers with 45 schools and colleges across the North East, and we’re looking to achieve more. We’re proud to have some of the region’s most influential business leaders involved, representing a range of different sectors.


They include Giselle Stewart, Director of Corporate Affairs at video game company Ubisoft Reflections, Sophie Pickup, ‎Learning & Development Manager at Northumbrian Water Group and Jen Chamley, Community Engagement Manager at Capita Property & Infrastructure Ltd.


Other leading organisations to join our Enterprise Adviser Network initiative include Barclays, British Engines, Bellway Homes, Unipres, ORE Catapult, Accenture, Printed.com and Campus North.


The role of the Enterprise Adviser is to bridge the gap between business and education and create a whole school or college strategy for careers, enterprise and employer engagement. From routes to employment and interview skills to work experience and apprenticeships, students learn about the many career opportunities available to them in the North East and educators develop a better understanding of the local economy, which improves the quality of the careers advice and guidance they can provide to students.


Creating a meaningful link between education and business has greatly improved student’s understanding of the labour market and helped the business community access a talented and enthusiastic future workforce who will build the economy of tomorrow.


Just one example of the success of our Enterprise Adviser Network initiative is Churchill Community College’s partnership with Accenture.

Karen Marshall, Apprentice, Education and Engagement Lead at Accenture, introduced students to a range of careers-themed events including career speed dating, interactive careers fairs, mock interview events and assemblies. Karen, in partnership with Churchill Community College, also delivered an innovative Assessment Centre simulation exercise for Year 13 students to equip them with experience of a real life work situation. Accenture put the whole year group through the selection process offering guidance on CV writing before taking 40 students for a full assessment centre experience. Many of the college’s GSCE students have also met curriculum targets as part of site visits involving Accenture staff.


The Northumberland Church of England Academy’s partnership with ORE Catapult has been citied as an example of best practice by education experts.

As well as taking part in the Academy’s World of Work Day, which sees over 50 leading employers and learning providers give students an insight into a range of different careers, ORE Catapult has also provided work experience opportunities and one to one mentoring. Mark Fox, Careers and Employability Manager at Northumberland Church of England Academy and Tony Quinn, Operations Director at ORE Catapult will be continuing to work together to provide students with unique career guidance and development experiences.


To highlight some of the fantastic work being delivered as part of the initiative, we’ve produced a series of videos featuring some of the schools taking part.

Sam Mcloughlin at Studio West School, Newcastle upon Tyne, shared his first-hand experience of the benefits that come from working with an Enterprise Adviser. You can view the video here:

Studio West

We’re still looking for schools and colleges across the North East to join our Enterprise Adviser Network Initiative and partner with leading businesses on a journey to improve careers education and guidance for young people in the region.


If you’d like to find out more, please contact me or one my colleagues:

Lindsey Peek
[email protected]

Denis Heaney
[email protected]

Andrew Mills
[email protected]

We look forward to working with you

Lindsey Peek
Enterprise Co-ordinator, Enterprise Adviser Programme at the North East LEP