Matt Joyce, Regional Lead: North East Ambition at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), talks about the support available for young people who have had to make decisions about their futures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the country went into lockdown just as many young people were beginning to make important decisions about their futures.
For some students who are moving on from school or college and beginning the next stage of their education or starting work, this is a particularly crucial part of the academic year, a time when they will be talking to their school or college careers advisers, and other key staff, in order to decide what’s the best route for them and to get support applying for different opportunities.
That’s why the skills team here at the North East LEP has been working closely with schools and colleges in the region to support them at a time when it’s been difficult to deliver careers guidance in the usual ways.
Together, we wanted to make sure that young people – and also their parents and carers – are equipped with all the information they need to make informed decisions, even when they might not have been able to access the usual face-to-face support from their school.
A new website – jobopportunitiesnortheast.co.uk – now brings together information for young people and their families on the full range of options, from apprenticeships and university to the new T-Level qualifications which are rolling out from this year. In addition, it highlights how they can access further information, advice and guidance – from professionally qualified, trusted sources – if they need it.
It also includes the latest government announcements which affect young people, such as the new Kickstart Scheme, designed to help employers create six-month job placements for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.
Our aim is to help young people to realise their career aspirations and also to reduce the number who are at risk of not being in employment, education or training (sometimes referred to as NEET).
The new website also contains the latest job vacancies which have arisen across a range of sectors as a result of COVID-19 – ranging from vacancies with small businesses to new roles with large corporates like Sage UK – and guidance for business owners on workplace safety and adapting to post-pandemic working.
Over the next few months we’ll also be working with employers to see how we can create meaningful ways for students to gain virtual experiences of the workplace when traditional placements and visits to workplaces might be more difficult to arrange than they were pre-COVID. The use of new technology opens up a lot of possibilities and it’s vital that we make sure that links created between education and industry are not lost.
This all ties in with the broader work of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which is leading the region’s economic response to the pandemic, mitigating the impact on the North East economy, and readying the region for recovery.
One area of focus for the group has been keeping people in employment, and that includes looking at the impact of the pandemic on the cohort of young people who are taking their first steps into the world of work.
As well as our work with schools and colleges, we’re talking to employers about the skills they need from their workforce – including new starters who are fresh from education – and how things are changing for businesses as a result of the pandemic.
As ever, it’s the combination of schools, colleges and employers working together which will help each and every young person in our region to achieve their potential and successfully make the transition from education to the world of work – even now, during one of the most difficult years many pupils in our region will have faced.
Visit jobopportunitiesnortheast.co.uk to see the latest information for young people who are moving on from years 11 to 14, as well as job vacancies and guidance for employers.