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How improving skills will grow our economy
Posted by North East LEP on 16 Feb 2017
It’s an exciting time for the North East economy. We still excel in our traditional strengths like manufacturing and engineering, but we are also leading the way in other areas, like health and life sciences, creative and technology, and subsea and offshore technology.
The question we must ask ourselves is are we equipped with the right kind of skills to grow these sectors further and create more and better jobs for the North East?
That’s something we’re addressing at the North East LEP as part of our skills agenda: are we creating a future proof workforce with the types of transferable skills that can meet the demands of our growing and emerging industries?
Improving skills sits at the heart of our refreshed strategic economic plan for our region and we’re currently delivering a number of initiatives and campaigns to help achieve this.
We are already seeing transformative results from our Good Career Guidance Benchmarks national pilot and we’ve heavily influenced the inclusion of the Benchmarks to new guidance for schools and colleges in delivering careers advice nationwide. Something we’re especially proud of is that schools, colleges, academy trusts and other LEPs from across the country are using North East LEP as an example of best practice when planning their careers strategies. Indeed, the Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State at the Department for Education, visited the North East in September 2016 to see first hand how the pilot is helping young people in the region make better and more informed decisions about their future careers. It’s been so successful that we’re looking for forward thinking businesses and philanthropists to help fund extending the scheme to involve Primary schools.
Up to date information about the labour market is central to our skills programme. It demonstrates where the current and future areas of opportunity are. We have developed a series of videos focusing on the strategic economic areas of opportunity in the North East designed for use by lecturers, teachers and advisers in schools and colleges. They will ensure young people have an accurate understanding of what sort of jobs are available here. And it’s really eye-opening how diverse and exciting the range of roles are.
Our Enterprise Adviser network continues to go from strength to strength and now includes 43 secondary schools from across the North East - from Berwick to South Durham. The network sees business leaders from some of the North East’s most successful industries work strategically with senior leaders in secondary schools to shape the quality of careers provision. Our Enterprise Advisers include Giselle Stewart, Director of Corporate Affairs at video game company Ubisoft Reflections, Greg Robson, Training Manager at Caterpillar Peterlee, and Karen Marshall, Apprentice Engagement and Education Lead at Accenture.
We’re proud to be working with SCHOOLS NorthEast, and other partners, to look at how we attract and retain good quality teachers in the region. Just as having a skilled workforce is important to our economy, so is a talented and enthusiastic teaching staff. We’re also looking at a project to improve governance in our schools and colleges.
In an effort to support the North East’s areas for economic opportunity, which include advanced manufacturing, subsea and offshore engineering, life sciences and healthcare, and creative, digital, software and technology-based services, we’ll be championing the importance of studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. With so many jobs in the North East now requiring qualifications in STEM subjects, we’ll be working directly with parents and students to raise perceptions of technical and vocational education. We already have 10 Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ further education colleges in the region, and we will continue to work with partners to improve this. As valid and important routes to employment, we want to make sure apprenticeships, higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships enjoy equal status with academic qualifications.
Another important area of work we’ll be delivering is around graduate retention and ensuring the skilled and qualified students that graduate from our excellent universities remain here in the North East. It’s important that we demonstrate the breadth of opportunities to graduates, so they choose to stay in the North East because they know they have strong career paths open to them.
An often overlooked talent pool is the older workforce, who might want to consider more flexible working patterns. Or, with a small amount of retraining or upskilling, could pursue an exciting career in our new and emerging areas of opportunity in the economy.
That’s just a short summary of some of the work the North East LEP is delivering to improve skills in the region. We need to educate young people about the opportunities available to them, support schools and colleges in delivering quality careers education, recruit and retain excellent teaching staff and reduce ‘brain drain’ by ensuring graduates stay in the North East.
Working in close partnership with schools, colleges, universities and training providers, amongst others, is helping to drive forward the North East’s collective ambition. I believe that there are many opportunities to influence and improve skills in our region - improving aspirations in people of all ages is our goal, and I’m confident we have the activities planned to achieve it.
Words by Michelle Rainbow, Skills for Business Manager at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)