Date: 20th February

A NEW £4.5 million employment programme unveiled today (Friday 20 February 2015) will empower North East businesses to future-proof their workforces whilst tackling youth unemployment in the region.

Over the next three years, Generation NE – a collaboration between five local authorities and the NELEP – will support the region’s SME community to strengthen their businesses by increasing sustainable employment opportunities for up to 2,000 young people.

To mark the launch of the new programme Newcastle, Durham, Gateshead, North Tyneside and Northumberland councils hosted an exclusive Round Table Debate this morning at Accenture.

The focus of the discussion shone a light on how small to medium-sized businesses can benefit from engaging with young people, how it could be made easier for companies to give young people a chance and how the region’s business community could enhance its engagement with young people.

Amongst the key business leaders who participated in the debate, which was chaired by Kim Inglis, were representatives from Accenture, James Burrell, Royal Mail, Gordon Brown Law Firm, Wessington Cryogenics, NECC, the North East LEP and Jobcentre Plus.

Councillor Grant Davey, employability and inclusion lead for the Combined Authority and leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “The launch of Generation NE will help ensure that all young people in the region believe they can, and have the ability, to secure a job.

“Investing in the workforce of tomorrow is one of the most effective ways for companies to strengthen their business. Generation NE will help facilitate this by working with employers to provide a simplified, coordinated and tailor-made package of high quality support as well as one-to-one advice on how they can increase the opportunities that they provide for young people.

“To launch the programme we brought together a number of key business owners and leaders in the youth employment agenda to discuss the issues that matter most to small and medium-sized businesses when it comes to future-proofing their workforce.”

The £4.5 million programme, which forms part of the NELEP’s Growth Deal, will work with small to medium-sized businesses in the region to create sustainable employment for 2,000 young people aged between 17 and 24 years.

Gill Southern, Joint Chair of the North East LEP's Business Support Board, said: "It's essential that small businesses are given expert support to employ more young people who are the future lifeblood of their companies and the wider North East economy.

"The £4.5m investment into Generation NE through the North East LEP's Growth Deal is aimed at helping strengthen companies by offering a brighter future of job opportunities to local young people keen to get on the employment ladder."

Generation NE’s team of dedicated Business Advisors will offer SMEs a tailored and impartial service that will allow companies to make connections with the region’s next generation in the right way. By offering a simplified, responsive and coordinated service, in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, this collaboration will expand the number of opportunities available to young people in the region.

Recent research* has found that many young people not in education, employment, or training in the North East feel disconnected and that nearly half (46 percent) cite a lack of experience as a barrier to employment and with a quarter (25 percent) believing their skills or qualifications are not good enough.