As GCSE results are opened all over the North-East today, the Aspire campaign has set out its aim to encourage every business, large or small, to do its bit to encourage our young people that they need look no further than North-East England for a bright future.
Culture change programme Aspire is a business-led initiative from the NECC and CBI, backed by the LSC, One NorthEast and Government Office North East through Connexions. It was set up as a reaction to the astounding statistics that 60% of young people in North-East England believe they need to leave the region to fulfil their career ambitions and only 33% of pupils go so far to say they actually plan to stay and work here.
Aspire's research shows at present there are approximately 35,000 young people in the North-East available to enter the employment market each year. Given their negative perceptions of the region, unless significant numbers are persuaded to remain here, the future growth of the regional economy will be substantially restricted.
Already 1,600 businesses have signed up to the campaign to demonstrate they wish to take an active role in reversing these statistics and develop the skills and outlook required in our future workforce.
Aspire campaign chairman Rod Taylor says: "Our message today is calling for every business across North-East England to change our young people's views of the region and careers it can offer by committing to make a contribution to the educational agenda.
"By embracing the Aspire campaign and simply signing up to the campaign employers can showcase their business to thousands of teenagers on our website, adopt the message and filter it through their company and encourage their workforce to communicate to young people through our Young Leaders programme.
"They can also use Aspire's wide range of resources and local case studies to learn how to start engaging with young people and find out about the many organisations already working hard in the region to create links between business, local schools and young people they can work with.
"From forging a partnership with a school, college or university close to their place of business, financially supporting a work-related education programme, volunteering to deliver a Young Enterprise programme, or creating a work experience or apprenticeship scheme, it is time for employers to roll up their sleeves to raise the aspirations of our young people before they leave the region for good."
NECC chief executive James Ramsbotham said: "Bringing schools and businesses more closely together would have a tremendous impact, not least on raising aspirations among young people by showing them the opportunities that exist on their doorstep. It would also show business leaders young people today do indeed work incredibly hard - in many ways much harder than was previously the case. These people are the future for the North-East economy and every business within it."
An ageing and declining population makes it even more critical to address the problem now. The latest census confirms there are far fewer 25 to 35 year olds and far more over 50s in the region than in England as a whole. The ability to replace lost workers will therefore become increasingly important, even in sectors and organisations which are not expected to grow dramatically.
Shortages are already being predicted in several sectors - especially transport, public administration, agriculture, manufacturing and utilities, distribution and consumer services.
Aspire's NERD (North-East Really Delivers) campaign has been working hard to fill these skills gaps by showcasing the opportunities in this region to young people in a language they can relate to. Current research shows that 60% of young people now recognise the NERD brand unprompted, demonstrating the cinema and TV advertising campaign has really struck a chord with young people.
Young people are directed to www.nerd-world.co.uk where they have access to a massive bank of online local employer showcases, which highlight companies on their doorstep, giving real life examples of successful young people that work there and the skills, commitment and attitude required for the jobs. There are also showcases which contain a short film to make it easy for young people to get a feel for the company and the opportunities it can offer them.
On a broader scale, Aspire has developed several sector showcases at www.nerd-world.co.uk in partnership with the Sector Skills Councils, which deliver detailed information on careers within specific industry sectors, with multimedia case studies and web links to more information - all available as a fantastic real-time resource for young people not sure which industry to go into.
Already 1,600 businesses have signed up to the Aspire campaign. To sign up to and find out how to spread the word to young people that the North East Really Delivers register now at www.aspiretoday.co.uk