North East business leaders have teamed up with Gateshead College to help tackle the unemployment crisis through ensuring students are better prepared for the world of work.
A host of high-profile employers visited the college as part of a two-day event to showcase the hundreds of career paths open to young people.
Students were given the chance to quiz successful business professionals about the skills and attributes needed to secure meaningful employment.
Employers, meanwhile, got the opportunity to tap into the next generation of talent.
Among the keynote speakers were Nicola Short of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, solicitor Samantha Pritchard of law firm Bond Dickinson and Lesley Kerrison of Metro Radio.
The event is part of a wider “work ready” campaign launched by the college and employers to help tackle a crippling unemployment crisis which has seen the jobless rate in the region climb to 10.4%.
This is the highest in the country.
Whilst the poor financial health of companies has been a root cause of the crisis, employers say the situation has been exacerbated by the lack of key skills and attributes among young people, which has made it harder for them to get a job.
Judith Doyle, principal of the college, said: “With unemployment remaining stubbornly high, it’s vital that young people are better equipped with transferable skills and attributes that will help them find work.
“We want to make sure that our students stand out from the crowd and ensure they are in the best possible position to be top of any employer’s list.
“We work closely with employers to find out exactly what they require so that when students leave this college, they can hit the ground running on day one of their employment.
“We don’t want students to leave college only with a qualification; we want them to have the qualities, confidence and life skills that make them attractive to potential employers.”
In recent years, several former college students have gone on to secure top jobs quickly.
Kerrison, who is Metro Radio’s commercial director, said: “It’s so important for students that they start thinking about work well before they finish their course. By building up a portfolio of skills and achievements now, they can give themselves a head start in an increasingly competitive jobs market.
“Together with Gateshead College, we want to ensure students have the skills and qualities that will give them the edge over other young people when they start to apply for jobs.
“It’s encouraging that the college is actively approaching employers to find out which skills issues need addressing. The college is then in a better position to help students become more competitive in the jobs market.”
The work-ready initiative is the latest in a string of employer engagement schemes launched by the college, which was named as one of the UK’s first entrepreneurial colleges last year.
The organisation has built up a reputation for its vocational courses, which allow students to study for a nationally recognised qualification through practical learning.
The courses also teach students key life skills such as effective time management, team working and communication, which are increasingly being recognised by employers in a competitive economic environment.