An ambitious plan to build stronger links between the region’s schools and industry has been given the green light by central Government.
Business member organisation, the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), is part of a pilot project engaging with businesses and schools to raise career aspirations among young people.
With a particular focus on increasing the aspirations of girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers, the aim of the project is to integrate business leaders with all 247 secondary schools across the North East over the next few years.
NECC is working with four other chambers of commerce to set up and deliver five pilot partnerships between groups of local schools and businesses.
North East policy advisor Lucy Humphreys said the region’s business community can help break down perceived barriers between students and STEM-related careers, through effective engagement with schools and pupils.
“In recent years NECC has made great strides to establish links between the worlds of business and education and this project will build on these relationships.
“We are failing to communicate effectively with half our young people. Evidence has shown that while both boys and girls enjoy the study of science, girls are less likely to pursue the subject or see themselves as future scientists or engineers.”
She added: “Over 8,500 skilled people across the region will retire from the engineering sector before 2016, posing considerable danger to the industry.
“Boosting training and skills now will help us alleviate future shortages across industry as well as help young people develop the knowledge and experience future employers require.
“It is a year-long project, working with five of our member schools, but the overall aim is to carry it on and work with all 247 secondary schools in the region.
As well as NECC the Government Equalities Office awarded the tender to Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce and St Helens Chamber of Commerce.
Each organisation has been given £10,000 to roll out the project over the next year.
Minister for women and equalities, Helen Grant MP, said: “I’m delighted that the North East Chamber of Commerce is one of the five areas around the country chosen to pilot these.
“The NECC will be working closely with local schools and businesses to forge new ways of working together, with a particular focus on raising and broadening girls’ career aspirations.
“This initiative is part of a package of measures recommended by the Women’s Business Council to maximise women’s opportunities in the workplace.”