New campaign launched to close skills gap

The Journal has launched a campaign to keep the North East working and to close the skills gap in the region

Proud To Back Apprenticeships is being run in partnership with our colleagues on the Evening Gazette in Teesside.

Here, we publish an open letter, signed by companies and organisations large and small, aimed at those firms who currently don’t invest in training.

We want to see more companies embrace apprenticeships – and to do it with pride.

The North East has a long and proud tradition of making things – but that reputation is under threat from a very real and growing skills gap.

We need to act now – and our campaign message needs to be heard and understood by young people, parents, schools, colleges, universities and graduates, as well as employers.

Some 8,500 skilled workers – 4,000 of them highly-skilled – in this region are due to retire in the next five years, with too few people on the employment conveyor belt to replace them.

Already companies are having to turn away business because they don’t have enough skilled personnel to cope with more work.

With unemployment levels so high, that is a ridiculous situation that needs addressing urgently.

It is estimated that 27% of the 2,150 mainstream engineering companies in the region employ apprentices.

If the North East is to remain a world-class region for manufacturing we need to see at least half of all companies in the sector recruiting new talent.


The principle aim of Proud To Back Apprenticeships is to achieve that 50% figure in the manufacturing sector.

However, the campaign is wider than that.

All companies, no matter what sector they are in, need to understand that they risk losing out to competitors if they don’t invest in apprenticeships, as well as up-skilling and re-skilling their workforce.

A survey for the National Apprenticeship Service found that 92% of companies said that an apprenticeship programme provided them with a better motivated staff and increased job satisfaction. And 74% of employers said apprentices tended to be more loyal – remaining at the company longer than non-apprentices.

Employer organisations talk of “educational snobbery”, with pupils steered away from vocational qualifications and in to higher education for “tick box” reasons.

Youth unemployment is high, yet employers find vacancies difficult to fill – if ever there was a time to bring education and industry together then this is it.

Schools need to be aware of the opportunities out there for youngsters who deserve better guidance.

Apprenticeships are a positive alternative to further education and higher education – but graduates should realise that there are lucrative long-term career opportunities, in the manufacturing sector in particular.

:: Show your support by downloading our poster - Proud to back apprenticeships

:: Pledge your support for our Apprenticeships campaign by completing the form below. We may feature business names in paper, as part of the campaign.



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer