Skills shortage among young people in the North East is more worrying than ever

Impending 'skills crunch' will stall economic recovery unless the Government and private sector work together, according to The Prince's Trust

Young people enrolled in The Prince's Trust programme
Young people enrolled in The Prince's Trust programme

Young people are not equipped with the skills needed to ride the wave of the North East’s economic recovery, a leading youth charity is warning.

An impending ‘skills crunch’ is on the horizon despite growth and emerging job vacancies, and unless significant changes are made by the Government and the private sector teenagers and young people in the region will not be ready to join the work place.

The stark warning from Jonathan Townsend, regional director of The Prince’s Trust in the North of England, comes as businesses are reporting that the skills shortage in the North East is more marked than ever, as the region enters into a period of accelerated growth.

He said: “As the North East emerges from the recession, and is once more on the road to economic recovery, only now are we beginning to see real growth in our local industries. However, to stay ahead, we must act and ensure that we harness the full potential of our region’s unemployed young people.”

In a new report The Skills Crunch, compiled by The Prince’s Trust and bank HSBC, business leaders highlight the damage that skills gaps could do, not only to staff morale but to company survival rates. They also raise concerns about how they will struggle to grow in the future as their ageing workforces retire.

According to their research more than half (59%) of North East businesses are already struggling to fill vacancies. Two thirds fear skills shortages will slam the brakes on the UK’s economic recovery while more than two-fifths fear it would cause businesses to fold (45%).

He said: “It is therefore deeply concerning when we have thousands of unemployed young people in the North East who are still desperate for work. Indeed there are almost one in four young people currently struggling to find a job in the region right now.

“We believe that now is the time for employers, government and charities – such as The Prince’s Trust – to work together to tackle the North East’s impending skills crunch and up-skill the workforce of the future.

“We know that unemployed young people want to work and that employers have vacancies they want to fill. In fact, our report highlights that 75% of North East business leaders see the recruitment of young people as vital to averting a skills crisis.”

He said the Prince’s Trust programmes in the North East are already helping employers to fill skills gaps and they have worked with 3.942 disadvantaged young people.

They said their schemes have helped young people get work with Marks & Spencer, Asda, and Swissport.

Businesses are able to find out how to support young people into work through the work of the Prince’s Trust at .

Case study

Struggles at school and failing to get into the army left Sam Saunders at crisis point on what he should do to make a living.

The youngster from Blyth in Northumberland has dyslexia and dyspraxia and only left education with a handful of GCSEs.

A medical condition meant he was rejected from joining the army at 16.

Determined to try and pull things around he chose instead to attend college, where he completed a course in catering and began another in accounting. However, after a short while he decided to leave as his dyslexia made learning extremely difficult. Sam went from job to job working anywhere from warehouses to farms just to make ends meet but he found it hard to find sustained employment due to his lack of experience and, to a certain extent, his learning difficulties.

By the time he turned to the Prince’s Trust he had been unemployed for eight months, having applied for hundreds of jobs with no success.

They recommended him for the ‘Get into Retail’ programme run in partnership with Asda sueprmarket.

Sam impressed staff so much during his training course that he was offered a permanent position in Asda’s Ashington store, where he still works today.

He said: “I love my job with Asda. It’s hard to put into words the relief that I felt when someone finally put their trust in me and gave me the chance to get my foot in the door. I have never looked back and I’ve learned so much and gained fantastic skills that I will have for the rest of my career.”


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