Last week we had the pleasure of visiting Newcastle and Middlesbrough, speaking to young people, organisations and services who are working hard to support young people into employment. It was great to see this work first-hand and really get a sense of what’s working, but also to get some further insight into the challenges that are facing our young people across the North East.
We began our journey at St James’ Park, visiting Newcastle United Foundation speaking to the team about their work and vision whilst getting a glimpse of what this looks like in practice. It was great to hear how the foundation is building on the power of their brand to support young people through a range of programmes that meet the needs of young people in the local area, in particular by helping young people connect across their network of 150 employers.
Next stop was Virgin Money Foundation. We sat with a group of experienced and insightful leaders from across the sector who spoke about the impact their organisations have made in their communities. They reinforced that takes time and moreover trusted relationships to support young people into sustainable employment. We touched on some the challenges including the need for more flexibility in funding to meet the changing needs across their work and the level of support that needs to be included for young people with greater needs.
This was followed by a visit to YMCA in North Shields. We saw many creative initiatives the team are working on and witnessed the success that comes from thinking and working differently; particularly how YMCA measures support and their ongoing impact on young people. Coming off the back of a National Impact Award for Impact Measurement, the team are taking an active lead in developing a strength-based model to effectively track work readiness and outcomes.
In Middlesbrough, we met with Business in the Community (BITC) to understand how they are working with employers to provide opportunities for young people. Leading onto an interesting conversation on how we can provide more effective and robust ways in how we can connect businesses to providers in a way that works for both. This has always been a difficult balance to maintain, but it was good to see how BITC are working to innovate and break the status quo.
Then onto Youth Focus to hear about their person-centred approach. We also met a group of young people who spoke about their experiences of looking for work and the challenges they face, including the increase of zero-hour contracts that lead to irregular earnings, restrict planning for day to day living and impact on Universal Credit claims, making things difficult to manage. It was also great to hear more about the Employability Charter, which was written by young people and provides a framework of principles and good practice to strengthen a young person’s journey into work.
At Street League, we had the pleasure of sitting in on one of their employability sessions with a group of young people. The session was creative, engaging and fun. It really demonstrated how you can tie the skills gained from sports and teamwork into the skills that are valued by employers. One of the key messages that came through from the young people was the need for better access to information about where and how to access the opportunities that are available to them.
Our last stop in the NE was Middlesbrough Council and the Work Readiness team. They provided useful insight into how they are working to support young people and some of the solutions that could really help in their region. They highlighted challenges from the increase in young people with mental health issues and anxiety to the growing skills gaps in what employers are looking for. We then discussed how they are working to develop more internships and work closely with employers to show the value in employing young people and increasing the number of opportunities available.
As all good things must come to an end and this is where we left our time in the NE. A massive thank you to everyone who took the time to speak to us and show us all of the great work that you’re doing. It’s definitely making a difference!