Employment stands at just over 1.2 million people equating to 71.1%, an increase of 8,000 over the quarter and 52,000 over the year.
Paul Carbert, policy adviser, the Chamber said: “There are some very positive figures today. Not only has our employment rate improved our unemployment rate is now below 7% for the first time since 2008. We also have the highest rate of apprenticeship starts in relation to the number of people in employment, which highlights the increasing investment in training by employers in our region.
An example this employment success is a 100-year-old South Tyneside manufacturing business which has transformed its fortunes through innovative diversification creating 200 jobs including 40 apprentice positions.
Siemens’ Customer Services part of Energy Management UK identified an opportunity to break into the production of train components and has not looked back with £6m site redevelopment and creation of a logistics centre.
The Hebburn business had originally undertaken contracts to maintain and restore sub-stations but saw an opportunity where its precise engineering skills could be used to manufacture train components. One of the first major pieces of work to be won from this rail sector was a contract for the Thameslink Rolling Stock Programme.
Des Young, head of Siemens Customer Services nationally, said: “We were delighted to win the Thameslink work as it is a perfect fit for our operation. The new jobs are a direct result of this contract and further opportunities we are currently finalising.
The volume of work for Thames railway has given the business a massive boost, with production up from approximately 50k hours of work a year to over 600k hours over the contract period of two and a half years. Over 200 jobs were created by the Thames contract primarily for skilled and semi-skilled roles.
Siemens Customer Services recently won a North East manufacturer of the year business award, Paul Carbert said: “This company is a fantastic example of how a traditional manufacturer can use its tremendous assets to great effect in new marketplaces. They were a really worthy winner of a business award and are now blazing a trail.”
Des Young said: “We see further big opportunities for growth such as offshore wind turbines and HV connections to the continent and with the changes to the electricity market where operation and maintenance of facilities may well be put out to tender.”
Based in the former Reyrolle factory, five years ago the business employed 160 people and that number is now 800 including a large field team who are managing contracts around the country.
Following the EU Referendum Siemens has experienced both positive and negative trends. Some clients have delayed investment projects as a result and yet the change in exchange rates has made export contracts more attractive.
Des Young said: “I believe there will be a growing trend towards localisation as a result of the referendum but we do need clarity on how Brexit will work to be able to plan our business for the future.
Part of Siemens’ £6m site improvement was supported by a Regional Growth Fund with considerable investment in employee training. The company prides itself in working closely with local stakeholders such as the Chamber, local authorities, Newcastle University and the NE LEP.
For the future the business also has ambitions to win work from non-UK based train companies. It also is in discussions for further contracts within the UK rail sector.