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Business & Economy

Newcastle and Gateshead Colleges team up to support the local tourism industry

Two North East colleges have come together to support offering free to access online resources for employees working in the region’s tourism businesses.

NewcastleGateshead Initiative is coordinating the project, which will see Gateshead College and Newcastle College offer courses on subjects such as infection control, digital marketing and mental health awareness.

Tourism is the fourth largest sector in the North East, worth £5 billion to the regional economy and supporting 66,000 jobs.

The industry has been badly affected by COVID-19 with most tourism businesses unable to begin reopening until the beginning of July at the earliest. By then, it is predicted that industry will have already seen losses of more than £1.4 billion, with a further £448 million lost to the regional economy from the supply chain and spending from those employed in the sector.

Retaining staff to allow for reopening is a major concern for businesses. Figures released in April showed that 70 per cent of businesses had, or planned to, furlough staff, while 17 per cent had already made the difficult decision to cut jobs. These new online resources will help employees in the sector to develop new skills and be ready for a new way of working when they return.

Ivan Jepson, business development director at Gateshead College said: “It’s great to see the North East tourism industry pulling together during these challenging times and we are pleased to be playing our part in supporting the sector. Our free online courses not only provide practical support to employees on areas such as customer service and management but encourage them to learn new skills that might be needed for when they re-open, such as digital marketing.”

Tony Lewin, principal of Newcastle College, added: “The tourism industry is a major employer in the region and many of our students go on to have successful careers in the sector. We hope that these online resources help those businesses and employees prepare for a future with new ways of working. As well as courses aimed at improving online skills and looking after mental health during this time, we have introduced a certificate in infection control and prevention, which is going to be extremely important when the sector begins to reopen.”

Access to these online courses is one project to come out of a new ‘People in North East England tourism working group’. The group is pulling the various parts of this important sector together to look at areas of collaboration to support the people who work in it.   

The working group is co-ordinated by NewcastleGateshead Initiative, chaired by Maggie Pavlou, from People Gauge, and includes representatives from major employers in the region’s tourism sector such as the North East Hotels Association and NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues.

Lottie Haylock, joint chair of the North East Hotels Association (NEHA), said: “We now know that some tourism businesses will be able to open their doors at the start of July if all goes to plan. While this is great news, the industry needs to adapt to the new circumstances we all find ourselves in and be in the strongest possible position when we can reopen. These new resources from the colleges give employees the chance to stay engaged with their employers and learn invaluable new skills.”

Kate Denby, chair of Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV), added: “The tourism industry needs to be in a position to benefit as much as possible from an expected upturn in domestic tourism when the time comes. The sector will be presented with different issues and staff must be ready to deal with these. These new online resources will not only help with this but ensure that the wellbeing of our employees is being considered at this difficult time for all of us.”

All the online courses being run by Gateshead and Newcastle colleges are fully funded and free to access for anybody aged 19 or over.