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Business & Economy

PD Ports renews call for businesses to back young people during COVID-19 and beyond

PD Ports has continued to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to supporting the next generation with a dedicated webinar, led by CEO Frans Calje and host Les Richings, Chair of the CILT UK Ports, Maritime and Waterways Forum, to encourage businesses to do more in offering opportunities to young people.

In the event, which took place on Wednesday (Dec 9th), Frans, alongside fellow panellists Mark Easby, High Tide Foundation Chairman, Ian Nichol, Head of Logistics at Career Ready and Emily Clark, PD Ports Civil Engineering Apprentice, discussed the work already underway in the Tees Valley in addition to the importance of meaningful career experiences for young people starting their career journeys.

After a year of unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, Frans shared his concerns that the pandemic could hinder the next generation and explained why now, more than ever, businesses need to aid young people in achieving their ambitions.

“There is no underestimating the stressful impact that the pandemic has had on all of us, and the economy,” said Frans.

“One of the things that we are particularly concerned about is that a whole generation of young people will fall between the cracks of finishing education and starting employment. That’s why we’ve been calling, alongside our partners, for businesses to really double their efforts and bridge the gap between employers and the next generation of employees.

“When I was 16/17 I had no idea what I wanted to do and it is still the case that young people simply don’t know what opportunities are out there. We need to challenge that.”

A shining example of PD Ports’ ongoing commitment to supporting and developing talent, Civil Engineering Apprentice Emily Clark also expressed her concerns that young people don’t release the opportunities on their doorsteps.

“It’s so important that companies like PD Ports continue to promote opportunities that are real and achievable within our area,” said Emily.

“People have the preconceived idea that you have to move away to find work, or to go to university, and that is not the case. The career prospects in our area are getting greater and greater and it is so important for both young people and businesses to really come together and help the Tees Valley reach its full potential.”

The port operator has worked closely with the High Tide Foundation since its inception in 2012 to deliver meaningful career experiences to young people aged 11-19.

During the discussion, the foundation’s Chairman, Mark Easby, explained how its work experience programmes have been heavily impacted due to COVID19 restrictions and how the charity has had to change and adapt in order to maintain engagement with young people when face-to-face programmes have not been permitted.

“The fundamentals of our business model had to change as the rug was essentially pulled from under our workplace based programmes and we had to make the decision whether to sit and wait until we could start up again or do we change how we do things,” said Mark.

“We actually brought forward some of the digitised work that we had been planning and launched our online learning hub to ensure that we are still igniting the spark in the next generation, providing an understanding of business in the Tees Valley and showcasing the world of opportunities that are on offer.

“We want to do more and we know that our business members want to do more. We need to blow open the perceptions around industry and open minds on what opportunities are right here in our region.”

PD Ports is one of the largest private employers in the region and supports 22,000 jobs in the wider supply chain. Building on an already impressive recruitment drive, in which the port operator aims to employ 50 new apprentices by 2021, Frans told how the work does not end here.

“We at PD Ports plan to continue engaging with our partners in business, communities, charity and Government to find new ways to help young people during these difficult times and beyond,” added Frans.

“It is a duty we must fulfil for our communities, for our region and for the nation.”

Ian Nichol reinforced Frans’ sentiment saying, “We’ve got to do everything that we can to help young people find opportunity in our area. Here at Career Ready we use the phrase ‘Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not’ – we’ve got to ensure we create those opportunities for generations to come.”

The next steps for the port operator include planning a ‘virtual summit’ to give young people an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas directly with business followed by a national forum that brings together partners, including leaders from industry and the wider maritime sector, to develop a plan of action.