Mixing the past with the present

March 7, 2022

When the team at The Auckland Project sought senior figures to fill high-profile positions across its cultural and heritage attractions, it turned to executive search and recruitment business NRG. Engaging decades of experience and utilising its robust national and international links, the Newcastle-based firm secured candidates for a raft of positions. And, with those posts now filled, NRG executive Scot McHarg, who led the project alongside colleagues Ray Williamson and Catherine Hingston, tells Steven Hugill more about its work with The Auckland Project and its years of expertise in matching organisations with the top talent they need to achieve growth goals.



To climb Auckland Tower welcome centre is to take more than a simple peep across the rooftops and treelines of a County Durham town.

For, as you scan a vista that melds the slate greys and brick reds of urban life with the rich greens and deep browns of the countryside, you stop seeing scenery and instead look through a window into the venerable world of Bishop Auckland.

Down below, from the majesty of the fully conserved Auckland Castle, where Prince Bishops once wielded power second only to that of the monarchy, to a new Spanish Gallery, a Mining Art Gallery, the heritage of the Weardale Railway and the spectacular re- enactment show Kynren, the past is tangibly in view.

And it’s all being brought into modern-day technicolour by The Auckland Project, a charity founded by philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer, which is dedicated to conserving, regenerating and ultimately celebrating the town and its cultural and historical significance.

Helping The Auckland Project’s leadership team ensure the venture continues to thrive is executive search and recruitment business NRG.

Last year appointed as a retained advisor by the charity to source senior level talent capable of increasing further the success of its cultural totems, Newcastle-based NRG has just completed work that has secured staff for a number of key positions.

Led by search consultant Scot McHarg [pictured below, left], alongside colleagues Ray Williamson and Catherine Hingston, the firm used its internationally- reputed, 20 years-plus experience and expertise across search and selection to find people for roles that included a commercial director, a head of marketing and communications and heads of visitor operations and health and safety.

Elsewhere, its support helped find a general manager for Weardale Railway and a candidate under the same title at the Park Head Hotel, in nearby New Coundon.

Combining an understanding of senior business leaders’ motivations, aspirations and the culture and values of their respective organisations, with individuals’ personalities, technical abilities and transferable skills, NRG’s bespoke approach provided The Auckland Project staff with a 360-degree evaluation of candidates for the positions, which attracted interest from as far as Singapore and Dubai, as well as across the UK.

Scot says: “It was an absolute pleasure to support The Auckland Project with its recruitment for these senior positions.

“The charity has an amazing array of attractions and projects that highlight the history, built environment and landscape of Bishop Auckland and its surrounds, and it was fantastic to be given the opportunity to utilise our proven search and selection model to successfully identify and attract the key leaders The Auckland Project requires for its next phase of growth.

“Our bespoke approach allows us to spend crucial time evaluating an organisations’ aims and objectives, but also its culture, which means we have a tremendously in-depth picture to apply to our search and selection process.

“And that is really important, because it means we are not just finding people for roles, we are finding people that fit together across an organisation.

“That seamlessness is vital for organisations as they move forward with their plans.

“But we also use our national and international reach, combined with our knowledge across multiple sectors, to identify candidates who we recognise could offer freshness and ingenuity, and a real added value to an organisation.

“And that makes a big difference for clients.”

The work represented another significant project for NRG in the cultural sector, joining an ever-growing list of programmes that, over time, have included sourcing senior figures for Gateshead’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Leeds’ Royal Armouries, Beamish and Northumberland National Park.

However, while NRG may have been on familiar ground, Scot says its latest assignment came with some additional key challenges, not least pandemic restrictions and a March 2022 deadline to marry with the reopening of attractions.

Despite both, though, NRG prevailed and, says Scot, did so with much accomplishment, with no impact on the quality or breadth of its work.

He says: “When we started our partnership last year, the March date was always in the diary.

“Working hand-in-hand with our client partners, we have successfully achieved The Auckland Project’s goals well inside the timeframe, despite the ongoing impact of COVID-19, which was testimony to our ability, our flexibility and our agility as a business and a team.”

He adds: “It also further emphasises our model and our commitment to clients.

“The Auckland Project’s new recruits fit the brief – they are sympathetic to the connection between the regenerative aims of the charity and the commercial capacity of its reach too.

“And such comprehensive consideration of an organisation, and the people it needs, is – and always will be – central to what we do.

“We dedicate ourselves to understanding the motivations, culture and values of each business we work with.

“That in turn means we are best placed to identify talent that complements their teams with the capabilities and experience that ultimately delivers great success.”