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Speak Up to Skill Up our region

The North East England Chamber of Commerce is leading efforts to create Local Skills Improvement Plans, which will act as education and training blueprints to take the region’s economy forward. Here, Rachel Anderson, the Chamber’s assistant director of policy, explains more.


Picture the future of the North East.

Your brain might conjure images of new buildings on brownfield sites, electric vehicles zipping around city centres or wind turbines set against the coastline.

Whatever you pictured, you probably also thought of the people.

The North East is its people, and its people will decide whether its future is a success.

Businesses constantly struggle with finding the right talent, especially when they are looking for people early in their careers or with specific technical skills.

According to the British Chambers of Commerce, nationally, 82 per cent of businesses which attempted to recruit at the end of 2022 were having difficulty doing so.

Our own research at the North East England Chamber of Commerce consistently shows staff shortages and staff costs are among the biggest concerns for businesses.

Over the years, a huge amount of effort has gone into diagnosing and fixing those problems through programmes improving careers advice, schemes connecting businesses and educators, and new qualifications and funding pots.

The thing is, we already know what the important sectors are going to be for the region’s economic future – sectors like renewables, health, culture and tourism – and we know the cross-cutting skills which will be important to all of them – things like digital and tech capability, project management ability and managerial knowledge.

Armed with that, we need to do two things.

First, we need to know what businesses think that looks like in practical terms.

Second, we need to align that practical vision with what the North East’s education providers are delivering.

That’s the purpose of Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs).

The Chamber has been tasked with putting together two LSIPs, one for Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside, and one for the Tees Valley.

This is about the North East deciding for itself what the priorities are, and how to address them.

The LSIPs will set the blueprint for the skills and training required to take the region’s economy forward.

They will put employers at the heart of the education system, and – importantly – they are backed by legislation, with colleges and training providers required to tailor their offer and assessed by Ofsted.

But to be effective, the plans need businesses of all sizes and sectors to share their views.

Right now, the Chamber is collecting those views, both one-on-one and through a series of online and in-person events.

By telling us what your skills needs are now, and what you expect they will be for the next few years, you can play a critical part in setting the pathway for skills provision in the region.

The prize for getting this right is big.

For example, the pursuit of net-zero, which will boost the green energy and low carbon sector, is estimated to benefit the region by £1.9 billion per year in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area, and £2 billion in the Tees Valley.

Combined, this will deliver more than 50,000 new jobs across the region by 2050, representing a significant skills challenge – one which starts now.

I’d urge you all, regardless of sector, to reach out to us and have your say because every business counts, and we’ll make sure your voice is heard.