Over one hundred businesses in the region have partnered with FIRST Breakthrough to provide training and job opportunities to those aged 14 to 30 to strengthen the local economy
Every year, thousands of young people leave the North East in order to seek their fortune and kick start a career. This means that local businesses miss out on some of the best home-grown talent: local entrepreneur Charlotte Windebank is determined to make changes with new initiative FIRST Breakthrough, which matches businesses with young people looking to create a career in the North East. FIRST Breakthrough is a youth-led work placement matching service that connects businesses to education providers, facilitating tailor-made placements that take into consideration business needs and places brilliant young people with the skills, experience and training to match.
“A common myth when hiring young people,” comments Charlotte, “is the perceived risk, but actually the pay-off can be great.” Research shows that employers can view hiring young people as a risk, with concerns that they may lack practical experience, require training, or that they do not yet have the interpersonal skills necessary for a corporate environment.
In fact, FIRST Breakthrough have found that young people have a huge range of highly desirable skills to offer forward thinking businesses: The age group recruited by FIRST Breakthrough are the first ‘digital native’ generation, therefore their digital skills are likely to be much stronger than those of previous generations, making them brilliant assets from an innovative point of view. This generation are also more likely to have highly developed social, interpersonal and communicative skills, all combined a positive and flexible attitude. Essential in the modern workplace.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership identified a number of skills gaps in the region, and have a plan in place to tackle this, aiming to drive an uplift of 100,000 jobs by 2024 – ensuring that the majority are ‘better’ jobs. Currently, the North East has one of the lowest employment rates in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. “These statistics are of course, disheartening,” Charlotte comments, “but the most powerful way to turn this on its head is to provide young people entering the work place with the best possible skill sets, arm them with the business contacts they need to progress, and create as many opportunities as possible for them to succeed. If the region can retain its talent, the future will be brighter. That’s exactly what we’re doing at FIRST Breakthrough.”
A FIRST Breakthrough membership programme is available to businesses in the region. Collaborating with like-minded people to help improve skills in the North East workforce and allowing young people to gain relevant work experience is fundamental to our economic future: Over the last 12 months, FIRST Breakthrough have partnered with 116 North East businesses to help place young people into work. Creating a positive, supportive – and profitable – environment in which young people entering the workplace can thrive and businesses can grow.
When polled, the vast majority (74%) of businesses involved in the programme gave their experiences with the work placements the highest possible rating, with a further three-quarters stating that they would be happy to employ the student placed with them. In turn this will work to strengthen the region’s economy, enabling the North East to retain talented staff and create more jobs – this is the Northern Powerhouse in action.
FIRST Breakthrough’s 2018/19 IMPACT in summary:
- In 2018/ 2019 FIRST Breakthrough delivered 256 learners into work placements, with 116 local businesses (Startups and SMEs).
- 74% of business would employ the learner they had on placement.
- 76% of businesses rated their experiences with the learner(s) as 8-10/10.
- 88% of students reported that they have a clearer idea of what they want to do when they finish education.
- 83% of student gained industry specific knowledge.
- 85% of students are more likely to stay in the North East and look for work here.
“Working with FIRST we know that we can trust them to deliver brilliant matches. They recently helped us to recruit conference volunteers and the entire process was so reassuring: the students were passionate, knowledgeable and professional – and it’s an extremely useful service to have available for our fast paced and varied schedule of events. FIRST have the excellent contacts and the knowledge to make a great match.” — Sophie Flanagan, BeaconHouse Events
“FIRST have been brilliant to work with, providing support and advice where needed. They’ve guided us in really engaging our learners and ensuring that the work we are doing is meaningful and valuable. Not only that, but they are so passionate about what they do and have really gone the extra mile for us! We look forward to continuing to work with them in the future” — Lisa Hoseason, Director of Study Programmes at Newcastle College
“The placement has increased my confidence in how I would cope in a working environment.” — Adam, placement student
The very best advice that we can give to a young person trying to take the first steps in their career is to go out, network and find like-minded people in the North East”, says Charlotte Windebank of FIRST Breakthrough, “Our goal is to inspire people to believe that they have a future here. We have brilliant businesses – you don’t have to move away to have a great career.
This Autumn, FIRST Breakthrough will officially launch the ‘Flying Sparks’ scheme, which places 18 to 29-year olds from Wallsend, Walker and Byker, who have struggled to get into skilled work, into a Level 2 welding course with Newcastle College. In what is a traditionally male dominated industry ‘Flying Sparks’ participants will have a 50/50 gender split, in line with FIRST Breakthrough’s ambition to open up the world of work. In addition to the course, FIRST Breakthrough will support each participant to grow their confidence, employability and interview skills – with steady employment on completion of the course as the desired end goal.
‘Flying Sparks’ is part-funded by Newcastle College and North of Tyne Community Led Local Development with funding from the England European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.