A host of high-profile employers visited the college as part of a two-day event to showcase the hundreds of career paths open to young people.
Students were given the chance to quiz successful business professionals about the skills and attributes needed to secure meaningful employment, while employers got the opportunity to tap into the next generation of talent. Among the keynote speakers were Nicola Short of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, solicitor Samantha Pritchard of law firm Bond Dickinson and commercial expert Lesley Kerrison of Metro Radio.
The event is part of a wider “work ready” campaign launched by the college and employers to help tackle a crippling unemployment crisis which has seen the jobless rate in the region climb to 10.4% - the highest in the country. Whilst the poor financial health of companies has been a root cause of the crisis, employers say the situation has been exacerbated by the lack of key skills and attributes among young people, which has made it harder for them to get a job.
Judith Doyle, principal of Gateshead College, said: “With unemployment remaining stubbornly high, it’s vital that young people are better equipped with transferable skills and attributes that will help them find work. We want to make sure that our students stand out from the crowd and ensure they are in the best possible position to be top of any employer’s list.
“We work closely with employers to find out exactly what they require so that when students leave this college, they can hit the ground running on day one of their employment.
“We don’t want students to leave college only with a qualification; we want them to have the qualities, confidence and life skills that make them attractive to potential employers.”
Several former college students have gone on to secure top jobs. Budding chef Catherine Smith passed her Level 2 in Professional Cookery with distinction and secured a role at the prestigious Ritz London Hotel. Meanwhile Jatinder Dhillon has embarked on a full-time one-year placement at Metro Radio after completing a Level 3 Commercial Radio course, which is run by the college in partnership with Metro.
Metro’s commercial director, Lesley Kerrison – one of the keynote speakers at the event – said: “It’s so important for students that they start thinking about work well before they finish their course. By building up a portfolio of skills and achievements now, they can give themselves a head start in an increasingly competitive jobs market.
“Together with Gateshead College, we want to ensure students have the skills and qualities that will give them the edge over other young people when they start to apply for jobs.
“It’s encouraging that the college is actively approaching employers to find out which skills issues need addressing. The college is then in a better position to help students become more competitive in the jobs market.”
Sixteen-year-old Tammy Farrer, who is studying for A Levels at the college, said: “This event has been a great introduction to the world of work.
“I’ve had useful insight from top businessmen and women, who have encouraged me to log a record of achievements and transferable skills which I could highlight in my CV to impress potential employers.
“I now understand that employers are not just looking for academic achievements. They want to see evidence of other skills gained through, for example, voluntary work or a part-time job.”
The work-ready initiative is the latest in a string of employer engagement schemes launched by the college, which was named as one of the UK’s first entrepreneurial colleges last year.
The organisation has built up a reputation for its vocational courses, which allow students to study for a nationally recognised qualification through practical learning. The courses also teach students key life skills such as effective time management, team working and communication, which are increasingly being recognised by employers in a competitive economic environment.
For further information, visit www.gateshead.ac.uk or call 0191 490 2246.