Chamber Policy Adviser Niamh Corcoran takes a look at our leading education sector for this month's Great Reason to do business in the North East.
The Covid-19 pandemic is radically altering the working landscape. Economic shifts which were rumbling under the surface before the pandemic have been accelerated. The clearest example of this is society’s quick adaptation to e-commerce, remote working, and online learning. As a result of these adaptations, attitudes have changed, and it is likely we will not go back to the pre-pandemic “normal”. But, with rapid economic change comes the need to ensure that the workforce is equipped with the skills fit for the future economy. For businesses, it is more important than ever to recognise the importance of investing in areas with a strong and forward-thinking educational landscape.
The North East has a long history of educational excellence. The region is home to five outstanding universities which offer a world-beating education to 106,000 students, many of whom travel across the globe to study here. The region also benefits from excellent Further Education colleges and training providers which play a central role in nurturing talent and providing high quality technical education and training for young people, adults, and businesses.
As well as high quality teaching, our region’s education institutions have access to leading facilities, from Northumbria University’s award-winning business school to Teesside University’s £22 million centre of excellence for the bioscience industries. As a result, education providers help produce a workforce which aligns with the region’s rapidly changing skills needs. This cutting-edge talent pool enables the region to lead the way in sectors like chemical processing, health and life sciences and energy.
What is so unique about the North East is the strong link between the education and business communities. Both sectors work in partnership to understand how the economy is changing and what skills need to be invested in. They both recognise that offering people meaningful work experience is a fundamental building block in ensuring that everyone in region can access high quality employment as well as in planning for future skills needs. Just one example of the region’s collaborative nature is Northumbria University’s Business Clinic, an educational scheme whereby a group of business students, supported by experts, tackle business problems for the business community free of charge.
This close collaboration also contributes to a vital knowledge exchange between academia and the business community. Durham and Newcastle Universities, for example, are working in the N8 Research Partnership to produce research and work with businesses to drive growth in the green economy and accelerate the transition to net-zero. This exchange of knowledge enables the region to be at the forefront of driving innovative change in response to pressing issues, such as the fight against climate change.
The UK faces unprecedented challenges, with the recovery from COVID-19 and climate change fundamentally altering the nature of the economy. The workforce of the future will need to be fit with the skills required to create and implement innovative solutions to address these challenges. The excellent skills providers of the North East and their strong collaborative relationships with business make our region a great place to invest and do business, in order to meet these challenges head on.