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NEXT GENERATION: Covid unlocks the potential of ‘NE1 CAN’ careers programme

NEXT GENERATION: Covid unlocks the potential of ‘NE1 CAN’ careers programme

Image: NE1 CAN careers programme

A free careers programme to inspire the next generation and raise aspirations and ambition among young people in Newcastle and the North East has emerged as a major success story during the Covid crisis.

After being forced to switch to online delivery in March last year, NE1 CAN has seen a huge rise in the number of attendees to its events and engagement programmes and is now planning to use the lessons learnt during the pandemic to shape its programme for the future.

NE1 CAN was launched by Business Improvement District company, Newcastle NE1 Ltd in 2016 to connect Newcastle businesses and employers with potential future employees. The initiative aimed to provide insights and advice on jobs and careers and encourage and help young people to broaden their horizons. All sessions are free for all schools and educational establishments to attend, with NE1 working with a diverse range of businesses from the NE1 catchment area and the wider North East region to deliver the programme.

When Covid hit last March, NE1 CAN had a full programme of events scheduled for the Spring term, all were fully booked. Under the traditional system of face-to-face delivery, attendee numbers were constrained by venue and business capacity with sessions normally delivered in the host business’ premises.

By switching to an online platform there were no limits on numbers. NE1 CAN used its Spring programme as a test bed for online delivery and to gain confidence in the new format. When it launched its extended and online programme for the Autumn, the number of attendees went through the roof.

  • September to December 2020 programme statistics revealed;
  • Number of education providers doubled from 14 in 2019 to 28 in 2020.
  • Number of individuals in attendance went from 308 in 2019, to 733 in 2020.
  • Number of individual employer encounters rose from 308 in 2019 to 1043 in 2020.

Changes to the programme’s content and mode of delivery resonated with educational providers. Digital delivery removed some of the traditional barriers to attendance; budgets and timings were no longer a consideration for schools and colleges managing a tight curriculum programme, and restrictions on numbers, age of attendees and gender were no longer an issue. Running the programme online resulted in a huge upsurge in numbers with the results and feedback extremely positive from both delegates and businesses delivering the sessions.

NE1 CAN was able to capitalise on current recruitment and employment trends to ensure the programme was both topical and meaningful for students and for businesses. One of its first sessions in the Autumn focused on Paramedic recruitment in the NHS. Interest levels were phenomenal with over 150 attendees from schools including Benfield School, Sacred Heart and others. NE1 CAN will be hosting other careers advice events focused on NHS recruitment in 2021 including a session on nursing.

Demand for NE1 CAN’s services is now greater than ever. The team is planning additional events to make up for sessions lost during the first half of 2020 when schools understandably paused careers advice to concentrate on the delivering of the core curriculum online to students learning from home for the first time.

The 2021 programme from Easter to July is currently being developed with the NE1 CAN team hoping that delivery will become a hybrid model as lockdown restrictions ease. The team plan to combine online delivery with a return to an in-person programme, with young people attending while the event is live streamed to retain inclusivity and reach.

The programme welcomes and positively encourages new education providers and businesses to get involved. Any schools or businesses interested in engaging with the programme should contact Kerry.mccabe@newcastlene1ltd.com

Kerry McCabe, Business Network Manager at NE1 CAN said:

“NE1 CAN is a small, agile team, and thankfully we were able to respond quickly to Covid-19 and adjust the delivery of our programme to suit our new circumstances. We have worked hard to ensure that the quality of the events has not been compromised and the 400% rise in the number of attendees and the feedback we’ve received clearly illustrates the appetite for the programme and the success of the sessions to date. There is a determination amongst young people to continue to focus on their future career goals despite the economic and social challenges they are currently facing.

“Being online has allowed us to offer more inclusivity and break down barriers. Schools no longer have to budget for taking a group of students out of school to attend our events, so no one is disadvantaged. We share the proposed content with teachers and they decide who they ‘bring’ – these decisions can be based on ability and interest rather than age and budgets. The results have been phenomenal, and we are excited about the future.”

Commenting on their involvement in the programme, Sharon Boyd, CEO of Samuel Phillips, LLP said:

“We are proud to be part of the NE1 CAN programme and honoured to be asked. We’re really looking forward to making law exciting and engaging.”

In response to the change to digital delivery; Ronnie Burn, Head of Careers Education and Student Progress at Newcastle College said:

“This is a fantastic and amazing achievement in an unpredictable year – a tremendous testimony to NE1 CAN’s visionary stakeholder engagement across Newcastle.”


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