The November labour market figures, released today, provide a mixed picture for the North East. The total unemployment rate is static even if modest decreases on the previous quarter and year have registered. There has been growth in the number of employed in the North East in the past 12 months albeit this is modest when compared to like for like to growth that has taken place earlier in the year.
The consistently positive story is the claimant count figure, which has been dropping month on month largely unchecked for two years – in which time it has come down by roughly 40,000.
A significant challenge remains with regard to the North East unemployment rate which has been at or above 9% for five years. It appears that changing this will be a difficult task, yet with 117,000 people registered as unemployed it is also a huge opportunity.
Once again the national jobs figures remain buoyant even if momentum towards the end of the year is slowing – something that tallies with our Quarterly Economic Survey which illustrates the bullishness evident in the economy at the start of the year has eased.
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Sir Simon Fraser, the senior policy adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, yesterday attended a roundtable discussion with a select group of NECC exporting members.
He highlighted the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth office, outlining the core priorities for the organisation which consist of building prosperity for growth, creating openness and market opportunities, sustainability through low carbon, energy markets and climate control as well as landing opportunities for British business abroad. Sir Simon also clarified that supporting business is a key part of the Foreign and Commonwealth offices role and plans have been put in place to help map sectors onto markets to help exporters understand where opportunities lie.
Sir Simon expressed the need to maximise links with chambers of commerce internationally and praised the development of an overseas business network although he acknowledged this needs time to bed in and establish itself to allow those relationships to develop.
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Ofsted have launched a consultation on proposals to change the current process of inspections from September 2015, the consultation closes on 5 December 2014.
The consultation is seeking views on proposals for:
• A common inspection framework for all early years’ settings on the Early Years Register, maintained schools, academies, non-association independent schools and further education (FE) and skills providers – this framework will mean a consistent approach in judgements across these remits.
• The introduction of short inspections for maintained schools, academies and FE and skills providers that were judged good at their previous inspection – conducted approximately every three years and will report on whether or not a provider has maintained its effectiveness but will not provide a full set of graded judgements.
• Conducting a full inspection of non-association independent schools within a three-year period.
• Whether or not a separate graded judgement for the curriculum and how inspection methodology should be developed.
The new inspection framework will consider more thoroughly how well each provider helps to prepare children and learners for life in Britain today.
NECC broadly supports the proposals for a more aligned inspection process which will provide consistency across different providers and age ranges. The focus on how each provider prepared children for life in Britain today is also welcome as this will hopefully provide a slight shift in focus for providers, not just on exam results but also to consider the progression of each child which in turn will be a move towards ensuring through their education they develop a range of skills needed to ensure a successful career and life in the future.
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NECC has made a submission to the Smith Commission, which has been appointed by the Prime Minister to take forward plans for further devolution to Scotland in the wake of the independence referendum. Our submission raised concerns about the lack of effective consultation with the North East, as the economy most likely to be affected by any changes in Scotland. We called for any further devolution to Scotland to be managed in tandem with greater decentralisation in England, to ensure policy supports maximum economic growth in all parts of the UK. NECC raised concerns about promoting inefficient cross-border competition, particularly through devolving duties which could impact consumer behaviour such as air passenger duty. We also called for reform of the Barnett Formula alongside any further devolution. Our full submission can be seen here.
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NECC has hosted two Skills roundtables within the last two weeks. The first was held on Thursday 23rd October at Beamish Museum and was facilitated by NECC partner member Esh Group along with British Chamber of Commerce’s Skills lead, Marcus Mason who came up to visit to get a better understanding of the North East core skills challenges and opportunities.
Another roundtable event focused on skills took place on Friday 31st October at Teesside University’s Darlington Campus and was a forum for Labour MP’s Catherine McKinnell and Ian Wright to seek views from business on what Labours skills priorities should be moving into next year’s election.
Both roundtables had a range of members from all different sectors and sizes of business represented as well as educational institutions. Members outlined some core skills issues the North East faces including issues around apprenticeships, youth unemployment, graduate retention and links between business and education. Both also made recommendations on how these could be addressed.
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