Norfolk businesses ‘need to expose young people to opportunities’
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Skills leaders in Norfolk say there is no better time to be entering the county's job market – but that businesses and public bodies must do more to show young people the opportunities on their doorstep.
A combination of skills shortages in many sectors in the region, and less emphasis on finding a job or career 'for life', mean the labour market should be fertile ground for young jobseekers.
But some feel not enough is being done to bridge the gap between education and work – with businesses being called on to help fill the void.
The Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival, held at the Norfolk Showground last month, brought together more than 5,700 young people and 100 employers from a variety of mainstream sectors.
Festival director Mark Nicholas said connecting businesses and young people in this way to promote job opportunities and raise awareness of industries in need of skilled staff was key to preventing a so-called brain drain.
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'There has never been a better time to enter the workforce in Norfolk – look at the explosion of tech and creative companies in Norwich or the development of science and innovation businesses connected to Norwich Research Park and Hethel Innovation. The potential for young people is enormous,' he said.
Research by New Anglia LEP shows that, while the number of people qualified to degree level in Norfolk and Suffolk is below the national average, they have 'much stronger vocational and non-academic take-up and attainment' than other counties.
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Natasha Waller, the LEP's skills manager, believes greater acceptance of vocational qualifications is opening more doors for students.
'Careers have changed so much in recent times,' she said. 'Gone are the days when you got a job for life. Now you can have three or four careers and that is a great opportunity for young people.
'Every sector is crying out for skilled people so there is no better time to be a young person because there are so many openings.
'Businesses need to expose them to a wide range of opportunities so they know what they can aspire to.'
Ms Waller believes businesses have a part to play in promoting opportunities through schemes like the New Anglia Enterprise Adviser Network, where business leaders volunteer with secondary schools and colleges to help managers develop their business engagement plans.
Businesses could also encourage local students who go to study at universities and colleges outside East Anglia to come back by offering work experience or paid placements, Ms Waller said.
What do our students think?
Hollie Beattie, from Cromer, is studying a level three business apprenticeship at North Norfolk District Council with support from Easton and Otley College, and wants to continue learning on a higher-level course.
The 23-year-old has worked in her home county since the age of 16, in retail, hospitality and now local government.
She said: 'I'm meeting my aspirations in the heart of north Norfolk. My line manager has worked here for 20 years and people travel from other places to work as colleagues – so I'd say it's a good place to stick around.
'With places like Cromer and Sheringham nearby it's a good place to start a career and then carry on working.'
Isobel Mary Davis, 16, is a floristry student at Easton and Otley College who eventually wants to run her own floristry business.
'I like to travel and to go to new places and can't stay in one place for too long. So I'd like to go further afield and see what is out there in the rest of the country,' she said.
Making sure young people know the opportunities that are on their doorstep could be the key to keeping talent in the region, as Beeda Tarkpessi from the Young People's Takeover team discovered.
She asked two students, Monib Zahdeh and Jazz Mickleburgh, who are both in Year 12 about their career choices for higher education.
Mon is a 17-year-old student interested in banking and film making. But he will not be studying in Norfolk after he leaves Notre Dame Sixth Form. He said: 'America is the best place for banking and the best choice for me.'
However, 17-year-old Jazz, currently studying at City College Norwich, is still on the fence about studying drama in Norfolk.
She said: 'Although Norfolk is where my family live and I've been here all my life, there are other places in the UK that are more renowned.'