Helen Golightly

Helen Golightly, executive director of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

Working together

The key to creating more and better jobs in the region is collaboration says Helen Golightly, executive director of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

To create more and better jobs – that’s the ambition that we at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have for the North East and the people who live here.

Specifically, we’re working towards a target of adding 100,000 more and better jobs to the region’s economy by 2024. So how are we planning to do this?

The North East is one of the fastest growing regional economies outside London. We have a skilled and resilient population, innovative businesses, leading universities, and excellent investment opportunities – the North East is a great place to live, learn and do business.

However, in order to continue growing our economy and to create additional higher skilled and better paid jobs for the two million people who live here, we need a plan.

The North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) is the document which lays out a clear roadmap for how we will achieve our aim of more and better jobs. It sets out exactly how we will work with partners to grow the economy of the North East over a 10 year period and is recognised by Government as the policy document for the region’s medium term economic growth.

The SEP identifies four sectors where the region excels and where we have real potential to grow and improve the performance of the North East economy. These are: digital; advanced manufacturing; health and life sciences; and subsea, offshore and energy technologies. Alongside these sectors we’ve highlighted three supporting sectors which are key to enabling growth: financial and professional services; education; and transport and logistics.

We’ve also laid out details of the six programmes of activity which we will deliver with our partners, supporting business in the region to grow. These programmes are focused on: innovation; skills; economic assets and infrastructure; business growth and access to finance; employability and inclusion; and connectivity.

Since the SEP was launched three years ago, more than 47,000 jobs have been added to the economy, with 76% of these classed as higher skilled jobs. We’re constantly tracking our progress against a series of KPIs which show us how the North East is performing, compared with other regions in England in areas such as productivity and employment rates.

While the North East LEP is providing the strategic economic leadership for the region, the SEP was created in consultation with partners and stakeholders, and delivering the SEP is also very much a collective effort.

Local government, universities and colleges, and the business community all have a vital part to play and we want everyone to be familiar with the SEP and understand how they can make a difference and help to deliver it.

The delivery of the SEP is overseen by our Board members – a mixture of representatives from the private sector, public sector and higher and further education, headed up by the North East LEP chair, Andrew Hodgson. We work with experts from industry, education and local government who form our advisory boards and we have a small but dedicated team of staff who drive forward the programmes of activity identified in the SEP.

But we still need the continued support of everyone in the North East business community if we are to build on what’s already been achieved and make this a success. We need business organisations to get behind the SEP and to understand how the region is working together towards its goals.

Just three years into our 10 year plan we’ve already taken huge strides and seen the region become an even more vibrant and exciting place to live and work. Employment reached record levels this year, with 76% of employment growth being in higher skilled jobs – this is ahead of our target for the 10 year period of the SEP.

We’re now entering a period of political and economic change and uncertainty and it’s more important than ever for us to focus on working together to make the North East a resilient, creative and forward-thinking strong economy.

In early 2017 we refreshed the SEP to take into account changes in the economic landscape and you can read the full document, or an executive summary, on our website.

Can we meet and even exceed our ambitious targets for the North East? I believe, that with the ongoing support of the people of the North East, we can.

Visit the North East LEP website: www.nelep.co.uk.