The director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has visited County Durham to find out how businesses, charities and the local authority are working together to help young people build a successful future.
Henri Murison met with Cllr Amanda Hopgood, the Leader of Durham County Council, in Peterlee to find out about DurhamWorks. This is a countywide programme led by the council that supports young people to gain the skills, qualifications and experiences they need to progress into jobs, training and education.
The pair also visited Magnitude Biosciences; a research organisation based in NETPark near Sedgefield, which provides the kind of high skilled jobs essential for Levelling Up the region.
Both DurhamWorks and Magnitude Biosciences have benefited from European Union (EU) funding and Mr Murison and Cllr Hopgood are calling on the government to ensure County Durham and the rest of the north receive a fair settlement from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This will replace funding due to cease following the UK’s exit from the EU, but analysis from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership indicates the north east could be almost £35 million worse off.
In Peterlee, Mr Murison spoke to young people who have been supported by DurhamWorks and gone into employment with local businesses. He also talked with young people who have taken part in DurhamWorks programmes and become peer mentors with the charity Groundwork North East and Yorkshire. This sees them support other young people who are not in education, employment and training, helping them to build their confidence and make informed choices about their future.
Groundwork is one of a number of partners Durham County Council works with to deliver the DurhamWorks programme. Since its launch in 2015, it has supported 8,750 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds in County Durham, offering advice, information, mentoring and skills development opportunities.
It also links young people with local employers to provide jobs, work experience and apprenticeships.
The project is predominantly financed by the European Social Fund, but the latest round of that will end in December 2023 and alternative money must be secured to enable the good work to continue.
At NETPark, Mr Murison was introduced to the team at Magnitude Biosciences, which is a spinout of Durham University that delivers research services in the fields of ageing, neurodegeneration, microbiome and toxicity.
Business Durham, the council’s business support service which manages NETPark, supported the organisation’s relocation to the science, engineering and technology park in May 2020. Magnitude Biosciences has also received money from the European Regional Development Fund to help it expand and has employed PHD students funded through EU grants.
Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “I am delighted to welcome Henri to County Durham and to show him some of the fantastic work that is going on here.
“Ensuring people of all ages, but especially young people, are able to gain the skills and confidence they need to pursue the careers of their choice is absolutely crucial to Levelling Up the north. It is also important our businesses are supported to expand so that they can create more highly skilled jobs. This not only boosts the economy but helps to encourage more young people to stay in the region.
“It is vital that County Durham and the north receive a fair deal from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund so that projects like DurhamWorks can continue and we can create even more opportunities for our residents.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “If we’re serious about raising northern productivity and changing communities with high levels of deprivation for the better, we need to invest more in areas such as research and development and skills in places like County Durham. This would allow us to develop our existing strengths in sectors such as health innovation and green energy by supporting great spinouts from our universities, while helping more local people access high-quality employment in these industries.
“The projected drop in funding post-Brexit – which will hit Tees Valley and the north east hardest on a per head basis – is a huge blow for our ambitions to Level Up this part of the country.
“If the north is going to pull its weight economically, then economic development needs to be resourced fairly.”
To find out more about DurhamWorks, visit www.durhamworks.info
For more information about the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, visit https://www.northernpowerhousepartnership.co.uk/