Planting the seed: Investing in young people will prevent them becoming a ‘lost generation’
PD Ports’ operation in the Tees Valley is the fifth largest port in the UK by total tonnage, and one of the largest private employers in the North East | Credit: PA Images
Speaking at PD Ports’ panel discussion at Conservative Party Conference, Jacob Young MP, emphasised the importance of showcasing career opportunities to young people to prevent them becoming a ‘lost generation’.
With COVID-19 impacting our economy, the current outlook for jobs amongst young people remains challenging. How can the public and private sectors work in partnership to ensure our young people have the bright future they deserve?
This was the central question posed to PD Ports’ panel discussion at the Conservative Party Conference this week.
Speaking at the event, Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar and Cleveland, said: “We’ve left young people in a situation that no generation has previously encountered.”
“Ultimately, the best thing we can do for our young people is to ensure that there are jobs for them to go into,” he said.
“We are really pushing for businesses to start taking on these young people and not allowing them to become the lost generation,” he continued.
The MP for Redcar and Cleveland emphasised the importance of highlighting the full breadth of career opportunities available to children whilst they are still at primary school.
“It is so important that we are advertising to young kids the prospects that are on their doorstep,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Frans Calje, CEO, PD Ports said: “I firmly believe that you have to invest in the next generation because they will be the shoulders that carry the future and carry our business forward.”
PD Ports’ operation in the Tees Valley is the fifth largest port in the UK by total tonnage, and one of the largest private employers in the North East.
Since starting their apprenticeship programme in 2001, PD Ports have continued nurturing young talent. Today, the organisation employs 21 apprentices across the business, with those under 30 years old now accounting for 20% of the total workforce. The organisation is about to launch its biggest recruitment drive ever, to employ 50 new apprentices by 2021.
Alongside this, PD Ports is determined to do more and to actively encourage other businesses to step up, get involved and back the UK’s young people.
Agreeing with the MP for Redcar and Cleveland, the PD Ports CEO emphasised the importance of “planting a seed” with young people about the career opportunities available to them. He called on organisations to “open their doors” to young children “who do not understand the opportunities that are literally on their doorstep.”
Jane Armitage, Managing Partner, Jacksons Law, agreed: “We need to give young people the opportunity to talk to people in business,” she said.
One such scheme is High Tide, co-founded in 2012 by PD Ports. High Tide is an independent charity foundation based in the Tees Valley that aims to raise aspirations and create employment opportunities for young people in the region.
The organisation delivers unique and meaningful work experience programmes and internships which focus on getting young people out of the classroom and into workplaces, showcasing the wealth of career opportunities that exist along the River Tees.
Speaking on the panel, Mark Easby, Chairman of the High Tide Foundation, said that there was a “huge amount” of opportunity in the region.
“We need more collaboration to build that journey,” he said.
Alongside High Tide, other organisations in the Tees Valley have implemented programmes to showcase and deliver opportunities for young people.
Nikki Sayer, North East School of Shipping Lead and Commissioner and Government’s Maritime Skills Commission discussed the work the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers has done to raise awareness of the sector, through education, training and qualifications for young people from primary through to higher education.
She called for funding from Government for a nationwide rollout of the successful scheme at the school.
“That’s a model that has done really well in the Tees Valley and we are hoping to roll out to the rest of the UK,” she explained.
Speaking about the impact that schemes in the region have had, Michael Duffey from the Tees Valley Logistics Academy, said: “What we’ve seen over the last three years is a real awareness of the sector starting to develop.”
“We are seeing companies like PD Ports actually starting to employ these people who have been though the Tees Valley Logistics Academy.”
“We just need to do that on a bigger scale,” he said.
Adapting through the pandemic
With the coronavirus pandemic limiting the amount of physical work experience that the organisation can offer at present, the panel discussed how their organisations have been adapting to ensure young people can still be made aware of their future opportunities in the region.
High Tide have set up a learning hub, a public area of the website that young people can access, watch and download information on careers in the sector.
“The next step is taking our physical programmes and putting them online under our own learning academy,” explained Mr Easby.
“It is important that learners still maintain that contact with industry though mentors and virtual guest speakers,” said Mr Duffey.
“We are all going to need them [young people] in the future. Therefore it is incumbent on all of us to give the opportunities so that not only are we helping young people, but we are providing the staff that all of our businesses need going forward,” concluded Jane Armitage.