Working with many great businesses across the region, Gateshead College recognises the importance of building strong workforces that give companies the best chance of being successful. The college’s business development director, Ivan Jepson, reveals five things he’s learned from these companies when it comes to investing in and developing talent…

Be innovative and open-minded

Companies like Adient, an automotive seating supplier, are willing to try something different when recruiting new talent into their workforce. They’ve really embraced the idea of offering extended work placements for students as part of the pilot for the new T level qualifications – and it’s a move that’s allowed them to bring more IT skills into the business in the short term and potentially find new recruits for the future.

Challenge the status quo. If there is a skills gap in your business or sector, find a training partner who is prepared to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in working with you to come up with a new way of doing things. We developed and launched the PlanBEE programme in just five months in 2016, working with Ryder to bring together companies from various disciplines to attract more talent into the built environment sector. Students get the chance to work across several companies, learning about different aspects of the industry so they get a broader understanding – a radical shift from a traditional training model.

Be prepared to invest

With PlanBEE, everyone came together to achieve a shared goal, investing their time, knowledge, expertise and money. And that’s the approach companies involved in the Ford Engineering Academy take. This fantastic training programme pioneered with Ford Aerospace, is really helping engineering and manufacturing industries build strong, sustainable workforces. We’re working with these companies, and they’re working with each other, to tackle skills shortages and get young people fit for a career. Together, we’re giving them the skills, attitudes and knowledge they need to start an apprenticeship and progress through the ranks.

Be ready to influence and inspire

You can get your brand known and influence and inspire young people to work in your business by engaging with schools and colleges. Employers work with us to challenge and shape our curriculum, to provide industry placements, live briefs and competitions and to share their experiences. Just recently, Contact magazine’s photographer, Christopher Owens, gave a masterclass to our photography students setting a live brief with the winner chosen to accompany him on a photoshoot. The games tech companies we work with – Zerolight, Enigma Interactive, Atomhawk and others – also provide great experiences for our students, helping them design new apps and videos, or explore the potential of exciting new technologies.

Plan ahead

We help businesses to look ahead, to anticipate what skills they’ll need a few years down the line. At Essity, a toilet tissue maker in Prudhoe, a significant number of the workforce were due to retire at roughly the same time, many of them managers. We helped the company build on their existing apprenticeship to bring higher-level skills into the business, as well as younger people who could hit the ground running. And the result? Essity has protected its business through good succession planning, heading off a potentially damaging skills crisis.

Have a shared purpose and value

Work with a training partner who shares your ethos and values. Someone who is prepared to listen and shape something around you specifically. Every business has different situations to deal with, different challenges to overcome and any training programme has to be fit-for-purpose and not just something that’s been lifted off the shelf. If companies find a reliable training partner who shares this view, and who can anticipate and react quickly to sudden changes in circumstance, it will make their lives so much easier.

To find out more about Gateshead College and the courses on offer, visit:

Gateshead College