22 local businesses gathered for a unique twist on a traditional jobs fair to help support the young people who participate in the Newcastle United Foundation employability programmes. The event aimed to change any negative perceptions surrounding the contact centre and manufacturing industries so that participants of the foundation could gain a real insight and help them in their employability programme: by letting the participants interview the employers.

Hosted by Northern Recruitment Group (NRG) and Newcastle United Foundation, the event saw the foundation participants reverse interview employers to learn more about the contact centre and manufacturing industries, to help dispel the myths that surround working in these types of jobs.

NU Foundation are an independent charity supported by Newcastle United Football Club, who work with over 50,000 people throughout the year and have a large range of different programmes. The attendees at the session included participants from the Princes Trust Programme, Premier League Works Programme and Talent Match Programme, all of which aim to provide young people with the skills and confidence they need to enter the workplace.

It makes a real difference to the foundation participants to speak to real people in business, to help give them a real insight into career opportunities from industries that employ a large amount of the north east workforce. Josh, a participant of the NU Foundation, said:

“It’s been good to be able to speak to a lot of different businesses and seeing what they offer. I think it’s good to get an idea of what to expect in a workplace because I think a lot of people are a bit hesitant at first when it comes to certain jobs. I think especially with call centres people think that it’s just you locked away at a desk for the full day and not speaking to anyone, but it’s nothing like that. I think it’s more of a friendly environment where it feels a bit more of a family.”

While the event focused on members of the Newcastle United Foundation in the morning, it was open to the public in the afternoon, so employers were able to offer their insights to others too. Numerous locally based businesses gathered at St James’ Park for the event, including Northumbrian Water, Tesco Bank, British Airways, Sage, Elfab, NHS and many more. The event attracted excellent support, including that from Guy Currey, Director of Invest North East, who said:

“Today’s event organised by the Contact Centre Partnership demonstrates the strong collaborative approach taken in the North East to help raise awareness of the opportunities available in this exciting sector.  It’s really great to see so many North East businesses here today talking to young people about the career pathways and the amazing variety of roles available in a contact centre.

” We have a very strong Business Services sector in the region which sees over 40,000 people employed in contact centre activities alone.  Our low staff turnover rates compared to other parts of the country and a really strong talent pool of future employees makes the region an ideal location for contact centre activity.”

All the businesses who attended have a variety of career opportunities within contact centres or manufacturing. The contact centre employers were there to dispel the negative opinions that most hold about this type of work – with many thinking this involves wearing a headset and being shouted at all day, with very inflexible practices. Companies there stressed the career opportunities that are available through businesses like these through internal promotions and using the roles as a foot in the door for furthering their careers.

Manufacturing organisations were also there to dispel the myths that working for these companies means you’re stuck on a production line in dirty overalls every day. Some of the organisation, such as Elfab, were able to explain that high precision companies like theirs don’t even have a production line and manufacturing has so much more to offer, working with different stakeholders and offering the potential for travel.

Each employer offered valuable insights into what it’s like working there day to day, discussed how they got there and where they can go next. For the participants of the NU Foundation, these insights were extremely valuable as many have had little interaction with the world of employment.

Shine Interview were also there to support the NU Foundation participants by coaching them through the video interview process. Shine provide recruitment software to large employers and are also working with schools and colleges to help with mock interviews, coaching, and self-reflection for students. They are therefore uniquely positioned to offer insights into both sides of the process. CEO David Copple said:

“This sort of event is so important for young people, and there is often an unjustified stigma attached to manufacturing and contact centre careers – sometimes beginning with parents and teachers. The North East can actually offer careers with industry leading organisations and great potential for progression, a world away from the perception that some may have of these fields.

The ability for young people to interact first hand with companies is invaluable, learning first-hand about what it’s like to work in a given role, and also experiencing what the recruitment and interview process may entail. Often this involves building up their confidence and allowing young people to think about how they are perceived by potential employers.”

The event was a resounding success and it’s something that NRG are hoping to replicate throughout the region and continue to make an impact for both young people and businesses. Many of the employers involved said the event was eye opening for them, to hear young people’s struggles about getting into the workplace and are eager to help provide focus to young people who haven’t necessarily been given the best start in life. Julie Mordue, NRG, spoke about the success of the event:

“We’ve had a fantastic day and we’ve been joined by a lot of local authorities and employability advisors, as well as the participants from Newcastle United Foundation so it’s been a great day. We hope to be able to share with you the impact of today and replicate this, which was the first pilot event, again in the future and together hopefully we can start changing perceptions of contact centre and manufacturing careers.”

Because of the event, people with less experience have been able to see real people behind the scenes of manufacturing and contact centre businesses in the north east, talking about the opportunities in research and development, IT and digital and health and safety amongst many others.