Bridging the gap between employers and young people

Staff recruitment has become a chronic problem for businesses in County Durham, with many finding it difficult to find suitable candidates to fill vital vacancies.

Despite these recruitment challenges, businesses sometimes overlook key sections of society, including young people. Underemployment for this demographic has long been a challenge across the whole of North East England.

However, Nic Watson (pictured) Employer Engagement Officer at DurhamWorks, has a tried and tested solution by actively connecting employers with young people aged 16 to 24 who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET).

Nic, who has been matching young people with employers in North Durham for over 16 years, said: “There are long-standing challenges in providing opportunities for young people as they progress into employment. Young people are often convinced employers won’t want them and employer’s face a shortage of talent.

“Skills shortages have been an issue for many firms for several years and the problem has worsened due to Brexit, the pandemic, and rising costs. It’s no surprise this has had a disproportionate impact on youth employment across the country, and it’s more difficult than ever for 16 to 24-year-olds to find and secure a fulfilling job.”

DurhamWorks, which run by Durham County Council, takes a proactive role in addressing these issues and focuses on supporting young people who face additional barriers on their pathway to employment.

As one of six Employment Engagement Officers, Nic provides tailored one-to-one support to young people while educating businesses on realistic expectations when recruiting and appointing new employees.

He explained: “Most young people just want to work but they lack the confidence, skills and knowledge, and the experience to secure employment and go on and thrive.

“We draw up a personal plan for them to help them realise their potential by giving guidance on their CV, help with searching for and applying for jobs; I favour the old-fashioned knocking on doors approach and nine times out of 10 they will get an interview this way!

“We also help them to prepare for interview, and even look the practicalities of travelling to work and working out if the pay is affordable for them to live on.

“Once they’re ready to enter the world of work, we’ll match them with employers while ensuring they’re suitable for the job role. It’s an entirely free service, and we may even be able to help businesses secure funding to cover the cost of employing a young person. It’s a win-win as making the right match is the way to unlock growth and success for both parties.”

The programme, funded by the European Social Fund and supported by the Youth Employment Initiative, has helped over 8,000 young people across the county build a positive future for themselves, remove employment barriers, and supports the county’s economy by contributing to business growth.

Nic concluded: “As well as making the introductions and matching the young people with employers, for me the best thing is bumping into them years later and seeing what a life-changing difference it has made for them.”

Find out more on how DurhamWorks helps businesses or contact Nic at

Bridging the gap between employers and young people

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