Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Back on the Gold Standard; A Scheme to Provide North East Students with Vital Experience of Working in Shops Looked to Be in Trouble When Vital Funding Ran Dry. but Its Boss Found a Way to Renew It and Continue Its Vital Work. RUTH LOGNONNE Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Back on the Gold Standard; A Scheme to Provide North East Students with Vital Experience of Working in Shops Looked to Be in Trouble When Vital Funding Ran Dry. but Its Boss Found a Way to Renew It and Continue Its Vital Work. RUTH LOGNONNE Reports

Article excerpt

She helped turn classrooms into boardrooms and teenagers into would-be tycoons. But Tracy Allison's business charity was last year faced with closure after funds dried up; another casualty of Government austerity cuts.

The cash behind the Newcastle education Business Partnership (NeBP) was pulled, marking an end to a service which for 20 years provided Tyneside pupils with extra work experience.

Alongside that was interview practice and workplace visits which gave students vital experience.

Nestled within the charitable project was the hugely successful Retail Gold initiative that offered pupils at schools in Newcastle and Gateshead the opportunity to get work placements in stores in both eldon Square and the Metrocentre, as part of their BTec courses.

Retail Gold was conceived in 2005 and delivered by the NeBP, but was destined to go the way of the dodo alongside its parent organisation.

Desperate not to see her good work laid completely to waste, Tracy set up her own company, employers in education, with intu, owners of both the shopping centres, pledging to continue her newly named 'World Class Retail Gold' programme and Tracy delivering it on behalf of both shopping centres.

The former NeBP manager says bringing education and business together is a key driver in ensuring the region's economic recovery.

Speaking about her business, she said: "It's that sort of thing, the type which enriches the curriculum, that makes a difference. We're in such a dog-eat-dog world, so it's great to have these added soft skills a company like ours can provide. "World Class Retail Gold is actually responding directly to the Government's report on 'better skills, better jobs, better lives.' "That shows, if managed well, the workplace can be an excellent environment for young people to develop the skills they need and that employers want as part of the transition to the world of work.

"Compared to curricula designed entirely by educators and taught exclusively in schools, learning in the workplace allows young people to develop hard skills on modern equipment, and soft skills, such as teamwork, communication and negotiation, through real-world experience.

"Building workplace experience into educational programmes also provides an important channel of feedback from the labour market to education providers about what skills are in demand.

"These benefits of workplace learning to promote employability apply whether young people are pursuing a vocational pathway or following a more academic route." Students from the region have been working in both Eldon Square and the Metrocentre to achieve gold standard qualifications in business and retail.

Students from schools throughout the North East celebrated their success at a presentation ceremony held at Tyneside Cinema, attended by The Mayor of Gateshead Coun Jack Graham and Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central.

Since its inception nine years ago, Retail Gold has placed 200 Year 12 students with 20 different retailers at both Eldon Square and the Metrocentre and they learn what work is really like, but do so in an environment that is supportive and professional.

The programme enables young people to develop essential employability skills, raise self-confidence and gain a thorough insight into all aspects of working in retail.

This year, students from four Newcastle schools, Sacred Heart, Gosforth Academy, Excelsior Academy and All Saints CE College and Blaydon's St Thomas More Catholic School, are attending weekly work placements at John Lewis and Debenhams at Eldon Square, as well as House of Fraser, WH Smith and M&S at the Metrocentre. …

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