Prospective Sunderland employees hope to score themselves a new career at Stadium of Light Recruitment Fair

Nearly 50 businesses and education providers including Hays Travel, Just Eat, the NHS and University of Sunderland were at the stadium as part of the city’s first recruitment fair.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 3:27 pm

The event was part of the City of Sunderland Business Festival, designed to highlight the range of employment and education opportunities available across the region, particularly as the city emerges from the pandemic.

Organiser and Sunderland Business Partnership director Allison Thompson said: "There’s no doubt the pandemic has had a significant impact on employment in Sunderland as it has across the UK.

"It has created a particular challenge for jobs in retail and hospitality.

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Hundreds of prospective employees attended a jobs fair at the Stadium of Light as part of the City of Sunderland Business Festival.

"There are opportunities out there but they may require people to think a little differently.

"We want to connect with the community to help change perceptions and raise aspirations of people in the city.”

The partnership believed the Stadium of Light provided the perfect venue to relay this message.

Allison added: “Football is such a big part of the city and the football club has been massively supportive. Using the stadium provides a real hook to engage people to come along.”

English Literature graduate Kate Dunkerton, 22, believes the pandemic has made the job market "even harder" for young people.

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One of the hardest hit sectors during the Covid crisis has been the travel industry. Established in Sunderland 40 years ago, Hays Travel were keen to get out the message that “things are on the up”.

Recruitment executive Nathan Patterson, 26, said: “Being a North East based company the job fair was a huge opportunity to highlight the range of careers on offer.

"There has been a lot of interest in our apprenticeship programme.

Les Frater, 64, lost his job during the pandemic after developing long Covid.

"Travel has taken a real hit during the pandemic but we are now very much back in business.”

Representatives at the stall from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust believe the pandemic may have had the opposite effect on people considering careers in the NHS.

Workforce and Education Manager, Gemma Taylor, 44, said: “Many people lost jobs during Covid and I think with the NHS being at the forefront of people’s minds more people are now considering a career in this sector and we’ve had a lot of interest.”

She added: "We have 350 different job roles in the NHS and today was an opportunity to get this message out there.”

Organiser Allison Thompson hopes the Business Festival will help to raise the aspirations of people in the city.

Organisers were “delighted” with the turn out with “people queuing to get in from 10am”. The fair offered the opportunity for people across the age demographic to find out more about potential careers, pass on CVs and even the opportunity to land an interview.

The pandemic appears to have had a particularly significant impact on the city’s workforce at both ends of the age spectrum with potential employees at the event ranging from teenagers to people in their sixties.

Les Frater, 64, said: “I was working with children with autism at the Percy Hedley Foundation but I had to leave after developing problems with long Covid. While I was ill, the centre I was working at had to close.

"I definitely think Covid has made the job market situation worse.”

He added: “I know a lot of people who were on furlough who no longer have a job to return to. I’ve found the event extremely positive and have already secured an interview for a job working with children with special educational needs.”

Peter Smith, 62, also lost his job during the pandemic.

There were stalls from 50 employers and education providers at the Recruitment Fair.

He said: “I was working for Npower but was made redundant last year. I initially got another job but I had to resign from it to look after my wife who became unwell. She is now on the mend which is why I’m here today to hopefully find a job."

For former mental health nurse Margaret Butler, 63, securing a new job was a “needs must”, particularly with the Government axing the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift payment.

“I’ve been out of work for seven years as acting as a carer for my husband. I’m not ready to hang up my boots just yet and living on Universal Credit, I need the money,” she said.

"There are more stalls here than I thought there would be and I’ve found the event very helpful.”

One of the biggest age groups to see their employment prospects hit during the pandemic is young people under 25, including recent graduates.

Katie Dunkeron, 22, who graduated with an English Literature degree from Newcastle University, said: “There are not many graduate roles available and the pandemic appears to have made things even harder.

“I would like to get a job in public relations. I spoke with Hays Travel who’ve taken my details and said they will keep me informed of any suitable posts.”

Sam Gregory, 23, did a Journalism degree at Teesside University, but is currently working 30 hours per week at a Co op food-store.

He said: “It’s difficult for young people to get a new career as employers want experience but how can you get experience without being given the opportunity?

"The pandemic appears to have only served to make things more difficult for young people. The event has been useful and I was particularly interested in speaking with the Civil Service.”

Speaking previously about the Business Festival and Recruitment Fair, leader of Sunderland City Council Graeme Miller said: “We’re really delighted to be supporting an event that will bring the city’s incredible business landscape into sharp focus and ensure that companies and residents are inspired to achieve more and play an active role in Sunderland’s success.”

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