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Northern Gas Networks partners with former Education Secretary to close opportunity gap

Justine Greening and Mark Horsley

Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the gas distributor for the North of England, has launched its Opportunity Action Plan, in partnership with former Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon. Justine Greening, and the Social Mobility Pledge campaign.

As an award-winning employer across the North of England, with employees living and working right across northern Cumbria, Yorkshire and the North East, NGN is already well-placed to be a driving force for positive change in the communities it serves.

NGN recently launched its 2021 Engineering Apprenticeship Scheme, looking to recruit a diverse range of young people to train with a network putting the steps in place for a greener energy future.

NGN is also committed to greening its gas network by exploring the use of hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas, supporting the Government’s Net Zero emissions target of 2050.

But with the challenge of a post-Covid 19 recovery ahead, it’s now time to go further; to level up the playing field for talent, and create more ambitious opportunities for young people in the region.

NGN’s Opportunity Action Plan is a practical strategy dedicated to ‘levelling up’ the employment landscape, empowering everyone to develop their talents and fulfil their potential regardless of background or income.

The plan sets out NGN’s best practice and a series of ambitions that NGN will work towards with the aim of ensuring that more people in local communities are connected to opportunities.

The Pledge asks businesses and universities to commit to levelling-up Britain by partnering with local schools, offering apprenticeships and using open and fair recruitment practices.

In each of these four areas, NGN will:

  • Work closely with teachers, schools and colleges to open up more opportunities for pupils, and encourage a greater interest in science, maths and technology;
  • Work with schools and colleges to offer a structured mentoring programmes for pupils and students, building skills and confidence;
  • Develop better work experience placements with more of a focus on hands-on, practical skills, ideal for young people who may not have considered a career with a gas distributor before, and
  • Lower the barriers to workplace apprenticeships so that they are accessible to a wider group of young people.

This approach will then be extended to other areas in the region where we know that opportunities for social mobility are low, such as in South Bradford.

The Pledge asks businesses and universities to commit to levelling up Britain by partnering with local schools, offering apprenticeships and using open and fair recruitment practices.

The launch of NGN’s Opportunity Action Plan is the culmination of months of work with the Social Mobility Pledge team, who identified NGN as a trail blazer purpose-led business in its efforts in boosting social mobility to date.

Justine Greening said: “Achieving true social mobility in Britain and levelling up our country is a huge challenge but one that businesses and universities are rising to.

“Businesses like NGN have a crucial role to play and can be an incredible force for good in spreading opportunities more evenly across communities and to people that have missed out for far too long.

“I am delighted that NGN is going above and beyond what is expected of business and is a strong example of how businesses can be a real force for good in local communities.

“I hope many more businesses will follow NGN’s lead and consider how they can go further, faster in being a force for good in communities, for the customers, and with their colleagues. “

In publishing this Opportunity Action Plan, NGN today sends out a clear signal that it is a company raising the standard of how a business should create social value in local communities, and really bring the levelling-up agenda to life on the ground.

Mark Horsley, CEO of Northern Gas Networks, said: “In a time of national crisis, when many of the pre-existing inequalities our communities already faced have become deepened and more entrenched, this has never been more important.

“I’m proud to be able to say that NGN is already a business that delivers as a force for good by thinking and investing in communities for the long-term. But we know we can do more.

“That is why we began working with the Justine Greening and the Social Mobility Pledge to put together an Opportunity Action Plan, which identifies the widest gaps in local communities across our gas network; and sets a more targeted approach to how we engage with communities and deliver opportunity.”

While more than 500 businesses and universities across the country have signed up to the Pledge, NGN is latest of just over 30 to launch an action plan with a clear programme for change.

NGN already has a strong track record in championing positive change across the North of England. For example, it is one of the funding partners in the Community Partnering Fund, which enables not-for-profit community groups in our region to apply for up to £10,000, for projects that support gas safety, energy efficiency and post-Covid 19 recovery. It also funds the Warm Homes programme in Northumberland, which tackles fuel poverty.

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