More than 80 students came to Middlesbrough College's STEM Centre to hear Bill Scott of Wilton Engineering, James Lees of Mabo Media, Gerard Armstrong of Sembcorp and Frances Hoy of Nifco UK give their advice on what they will be looking for in their next recruits and tell how their companies are growing as well as revealing how they got their first jobs.
Mike Hughes, The Gazette's Commercial Editor who hosted the event, said later: "It was really rewarding to see the room so full. All we wanted to do was give the students one extra layer of information by letting them talk face to face with some of Teesside's leading employers and hearing first hand what they need to do to be their next employee.
"This is the first of three events we are planning alongside the regular Invest in Teesside stories and supplements so students should get a full range of employers to talk to - and if it all results in just one or two young people kick-starting a career, it will have been well worth it."
James Lees, Marketing Director of Mabo Media said: "If you get to work in digital, there are a plethora of opportunities in all sorts of roles. The future of digital is here on Teesside and that means plenty of chances to join the sector. Mabo looks for talent, but you also need to stand out from the crowd, maybe because you are doing other things outside your college course."
Bill Scott advised his young audience to "work hard and you will get found".
Bill continued: "I wasn't too clever at school, but working life is so different and while our business manufactures large and complicated structures, within that there are 47 different roles to look at among our staff, which has a mixture of graduate and non-graduates."
Frances Hoy at Nifco explained that the business had worked with Middlesbrough College for a number of years on its apprenticeship programme.
She said: "Always be willing to learn and grow to take advantage of every opportunity, and decide what success means to you - not everyone wants to be the boss." Sembcorp's head of its Merchant and Retail team Gerard Armstrong is also one Sembcorp’s leadership team in the UK.
He said: “There are great apprenticeship opportunities, particularly for operations personnel - the people who run the site 24 hours a day. We are looking for people who are highly numerate, strong with their English and good at science.
“We are very proud of the fact that seven of the nine members of our operations management staff came through the apprenticeship route and have gone to university part-time sponsored by Sembcorp.”
College Principal and CEO Zoe Lewis also spoke to the students, reminding them of the value of work experience to either rule out or investigate certain sectors.
She told the audience: "You will learn something important from work experience, about the aptitudes, attitudes, the people in that work environment and the skills they are displaying. It is important really early on to start thinking about what you enjoy, what you are good at and what route you want to take."
The panel was also joined by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who is revamping the Tees Valley Careers Service which is working in partnership with The Gazette's Invest in Teesside campaign for the year.
He said: "There is a huge amount of opportunity on Teesside, but I bet very few of you are aware of what you can do here for a job and a career. There is a huge collection of brilliant businesses across the region, all of them want people to come and work for them, but they can't find the right people with the right skillset, so we need to work much better with places like the colleges and schools to make sure you have the information you need."