Michael Hall, Chief Executive of eQuality Solutions (eQS), and Cllr Margaret Meling, lead member for economic growth and transport at South Tyneside Council

Recruit Well. Retain. Empower.

Businesses in South Tyneside are joining forces to create jobs for local people and support more local residents from across the borough to enter and stay in work.

The “Recruit Well, Retain and Empower” event is being organised by South Tyneside Council, with firms sharing advice, experiences and the benefits of opening up the borough’s labour pool to recruit a more diverse workforce.

The event will also spark a wider Council-led campaign for more businesses and organisations to recruit and retain employees who have mental health conditions, experience health challenges, are neurodivergent or are older members of the workforce.

Cllr Margaret Meling, lead member for economic growth and transport at South Tyneside Councilsaid:

“This campaign really highlights how businesses have engaged with under-represented groups, addresses some misconceptions around employing someone who may have a disability or an autism spectrum condition, and provides guidance and advice on how to become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive employer.”

South Tyneside Council is helping employers understand how to widen their recruitment and selection pools and encourage disabled or neurodivergent candidates to apply for roles. The campaign will provide helpful tools and tips that organisations can access.

Michael Hall, Chief Executive of eQuality Solutions (eQS), and Cllr Margaret Meling, lead member for economic growth and transport at South Tyneside Council
Michael Hall, Chief Executive of eQuality Solutions (eQS), and Cllr Margaret Meling, lead member for economic growth and transport at South Tyneside Council

Speakers at the event include Michael Hall, Chief Executive of eQuality Solutions (eQS), which employs 35 people at its Hebburn HQ and 94 in total. It provides a range of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) support and solutions for local, national and global organisations.

He said:

“Everyone deserves the right to fulfil their ambitions. Providing a workplace that is equitable and inclusive is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. Engaging with the DEI agenda is good for business. It brings in fresh perspectives, new ideas and can open new markets through diversity of thought.

“It is fantastic to see South Tyneside Council taking a progressive approach. As a local employer, we have experienced the benefit of creating a more inclusive and equitable workforce. There is currently a high number of people facing barriers to employment, but this is also a talented and untapped candidate pool that businesses should and can engage with.”

eQuality Solutions offers a complete package of DEI support. From assistive technologies to one-to-one specialist job coaching, to training firms on how to embed a culture of inclusivity across their organisations.

Chris Stookes was recently diagnosed as autistic. He’s built up his hours at eQS, starting as a volunteer to now securing the role of operations assistant. He said: “Before working at eQS, I was last employed in 2015 and I struggled with mental and physical health during this period of not working. A part time role became available at eQS and it felt good to start working again as it offered me a routine and purpose. I like the people that work in the office at EQS, there’s never a negative atmosphere, it’s relaxed, and everyone is willing to help.

“Since I have started here last April, I have grown in confidence, I am more talkative and outgoing at work.”

Michael Hall joins speakers, Eddie Czestochowski, MD of Cell Pack Solutions, and Pam Seers of PRS Inclusion, in outlining his business’ approach to diversity, equity and inclusion and address some of the misconceptions or perceived barriers firms face.

The number of people economically inactive because of long-term sickness in the UK has risen to over 2.5 million, an increase of over 400,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the economically inactive due to long-term sickness, nearly two-fifths (38%) have five or more health conditions (up from 34% in 2019), suggesting that many face interlinked and complex health challenges. While work may not be a possibility for all, many do want to work but face barriers to accessing employment.

Cllr Meling added:

“South Tyneside has a high percentage of economically inactive residents with an illness or disability.

“Whether it’s illness, disability, gender inequality, age discrimination, or any other perceived barrier to work, it’s time to stop seeing these individuals as a problem to solve and realise they are an untapped asset.

“Campaigns like Recruit Well, Retain and Empower helps businesses understand and appreciate the importance of engaging with communities that historically have been written off or ignored.”

Recruit Well, Retain and Empower takes place on March 14 at One Trinity Green, South Shields between 9.30am – Noon. The event includes a Business Talk and small exhibition providing an array of information about the Better Health at Work Award, the Disability Confident Scheme and South Tyneside Council’s support for carers. The Escape Pain Project will outline help for employees with musculoskeletal challenges to remain in the workplace; and employers can learn about funding options such as Access to Work. There will be an opportunity to network over lunch.

Full details about the event can be found at: https://investsouthtyneside.com/event/recruit-well-retain-and-empower-business-talk/

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