One of the region’s most iconic theatres is upskilling its staff to improve both internal and external customer service and cater better for people with autism and other complex needs.

Staff at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, are benefitting from a range of training courses including autism awareness, intermediate and advanced excel training, first aid and ‘train the trainer’ delivered by Gateshead College.

The courses are being delivered as part of Go>Grow, a regional skills and enterprise programme, which has been launched in partnership with 30 local training providers. The programme was launched after Gateshead College secured £15m of funding from the European Social Fund through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Yvonne Bentley, HR manager at the Theatre Royal, said: “Our aim is to provide the highest standards of service and care for our customers. The free training has allowed us to upskill our current workforce, benefiting the business and giving the team an opportunity to progress and develop

“Our course trainers were great and the entire programme was developed to meet our specific needs. We would highly recommend the Go>Grow courses and look forward to continuing the training.

“I studied autism awareness and took part in a ‘train the trainer’ course to give me the skills and confidence to train other people within the organisation. It was very useful and will help me train dozens of staff in the future.

“Theatre Royal presents a range of ‘relaxed performances’ for those customers with autism, and other complex needs. We are constantly furthering our knowledge on how to cater equally for everyone using our venue.”

The North East Autism Society estimates that 1% of people in the region are affected by the condition, which is approximately 26,000 people.

The staff training was delivered at Gateshead College’s Baltic Campus and through distance learning.

The programme was developed through an initiative to upskill employees in the local cultural sector by Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV). The organisation is working with Amacus and Gateshead College to deliver the free training to 20 venues.

This will see more than 100 employees across the region’s theatres, museums and cinemas benefit from free business skills training in the coming months. The move will ensure that the highest standards of customer service and care are provided to the thousands of people who visit the region’s attractions and cultural hot-spots each year.

Ivan Jepson, director of business development, said: “Go>Grow is a fully funded programme that will see us working together with other training providers to secure the skills needs of many of the region’s leading cultural venues.

“This will contribute to the economic prosperity of the North East, benefitting local employees and organisations like Theatre Royal who need upskilled and confident workforces.”

Go>Grow has the backing of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North-East England Chamber of Commerce, with tailormade programmes created and delivered at any of the Go>Grow training provider sites, or within the premises of the individual businesses.