A key task facing Chris Roberts will be to dispel the myth that the traditional heavy industries in the region provide no long-term job prospects for young people.
Shipbuilding and heavy engineering in the marine and offshore sectors are rapidly changing the nature of the type of employment they offer, he insists.
"These heavy industries no longer employ large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled labour that does little more than lug rivets about," he says.
"They employ fewer people, but now their workforce is largely highly skilled. A lot of the work they have is in very technical engineering and design, where workers develop skills that are easily transferable to other industries.
"Apart from the welders, platers, joiners, pipe-fitters and electricians that are needed, there are also shortages in the white collar jobs that go with it.
"Designers, planners, and logistics experts are needed to enable contracts to be delivered on time to avoid the huge penalties that would otherwise be faced.
"There is no doubt that heavy industry still has an important role to play in the North-east."
More than half of the employers in the region report skills gaps across all occupations, and the age profile of employers in heavy industry is high, with over-55s vastly outnumbering under-25s, he says.
Most employment opportunities in the region are in occupations requiring a relatively high level of expertise, and less than 6 per cent of the workforce is in unskilled employment.