Education unions estimate that Cumbrian schools could lose £23m by 2020 - the equivalent of 625 teachers or an average of £383 per pupil.

With this comes renewed concerns for ensuring young people are getting the best and most up-to-date careers guidance to help them forge a career path and be ready for the working environment.

To compound the issue, the Government has set a goal of achieving ‘full employment’ in this Parliament which means all young people are to be in employment or education – ‘earning or learning’.

Although youth unemployment has fallen substantially over recent years, it is still more than double the general unemployment rate, and some groups of young people remain particularly vulnerable to long-term unemployment.

With unprecedented investment opening up new opportunities in Cumbria it is essential that the counties skills shortages must be addressed as a priority. 

Research undertaken by Inspira and the University of Cumbria concerning employer perceptions of young people’s work readiness and employability skills highlighted the fact that the majority of employers felt that young people generally lack an awareness of what it means to be work-ready in terms of a range of personal attributes and behaviours. These attributes include, in particular, communication skills, a can-do attitude, and flexibility in the workplace. Employers also cited examples of how a deficit in work-ready skills can negatively impact on the workplace.

Across the county employers, schools, colleges and training providers along with the Local Enterprise Partnership are working together to bridge these gaps – initiatives such as Launch Pad and The Key provide opportunities for young people to develop employability skills and get experience in the workplace, while the National Citizen Service (NCS) gives 16 and 17 year olds the chance to experience independent living and build valuable skills like communication, team building and leadership.

Employers and schools are increasingly working more closely together throughout the county. Another initiative managed by Inspira gathers volunteers from the business community to act as Enterprise Advisers and Employer Mentors within schools to help develop robust careers guidance programmes and mentorships for young people.

The Government’s aim of achieving 3 million new apprenticeship starts by 2020 is hoped to help the skills shortage – but to achieve this, careers advice and guidance needs to emphasise the value of apprenticeships and traineeships.  More needs to be done to create apprenticeship opportunities across the wide spectrum of current and future employment opportunities in Cumbria.

Although many young people will move into ‘earning or learning’ there will be some who leave education without a plan - consequently support programmes are vital to get them back into an ‘learning or earning’ position.

Inspira’s model, to move 'at risk' and unemployed people into employment, has a key emphasis on engaging with employers early so that both young people and adults can get a sense of and experience the workplace, as well as learning valuable new skills such as personal brand presentation, confidence, how to manage their career and interview techniques.