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Friday, 25 April 2014

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Cumbrian skills fair hailed a huge success

Carlisle's first Skills Fair has been judged a resounding success and looks set to become an annual event.

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John Stevenson: ‘Long lead-in times do seem questionable’

More than 2,000 job hunters attended the fair at the Sands Centre last week.

They were able to meet a dozen training providers and 68 employers and other organisations.

Carlisle’s Conservative MP John Stevenson organised it after an engineering employers’ forum, hosted by Hayley Cumbria last April, highlighted difficulties in recruiting skilled staff as the economy recovers.

He said: “We had no idea what to expect but I was absolutely delighted with the turnout.

“I would certainly like to see it as an annual event and will be discussing it further with training providers and businesses to see if they would like to see it repeated.

“But given the interest and attendance, I’d be surprised if it isn’t repeated.”

He added: “It was probably one of the best things I have been involved with since being elected as an MP.

“It’s easy for people around Carlisle to be unaware of some of the tremendous opportunities available on their doorstep. The Skills Fair showed just what is there.”

The MP staged the event in conjunction with Gen2 and with the backing of the National Apprenticeship Service.

The first two hours were aimed primarily at unemployed adults.

Then hundreds of school pupils and college students came through the doors to see what employment and training options were available.

Employers were pleased with the calibre of job hunters they met.

Chris McClelland, operations manager at Calder Foods in Carlisle, said: “It went really well. We had quite a lot of interest.

“We have new business at the moment and are looking for production and operations staff.

“There was a good range of people, from youngsters without much experience through to ex-employees of [ready-meals firm] Cavaghan & Gray who have skills that will transfer to us.”

Chloe Turner, HR controller for the Cumberland Building Society, said: “I’ve been impressed with the people who have stopped and talked to us.

“We are looking for people who want a career with us, with the potential to work their way up. We have jobs in our head office and customer-facing roles in our branch network and estate agency.

“We’ve had a real mix from students to people in work looking for a new job and those out of work.”

The job hunters included 18-year-old Lauren Brown from Longtown.

The former pupil of Brampton’s William Howard School, who has nine GCSEs and four A-levels, turned down a place on a media course at Sunderland University to go straight into the job market.

She said: “You see graduates who can’t find work and I think in three years’ time it will still be a struggle.

“I want something where I can earn money straight away and came to see what opportunities were out there.

“I’m interested in business administration and have been talking to Lloyd Motor Group. It could be an apprenticeship or it could be a job. Either way you’re learning new skills, doing something different and getting paid for it.”

Although aimed primarily at the 14-to-25 age group, the Skills Fair was open to anyone.

Training providers exhibiting included Gen2, Carlisle College, the Construction Industry Training Board, Inspira, Learn Direct, NACRO, RWP, System Training and the University of Cumbria. Employers included Bells of Lazonby, Bendles Solicitors, BSW, Calder Foods, Carlisle United, Center Parcs, Clark Door, Cumberland Building Society, Innovia, Lloyd Motor Group, Pirelli, Story, and Tweddle Engineering.

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