This article was written for the News & Star.
It is often said that education is the one thing that no-one will ever be able to take from you. Certainly, everyone agrees on the importance of training, education, and skills. It is only through imparting and taking on knowledge that we as a society will be able to progress. We can debate the best methods of doing this, but the need for providing education and training for skills is beyond doubt.
Back in 2013, I attended an engineering event in Carlisle. One of the key issues that was continually raised during the discussion was about the need for more skilled staff, particularly engineers and technicians. At the end of the event, I asked the organisers what I could do to make a contribution towards the needs of their industry.
Their response was interesting. They did not want another jobs fair, they wanted a skills fair. That is to say, in order to help with the skills shortage, they did not expect fully qualified engineers, technicians, or others to be delivered to them – but they did want the opportunity to meet with local students and jobseekers to discuss apprenticeship and training opportunities within the industry. They wanted the chance to teach and train the employees they needed for the future.
From this, the Carlisle Skills Fair was born, with the first event being held in January 2014. I am pleased to say that this January, on the 25th, I will be hosting and organising the tenth Carlisle Skills Fair.
Over the years the fair has been incredibly well supported, and this year is to be no exception. More than 70 businesses of varying sizes and disciplines will be in attendance, some looking to take on apprentices and trainees, but also a number looking to recruit straight away. In addition, there will be training providers attending, who are critical in delivering training for local employers. And, of course, there will be the many students (and their parents) and individuals, all of whom will be looking for career opportunities and options for the future.
Looking back over the years, it is interesting to have seen first-hand people who attended the Skills Fair looking for careers at past shows going on to actually man the stands of the businesses they joined in later shows. After all, who is better placed to extol the virtues of the opportunities than someone who has experienced it all themselves! This in particular has given me enormous satisfaction, alongside the fact that each year businesses have come back, training providers have come back, and students and parents have also returned (though we always have new businesses coming along to join us as well!). This, I think, truly demonstrates the worthiness of the Carlisle Skills Fair, and why it has become an important feature of the local training and employment market.
However, the most important aspect of all is the opportunity that is given to the next generation to succeed – because if they succeed, they will lay the foundation for our city to prosper. Ten skills fairs later, and this is still as true as it ever was!