Cumbria’s employers have a successful track record of growing their own talent through apprenticeships.

Our county now has the second highest proportion of apprenticeship starts in the country, with nearly 11 per cent of Cumbria’s young workforce undertaking apprenticeships.

However, the success in Cumbria is not just down to participation, but also due to our skills providers working with employers and apprentices to ensure the apprenticeship success rate is also well ahead of other areas.

It is this partnership between employers, our local colleges, private training providers, higher education institutions and charities, and Cumbria LEP, that is at the heart of the implementation our Skills Investment Plan up to 2020 - one of Cumbria’s key economic drivers.

The plan produced through Cumbria LEP has been designed to help more local people gain the qualifications they need to access jobs.

It also aims to improve skills levels, increase the county’s workforce and assist employers in developing workforce development solutions.

As part of a vibrant, employer-led, skills offer, apprenticeships equip people with the skills employers need to grow, and also provide employers with a unique way to grow their own talent.

Investment in developing the key skills of our future workforce is an integral driver in our strategy to become one of the fastest growing economies in the UK.

So workforce planning is a major consideration in the overall process.

Apprenticeships enable employers to secure new talent for their organisation, and also provide those in the workforce with a way to develop their skills because the learning is in context, combining practical skills with theoretical knowledge.

This is crucial as employers are looking for employees with job-specific skills and work experience.

The key sectors within Cumbria’s economy, such as nuclear, manufacturing, health and social care, have contributed to the success of apprenticeships in Cumbria.

As these, and other sectors, continue to grow, the number and type of jobs in Cumbria are likely to outstrip the projected workforce in terms of its size and skills levels.

As this happens, apprenticeships will be crucial to meeting current and future employer needs.

Our employers and skills providers are working together to ensure the range of apprenticeships available matches this change, and this evolution can be seen through the development of higher and degree level apprenticeships.

We now have an established Employment and Skills Advisory Group, bringing employers and education and training providers together to drive the skills agenda in the county forward.

Cumbria LEP aims to help the county upskill the local population by attaining a 20 per cent increase in apprenticeships by 2020, as well as getting thousands more of the working age population qualified up to level four and above.

We are determined to work with employers and our vibrant skills sector to deliver high-quality apprenticeship provision and achieve further growth in this respect, so employers can recruit locally trained people with the right skill sets.