The statistics speak for themselves. Cumbria is facing a 20,000 gap in workers in the coming decade or so – a figure that does not take in to account any extra growth in jobs.

The gap needs to be urgently filled, partly by attracting people to the county, and partly by encouraging young people to stay, if Cumbria is to remain economically viable.

It is, without question, the biggest threat facing the county.

The problem is exacerbated because Cumbria is haemorrhaging young people. 

After finishing school or college, many fly off to university elsewhere in the UK, typically cities such as Newcastle or Manchester, never to return.

Quite a lot come back after finishing university, but only for six months or so, before, they again fly out of the county, we can only deduce, to find a job.

The newly-launched Cumbria Careers Hub aims to tackle this increasingly serious challenge by improving careers education across the county.

Having heard the passion and commitment of those gathered at the launch to make the careers hub work, I have no doubt it will be a success.

Put simply, it has to be.

Of course, young people should have the opportunity to spread their wings. That is only natural. But so many want to stay in the county, or return, to be closer to family and friends while not feeling like they are in some way being held back when it comes to their careers. At present it feels like many are deciding to leave Cumbria when they don’t necessarily have to.

There was one comment, right at the end of the launch, which struck a chord with me, and others, in the room.

What can, or is being, done to let young people in Carlisle know about career opportunities in Barrow, and vice versa? Are we letting those in South Lakeland know about what is going on in West Cumbria?

Young people, schools, colleges and employers can all be guilty of focusing on what is on their doorstep.

But if young people don’t see the career opportunities there, they will naturally look elsewhere. Rather than lose them completely, can’t we encourage them to stay in Cumbria by helping to broaden their understanding, and horizons?

For me, this should be a top priority for the Cumbria Careers Hub.

I have had numerous, quite depressing, encounters with students in Cumbria who, have clearly been unaware of what is happening either further down the road, or over a mountain or two.

In Carlisle a young lad excitedly told me his love of physics and his ambition to, after securing a degree, work in a role where he could apply what he had learned.

When I asked if he’d stay in Cumbria, his shoulders slumped. “They’ll be nothing for me here, I’ll have to go somewhere like Newcastle to get a job.”

To him Sellafield, or the wider West Cumbrian nuclear industry hadn’t even entered his mind before I raised it (and I’m sure there are many others that could do with a keen physics graduate in Cumbria).  It may as well have been a different world and not what is a relatively straight forward drive down the coast. 

In a similar vein, I was excited to meet a student in Barrow who told me she was learning Japanese.

For me the world, and Cumbria, were her oyster. Thousands of Japanese visitors flock to The Lake District each year and Cumbria, more widely, is welcoming more Japanese businesspeople than ever looking to forge new and build on existing trade links. I know so many hotels, tourism attractions and businesses crying out for translators. An open goal surely?

Where did her future lie? “I’ll have to go somewhere else, there’s nothing here for me even though I want to stay”.

I could have cried.

I admit I am not as immersed in this as others (I am merely throwing my experience out there), and there are so many organisations out there doing great things: the Centre for Leadership Performance and its Dream Placement scheme, Inspira and the fantastic Enterprise Adviser Network, to name a few.

But Cumbria is clearly missing a huge opportunity if young people aren’t given the fullest picture possible, and the most compelling case possible, to stay here to realise their career and lifestyle ambitions.

If that means a young Barrovian moving to Carlisle or a Kendalian moving to Whitehaven, so be it. Sometimes being insular isn’t a bad thing.

We cannot underestimate the power of what Cumbria has to offer young people when it comes to careers.

But we really need to be telling them an all-encompassing Cumbrian story.