Business coach Ray McCreadie discusses his work with Cumbria Chamber of Commerce to give young workers the right skills for the job

He says: "The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit has highlighted the

importance of employability skills to employers, particularly resilience and adaptability. There have been fewer opportunities for work experience during the pandemic and more generally to build employability skills within education. Concerns have also been raised about the lack of soft skills university graduates possess which results in the business needing to upskill and mentor new employees.

Post-Brexit Cumbria has lost much of its European workforce which has been vital to the visitor economy. On top of that the issues have been exacerbated by workers leaving the visitor economy during Covid lockdowns and finding other employment. Many have not returned. There has also been a knock-on effect within other sectors of the economy such as social care.

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce have been chosen by the Government as one of eight employer representative bodies across England to pilot a trailblazing employer-led skills approach to workforce development. The aim of the initiative is to ensure that employers are at the heart of the post-16 skills setting agenda, driving technical and other high-level skills provision for their areas.

The main outputs for SMEs from the workforce development service offered by the Chamber are:

• To assist companies with their people development planning and align these needs to a costed funding programme in line with their own overall business plans and financial forecasts.

• To undertake training needs analysis exercises, produce training plans and provide budgets and, ideally, embed this skill identification process into the business.

• To help businesses to identify and locate relevant training and development providers, which may be funded or paid for by the


• To bring together groups of businesses to enable sufficient cohort sizes / cost effective delivery, and where appropriate arrange bespoke delivery

• To engage with training providers to ensure they are aware of the skills gap identified by the local business community and better understand what options they can deliver.

• To support activities to raise awareness and understanding of what training providers can offer to the local business community

The strategic context and underpinning rationale of the Workforce Development service will focus on a set of chosen sectors that are a highly representative sample of businesses in Cumbria that encompass a range of industries, geographies, size, demographics, business activity, range of employers, employment types, occupations, levels of educational achievement etc

Each sector is critical to the economic well-being of the county, is highly dependent on the skills of its workforce and require both sector specific skills as well as a range of cross-cutting skills, which are common to each sector.

These sectors are:

• Visitor Economy – representing accommodation providers, visitor attractions, food and drink providers, culture and heritage venues and the retail sector.

• Land-Based Economy – broken down into three separate segments for the purposes of this work; farming enterprises,

forestry / woodland, and nature recovery, each of which are inextricably linked.

• Social Care – encompassing residential care, nursing care, domiciliary care, and other ancillary services.

• Manufacturing – by far the most diverse sector, this covers an extremely wide range of activities, the large bulk of employers (90%) being in the micro to small size range. There are also a small number of medium / large and a small number of highly significant manufacturers, each of which employ a large workforce and make a significant contribution to the economy of Cumbria.

• Energy – based primarily in West Cumbria, this sector covers nuclear, wind power and other renewable technologies, as well as ancillary services, which cross over into manufacturing and other services.

• Built Economy – covering all construction types including major housebuilding, general and commercial construction, and fabrication as well as services such as groundworks, utility services and professional services. "