A celebratory dinner was held to mark the 10th annual skills fair in the city.

Invited to the event at The Auctioneer on January 18 were representatives from various businesses and organisations, including Inspira, Barclays, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, pladis, and many more.

It was hosted by John Stevenson, the MP for Carlisle, who has been the lead on the skills fair since its inception.

Two young people who benefitted from the skills fir gave speeches.

Joe Farley-Graham, who works at Inspira doing admin support, said he attended the fair in 2020, having no idea what he wanted to do after college, where he was studying business in Carlisle.

He said the skills fair helped him widen the scope of sectors available to him.

During Covid, he applied for a six-month temporary customer support operator role at Inspira, and now he has been there for nearly three years, working from the Carlisle office.

He concluded in his speech: “Three years ago, I never would have thought I’d be where I am right now.

“I’d highly recommend everybody to attend the skills fair.”

News and Star: Left to right: Bethany Duffy, John Stevenson, Joe Farley-GrahamLeft to right: Bethany Duffy, John Stevenson, Joe Farley-Graham (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

Bethany Duffy, who works at global accounting firm Grant Thornton, said: “In August 2018 I started my career at Grant Thornton in the Carlisle office in public sector audit on the school leaver programme.

“Fast forward over five years and I have completed my AAT qualification and my ACA qualification making me a qualified chartered accountant, having been paid a competitive salary throughout and with no student debt.

“Looking back, joining Grant Thornton was one of the best decisions I have ever made and for that I have John Stevenson and the Carlisle Skills Fair to thank.”

Mr Stevenson spoke on making Carlisle the capital of the Borderlands region, and on where we are on achieving that change from being the ‘border city’ to the ‘capital’.

He said: “I think it's a massive change, not just a physical change, it's a psychological one, it's a cultural one.

“It's a feeling that we used to be a border city, which is sort of frontiermanship.

“Now, we are more of a regional capital. We are significant, not just for the people of Carlisle, but to the wider region.

“That's why the university is important. The railway station is important, making it a place for socialising is absolutely vital.

“I think Carlisle's fulfilling that role now.”

The skills fair takes place on January 25, 2024, at Carlisle College.