Cumbria, like many counties, is facing acute skills shortages across many parts of the economy.

Whether it’s construction, green skills, hospitality or care, there aren’t enough young people entering the workforce and of those that do many are lacking the essential skills and abilities needed to do the job. Why?

It’s a complicated picture and one that covers everything from policy decisions to curriculum and individual skills, but work experience has long been held as a way to introduce young people to the world of work, the many different jobs available and a way to teach them some of the key essential skills that employers need.

But the availability of work experiences has been in decline despite young people valuing it as a way to build useful skills and experience.

During National Careers Week, the Careers and Enterprise Company published their analysis of careers education in England. Using the biggest data set on careers education available, their ‘Now and Next’ report 2022/23 outlines the huge progress made over the last five years in the provision of careers guidance and experiences of work.

It outlines many positives including career activity saving the Treasury over £150m per year due to a reduction in levels of young people who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET).

And employers seeing direct benefits from engaging in careers education, with 91 per cent of the most engaged saying it’s helping them develop new talent pipelines and attract young people into their industry.

Looking ahead it suggests ways to improve and tackle inequality and provision for young people with special educational needs. But with more teenagers across England having at least one employer ‘encounter’ do young people think that work experience is a good use of their time?

The annual Youth Voice Census found that seven out of ten agreed work experience helps them build useful skills, understand what it feels like to be at work, builds experience and helps them make choices about their future.

Yet despite this strong agreement, many hadn’t been offered work experience.

The results have led to calls from Youth Employment UK, who carried out the census, to “stop insisting young people aren’t work ready without rectifying the chronic under supply of work experience activities and supporting enrichment services”.