Call for conference to agree steps to tackle Cumbria’s ‘graduate exodus’

Cumbria County Council is being called on to hold a special conference to discuss and agree measures to provide more opportunities for the majority of Cumbrian university graduates who never return to the county after completing their higher education studies.

The conference is the idea of councillor James Airey, the Conservative group leader on Cumbria County Council and follows studies produced by the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership showing that, of the 1,850 young Cumbrians who attend university each year, most do not return to the county.

Councillor James Airey said: “We desperately need to address why so many of our brilliant young people feel they need to leave Cumbria to find employment after they have graduated or finished their training.

“There are lots of varied businesses and employers here in Cumbria, but many young people feel the need to move away to start careers and build a life.

“One of the big reasons is pay. While wages across the UK are rising at their fastest pace in nearly 10 years, in places like South Lakeland average pay-packets continue to lag behind the rest of the nation.

“Securing investment in new infrastructure for our area is a vital ingredient to supporting our local economy to deliver the pay rise South Lakeland needs, boosting wages and encouraging more young people to stay and build a career closer to home. The decision by our local councils in 2016 to walk away from a £300 million devolution deal for our area was a classic example of narrow political self-interests holding sway over the public’s interests.

“Our local political leaders should not be afraid to put party labels to one side and pull together to attract more high value manufacturing jobs and support the conditions needed to encourage creative and digital industries, environmental technologies, and medical life sciences employment to our area.

“A special conference would be an opportunity for the county council to get industry leaders, young people and council policymakers together to look at what can be done in both the public and private sector to encourage young people to stay in Cumbria and build their career.”