Home | News & Insights | 2020 | Bridging the skills gap. How do we inspire and motivate young people to explore a wider breadth of career options?

Bridging the skills gap. How do we inspire and motivate young people to explore a wider breadth of career options?


If we are to continue to retain and attract important and innovative employers to the region, we need to ensure we are able to home-grow a workforce that is suitably trained, as a pre-requisite. Access to a skilled workforce is one of the major factors attracting businesses to set up or remain in our region and yet recruitment, particularly within high growth sectors such as life sciences and digital, is one of the biggest challenges for businesses in the Cambridge economy, with more vacancies than suitably skilled applicants.

The issue, although exacerbated in Cambridge (which experiences a higher rate of vacancies and skills shortages than in other parts of England*), is not just a regional one. Research published by the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield in 2018 evidenced a national issue; 98,799 young people aged 18 in England (18% of school leavers) were leaving education with no substantive qualifications.

With that in mind, how do we motivate young people to consider a wider breadth of career path? How do we inspire them to believe that they are capable of a career they formerly would not have considered and are able to participate in the local economic success around them? Why are there more vacancies than applicants in our developed economy and what can we do in order to address the issue?

These questions are among those currently being asked by business and academic member organisation, Cambridge Ahead, who has commissioned RAND Europe to undertake research to understand current career guidance provision in schools across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The answers will help identify where issues may lie and what can be done to improve our young people’s education around the career options which are right for them and reflect the future needs of our growth industries.

Jane Paterson-Todd, CEO, Cambridge Ahead commented: “It is our belief that every young person should be given every opportunity to succeed and we all play a part in their success. Everyone has a talent and there are multiple routes to teasing this out, we can’t take a one size fits all approach. That is why this study is so important; understanding how well-informed young people are about the local workforce and the various routes into employment will allow us to understand what we can do, collectively, to ensure the right guidance and advice is available to them during their school years. We want to enable our young people to explore a diverse range of opportunities, which excite and motivate them towards career choices which are right for them.”

The research, which is still underway, has already elicited survey responses from 54 secondary schools (68% of all state schools) within the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority area. Further in-depth interviews are currently being carried out with career guidance providers.

The research is supported by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, the Greater Cambridge Partnership, Cambridge Regional College, One Nucleus and Cambridge Ahead members; Birketts LLP, Urban&Civic, Marshall of Cambridge, Arm Ltd, AstraZeneca, Anglia Ruskin University, Deloitte LLP and Mills & Reeve LLP.


*Skills demand in the Cambridge area: Attracting and retaining skills. RAND Europe, 2018


07548 832 833


Sarah Brereton, Director, Limewash
07796 583 223

; ;