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Dream Placement Student, Ebony Ritchie: So, you want to help young people in Cumbria during COVID-19?

Whether you’re an employer, teacher, parent or carer, it sometimes feels difficult to try and navigate exactly how to help the young people of Cumbria, especially given the challenges we have faced in the past year and continue to face. As a 17-year-old who grew up in Cumbria, I know exactly what it’s like trying to gain skills and experiences in a COVID world, and what we want to achieve from these experiences.

Businesses and employers:

In times like these it is vital to continue to support young people, as Cumbrian business has done extremely well in the past. We are nervous about what the future holds for us and the pandemic is hindering a lot of people's choices. In my personal experience, the path that I had planned for years has become even more difficult to follow and I have had to make a lot of significant changes.

So, stress is coming naturally to most young people. How can you help? The main thing I could suggest is to try and offer as many opportunities as you can. A lot of businesses are now remote, so why not try and offer a chance for someone to come and learn about your business via Zoom/Microsoft teams, or get young people to assist in current projects, even if it is just letting us have a small input? We can add experiences like this to CVs, applications and personal statements that can help us get ahead. And for you, it’s a chance to get a young person's perspective on your work; we are the future, and our ideas can give you a fresh look on how business can start adapting to this future.

Advancing your social media presence could also make a huge difference, for some young people it is quite nerve-racking to reach out and ask if your business is offering anything that could help them, but if they can see your business is actively interacting and engaging with young people on a platform that we feel most comfortable using, it will let us see that you want to get us involved with your company.

If you own a business or are an employer, Cumbria LEP and the Cumbria Careers Hub have some great programmes that you can get involved in to help young people.


Last March, when students found out they were getting a few weeks off school it sounded great! But now our school experience has been affected for almost a full year and many of us are beginning to feel much more panic as we are applying to universities, colleges and apprenticeships while not even having a full year of education behind us. The “Imposter Syndrome” starts to kick in as we try and write personal statements for applications, but we realise we can’t talk in detail about our school experience as we missed out on exactly that.

How can people in education help? Give your students as much support as you can. While the pandemic has been ongoing, at any point when a teacher sent me an email with an opportunity, whether it’s work experience, apprenticeship applications, or open days, it made me excited as it gave me a sense of normality; I could continue to build up my experience even if I couldn’t visit the providers in person, and it gave me a feeling that life was moving forwards at a time when every day was starting to feel the same.

Another point I could recommend is keeping students involved in some of your decisions, ask them if the workload was too much, was the work easy? Did you struggle with anything? Most students won’t tell you this unless prompted as they want to seem like they are keeping it together, but most of us aren’t! It may be the gloomy February weather, or simply being in another lockdown, but work is feeling a lot more frustrating, so giving students the chance to make comments and get their own input into the work could make a huge difference for some of us.

If you work in education, Cumbria Opportunities is great for understanding the vacancies that exist, and Cumbria Careers Hub will allow you to understand the labour market and progression opportunities, and develop projects that will support young people to understand the range of careers and experiences available.

The main point I want to make is that young people right now are feeling extremely lost. As a lot of you understand, no one knows what the future looks like and this is even more scary when you are at the age where you are deciding what you want to do in the future. If this was a normal year, we would have had the opportunity to visit businesses, join events and build up our skills which could help us decide on which path we want to take, but unfortunately this isn’t the case this year. If your business has the possibility to invite a young person why not start advertising on social media? And educators, keep looking for these opportunities as it is likely you will find out about them before the students, and I know you will make a student's day by letting them know there is a chance for them to build up their skills! The future is bright for young people, but we need your help in getting there.

If you are an employer or an educator who would like to get involved in helping young people shape their future careers, please get in touch with Cumbria Careers Hub Enterprise Co-ordinator Ali Beard on 07767 902676 – e-mail:

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