ON THURSDAY morning I cut the ribbon and officially opened my Jobs and Skills Conference. I am astonished but delighted to tell you that nearly 3,500 people attended.

Last year when we ran the event at Furness College, we had about 300 attendees and considered that to be a success. But to reach the footfall we did this year was remarkable. Thank you to everyone whose hard work helped to make this happen. 

The event included more than 50 exhibitors from big local employers like Spirit Energy, Kimberly Clark and BAE, skills providers like Furness and Kendal College, and the University of Cumbria, as well as volunteer organisations. They provided job seekers and students the opportunity to see the vast range of options available in the area – from tourism, hospitality, energy generation through to our fantastic bastions of the local community, such as Furness Building Society.

Some who attended were actually offered jobs on the day, or were interviewed there and then, and others heard talks and participated in seminars across both of our venues, namely the Forum and Holiday Inn Express.

To be able to offer all of this free to any local person was brilliant. So many organisations supported to enable this to happen, not least my amazing team. Thank yous should go first to DWP and Inspira for working in partnership with my team to pull this together, also to the venues for hosting us so generously, to the exhibitors for supporting the event, and also to our primary sponsors, Carlton Power, MSH Healthcare, CLEP, Stagecoach, Spirit Energy, and Associated British Ports, who enabled us to run buses through the day to 10 local schools, letting us show young people the diversity of options available to them. Thank you too to everyone who ran a workshop, gave a talk, lent support and volunteered, brought students over, and to all who attended. You were the ones who made this day the success that it was.

Quite separately, it has been a busy week about the constituency. On Tuesday I dropped in to the Olde Mill at Bardsea to speak to Furness' farmers about some of the work being done locally to create new homes, invest in our roads and rail, and create new job opportunities through Team Barrow.  I also visited Furness College during College Week to meet the new Principal and to discuss aspirations for the future and their role in offering pathways to people into sectors such as catering, hospitality, and tourism.

As always, my surgeries this week were busy, with topics ranging from Council tax, support for small businesses; to the barbaric act of terrorism against Israel by Hamas being raised. I have also continued my work as Rural Connectivity Champion, reaching out to constituents on the subjects of mobile coverage and access to gigabit broadband to inform my work with the civil service.

As you see, it has been a really busy week – but it’s been phenomenally interesting.  So it’s with a degree of reluctance that I return to Westminster on Monday. However, I shall be taking with me the messages from the last few weeks, raising them with Ministers and other decision makers, in order to fight the corner of those of you whom I consider myself truly fortunate to represent.