Hundreds of jobseekers met with employers and training providers at the South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair 2019, which has been dubbed the ‘best one yet’.
The fair, which took place at the City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove, was organised by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth in partnership with the college, Bristol City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Appealing not only to school leavers, but also adults looking to upskill or re-enter the workplace, the event gave people the chance to meet some of the city’s biggest employers, including Computershare, Babcock International and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, and even apply for jobs and apprenticeships on the day.
Many businesses were represented by young apprentices themselves, including Jeff Way Group, Bristol Port Company and Burges Salmon, where 19-year-old Gareth Parfitt talked to would be apprentices about his legal apprenticeship.
He said: “For me, university was a really expensive option, and I’d had enough of reading from a textbook day-in, day-out; I wanted something that was a lot more practical so I decided that an apprenticeship would work better for me. The practical side of it, coupled with the studies works really well – I go to university on a Monday and on a Tuesday, what I’ve learnt, I put straight into practice. If I pass all my exams, I should come out as a qualified solicitor without going into any debt at university and earning while I go.”
Organiser Karin Smyth, who has been MP for Bristol South since 2015, said: ”I started doing this because I was aware that, while a lot of things happen to support young people in apprenticeships and jobs around Bristol, most are located in North Bristol and South Gloucestershire. That’s important, but there wasn’t enough of a focus here in South Bristol. We know that we don’t send as many youngsters as we should do into higher education, we know that youngsters aren’t getting onto the apprenticeships that we know are there and we know there are good jobs to be had.
“We saw a lot of youngsters on their own and a lot coming in with their parents trying to make sense of the different opportunities that are around. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to start doing this because I think it’s a really confusing set of choices now for young people. You’ve got to put a lot of things together and we wanted to try and locate that in Bristol South and make sure that information is all available in one place.“
City of Bristol’s Principal Lee Probert said: “One of the most common themes is the extent to which people need really good quality advice to make the choice about what sort of apprenticeship that they undertake. We can make sure that, having had the excitement of being attracted to the health sector or engineering or whatever, we can then get them alongside someone who can find the right course and the package of support they need – including access to funding –and make it happen.
“We’ve had the largest number of employers ever for this event – around 100 – and we’ve seen in excess of a thousand people come through the doors this year. Employers have been capturing a list of individuals who are likely to be suitable to go into their work force. It doesn’t have the same pressure around having to prepare for a job interview, you can have a speculative interest in more than one sector, you can find out about a sector that you may not know about. Events such as this are critical in taking those barriers away.”
Bristol City Counci’s Employment Account Officer Chris Mitchell echoed this, saying: “These events are really good because they’re an informal way of deciding if you want to work for a particular employer and having done that, you can then work your way through their particular application process and then you find that you’ve already broken the ice with them.”
This is the third event of its kind in as many years and coincides with National Apprenticeship Week 2019. It is part of Karin Smyth’s ongoing focus on apprenticeships as a route to a quality career for people in Bristol South.
Joanna Dunlop, Apprenticeship Co-ordinator at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, had a stand at the event with members of various teams within the Trust. They took along their current job vacancy list and had an interview room where they conducted interviews with potential employees. She said: “I’ve done all 3 and this one has been the best yet. Really good breakdown of both college students pupils and a lot more walk in visitors – adults looking for jobs. Events such as these are a very important part of our recruitment and this is the only one which has this catchment in South Bristol, long may it last because it’s been brilliant.”
Mr Probert added: “This is a really important partnership event, it’s not the college’s or an employer’s, it’s spearheaded by Karin Smyth, who’s the MP for Bristol South, working with the city council, with the DWP and Job Centre Plus and without that sense of collaboration, we can’t penetrate communities in the way that we have today.”