OPINION: Karin Smyth MP on post-16 opportunities for young people in Bristol South

(Newspaper column as seen in the South Bristol Voice November 2019)

Every year, I work closely with City of Bristol College to put on a Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair in Bristol South. And every year, I chat to young people keen to pursue a career in construction. When there is significant house-building in Bristol South, it makes sense to link these two elements.

We need skilled construction workers to build these houses. We need decent job and training opportunities for local people. Now, the two have come together with plans for a new Advanced Construction Skills Centre at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove.

Following the Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair in February, I spent time looking at the artist’s impressions on display at the City of Bristol College. It’s something I’ve long supported. Seeing a similar centre at Weston College earlier this year brought home to me just how valuable the Construction Skills Centre will be to people in Bristol South.

After meeting with the minister and regional authority in support of the college’s bid for an Advanced Construction Skills Centre, I was delighted to learn that the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership is investing £6 million to help make this happen. Planning permission has now been granted and work is due to start in the New Year. The centre itself will be in the heart of some of the city’s house building programme in Hengrove. An impressive 3,500m2 building, it will house state-of-the-art training facilities.

Due to open in September 2021, the centre will offer training during the first three years to 850 students enrolled on a range of courses, from apprenticeships (including Higher Apprenticeships) to university courses and vocational training for employees.

Closer links between City of Bristol College and the University of the West of England opens up opportunities for students to gain degree-level qualifications in Bristol South. This is particularly important as Bristol South remains at the bottom of the table when it comes to percentage of 18-year-olds going onto university – with just 16% of school leavers making that move into higher education.

The centre will provide a range of vocational courses for young people as well as career development for people already in the construction sector who might be looking for more senior roles. It is this breadth of provision which allows each person to find the pathway which best suits them.