Record number of jobseekers attend South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair 2019

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.” 

Bristol apprentices speak about their journeys ahead of South Bristol Apprenticeships Fair

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has organised another apprenticeships fair. In partnership with City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, the South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair 2019 will take place from 11am – 3pm on Thursday 28 February at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove.

The event is free to attend and you’ll be able to find out more about the apprenticeships on offer in Bristol and beyond, support and training available and be able to chat to apprentices themselves. Here, we speak with Bristol apprentices about their apprenticeship stories…

‘A boy from Bristol with a dream’ 

Carl Bembridge, 25, from Speedwell, Bristol, celebrity hair stylist and wig-maker 

After leaving school, Carl started a hair styling apprenticeship at City of Bristol College – working in Cohesion salon in St George with a day a week at college. He now divides his time between the Bristol salon and celebrity events and shoots across the world, including Love Island stars. 

Carl, who describes himself as ‘a boy from Bristol with a dream’, says: “I always knew I wanted to work with hair. I loved hair from a young age, especially long hair. I didn’t know how to get there but after doing work experience at Cohesion I learned about apprenticeships and then I found out more at college events (like the apprenticeships fair). 

“I chose the apprenticeship because there was more practical and actual salon time, so I learnt a lot more about the environment. I looked forward to college and seeing my friends once a week – it wasn’t too much and it was never going to get boring; and I was earning money, which was new to me and a change from school. 

“Secondary school was hard. I was picked on for wanting to do hair. When I chose Cohesion for my work experience other boy students found out and called me names, but I’m so glad I carried on. Since I finished my apprenticeship, I went on to win numerous competitions – including Hairdresser of the Year 2015. I now work with celebrities, travelling all over the world to style hair for photoshoots for magazines like Hello and events such as London Fashion Week.  

“Becoming a celebrity hairstylist known for my hair skills is amazing. I’ve got to work with TV stars from Keeping Up With The Kardashians and was taught how to make my famous wigs by Kylie Jenner’s wigmaker Tokyo Stylez. I’m going to keep setting myself goals to become more well-known and to become my own brand. There are no limits. 

“I was always driven and knew what I wanted to do but I’m really glad I did the apprenticeship because it was one day at college and the rest of the week was working life, like real-life working earning money and building my clients. In my industry, apprenticeships are great for building yourself as the stylist you want to be. I’d definitely recommend apprenticeships.” 

‘Apprenticeships – not just for school leavers’ 

Jacob Kulig, 32, from Henleazean apprentice with a Bristol global logistics and freight company 

When university graduate Jacob was looking for a meaningful career, he turned his attention to apprenticeships. 

The 32-year-old joined Expeditors International shipping and logistics company in Avonmouth as an Apprentice Air Export Agent in 2015. 

 His Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Level 2 apprenticeship has seen him progress from working on operations into finance and accounting, covering areas such as billing, invoicing, quoting and pricing. This is the direction he hopes to follow in his newly-forged career. 

“Returning to college gives me good boost of confidence,” explains Jacob, who graduated from Jagiellonian University in his home country of Poland in 2011. “That constant development is necessary for everyone. There are so many skills that may become helpful in a future career, and in life generally.  

“I am a university graduate, but some university programs are very generic or too abstract to provide a good start; whereas attending a professional course can equip you with the exact knowledge and skills which are essential for undertaking a specific job. 

“Combining work and studying is already a part of success. I am glad that I am passing exams and developing knowledge that matches with the matters dealt with at my workplace. 

“An apprenticeship will help you move from a standstill position. Even if you are already in a profession, an apprenticeship will set up you new insights and a different perspective and you will see that it was definitely worth it.”

Invitation: South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair 2019

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has teamed up with City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions for another Jobs and Apprenticeships fair.

The event, which takes place from 11am-3pm on Thursday 28 February at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove, will feature some of Bristol’s biggest employers looking to recruit apprentices and new staff – including some key south Bristol employers such as Babcock International and Robbins Timber.

“Post-16 options can be confusing and I wanted to help students and their parents to navigate this,” said Karin Smyth, who organised similar events in both 2018 and 2017. “Quality apprenticeships have such an important role to play in helping young people have decent careers without getting tens of thousands of pounds into debt in the process.

“Many of the stalls at the fair are run by apprentices themselves, so it’s a great opportunity to hear what it’s like from the people who know.”

Speaking at last year’s apprenticeships fair, Hargreaves Lansdown cyber security apprentice Amanda Rogers said: “I applied for apprenticeships in IT via the government website and was lucky enough to get this one. It’s really good, you learn and get a wage which is really beneficial. I’ll get a degree and there will be no debt. Hargreaves Lansdown are really supportive – if you need time off to do the work, they’ll allow you that. There are also so many opportunities for progression.”

Lee Probert, Principal and Chief Executive at City of Bristol College, said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent way to earn a wage whilst gaining the skills and experience needed for many careers. They are available at various levels including degree, offering first-hand experience and an alternative route to learning.”

The fair takes place ahead of National Apprenticeships Week (4-8 March 2019). The annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships celebrates the impact of apprenticeships on individuals, employers and the economy.

Alongside Karin Smyth and City of Bristol College, this year’s apprenticeships fair is being organised with Bristol City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Probert said: “We are pleased to be working in collaboration with Karin Smyth MP, Bristol City Council, the Department for Work and Pensions and other city partners to host this event and help our local communities to connect with a large number of employers with job vacancies, as well as to access many skills development routes available through college training and qualifications.”

The fair announcement comes as the latest UCAS figures show a further drop in the percentage of school leavers in Bristol South – from 16.2 percent in 2017 to 15.9 percent in 2018, compared to 31.4 percent nationally. In all other areas of Bristol the figure is significantly higher.

Karin said: “I’m working with schools and colleges to ensure that more young people in Bristol South have the opportunity to go to university; but I recognise that university isn’t the only route to a decent career which is why I’ll continue to focus on quality apprenticeships.”

Cllr Anna Keen, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Bristol City Council, added: “Apprenticeships are for anyone, not just for those at the start of their careers, and can be an excellent way to develop the skills and qualifications that businesses are looking for. We have some fantastic employers in the region offering high quality apprenticeships and they are encouraged to pay apprentices in line with their skills and experience, helping to make the city a fairer place to live and work.”