Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills Robert Halfon MP visited City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy, having been invited by Karin Smyth MP. The purpose of the visit was to find out more about the unique skills challenges facing young people in the Bristol South constituency.
The Minister, who is responsible for apprenticeships, further education, post 16 funding, careers education, information and guidance and adult education, was shown around the College’s south Bristol campus by the College Principal and Chief Executive Lee Probert and Karin Smyth MP. During the visit he met and spoke to college apprentices and local employers to discuss their experiences.
The Minister said that he is “passionate about the sector and meeting apprentices, employers and colleges to hear directly from them what’s working and what isn’t because that’s the best way to understand what needs improving”.
The Minister got highly engaged in a round table conversation with employers who work in partnership with City of Bristol College to deliver apprenticeships. Employers including Airbus, Just Contact and Jeff Way Electrics discussed with the Minister unique challenges of training young people in south Bristol.
“It is important we work together to improve the number of apprentices employed in Bristol South, both by local small and medium-sized enterprises and by large firms located elsewhere in the west country. Fewer young people living in Bristol South go to university than from any other UK constituency, so other avenues are particularly important. The constituency is also home to some of the most deprived wards in the country, and Bristol South has hardly any large employers, the types of which offer apprenticeships on a large scale.” said Karin Smyth MP.
In addition, the Minister listened to and appreciated feedback regarding barriers in the apprenticeship recruitment process and poor quality of apprenticeship focused information, advice and guidance provided by some schools. Many apprentices raised an issue of apprenticeships being still largely perceived as a route for less academic pupils in the traditional industries of construction, hairdressing or catering; often pupils not being aware of higher level apprenticeships and other less traditional apprenticeship training opportunities in sectors such as marketing, telesales or administration.
Casey Abrams who is studying Apprenticeship Level 3 in Business Administration at City of Bristol College said: “Finishing my A Level studies at my sixth form centre, I really felt the pressure from my tutors to pursue the university route, but I always knew that I wanted to complete an apprenticeship. I am currently on target to complete my Business Administration Apprenticeship this year and I hope to progress to my Level 4 in my goal to become a Business Administration Assessor, with the support of the College. I have learnt so many skills from the people around me and feel I will always continually improve these skills, growing professionally and personally throughout my apprenticeship journey. I have enjoyed how practical the job has been and how I have been given responsibility and creativity over my own allocated jobs.”
The Minister was inspired by the feedback he received from apprentices “you get the training, the skills, the confidence, a real qualification but above all you get good jobs at the end of it. People who do apprenticeships say they have gained a lot more than others.”
City of Bristol College Principal and Chief Executive, Lee Probert commented: ‘’It was really great to welcome the Minister to our campus in south Bristol. He was genuinely engaged with our students and apprentices and saw first-hand the breadth and scale of what’s on offer at just one of our four campuses. I’m sure he will use the evidence of his visit and the real-life testimonies of our apprentices to shape the government’s policies supporting this important route to employment. With Karin’s support he’s also really clear of the importance of ensuring we continue to have ready access to this provision across the city and in particular in south Bristol supporting progression to higher levels of learning.’’
The Minister concluded his visit by stating: “I am here because of Karin. It is my favourite part of the job, talking to apprentices and crucial to my role to find out what’s happening on the ground. Thank you to City of Bristol College for welcoming me and to the apprentices and employers for sparing their time to come to meet me.”