Students, parents, carers, grandparents and individuals looking for work headed to the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove on Thursday 27 February for the only event of its type in Bristol South.
The South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair was set up by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and City of Bristol College in 2017 to help local people access a full range of jobs and apprenticeships opportunities. Now in its fourth year, it builds on previous work by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Bristol City Council, and remains the only event of its type in South Bristol.
More than 60 stallholders from businesses, training providers and other employment support organisations were on hand with information and careers advice for the 800+ visitors. Some stalls included apprentices who had found their role at previous fairs. They returned to share their experiences of apprenticeships and encourage other people to become apprentices.
City of Bristol College Principal Andy Forbes and Karin talked to stallholders and visitors about what they were hoping to achieve from the fair. Local families found out about the options available and signed up for apprenticeships and courses. Many employers took people’s CVs and contact details and expect to recruit people from this.
Speaking after the event, Karin said: “I’ve had a fantastic day talking to so many people – young people and older people looking for a job, looking for apprenticeships. We want to make apprenticeships more attractive, to help people understand how you get onto them and give people access to the jobs and training that they need. What’s really lovely is we’ve talked to people who came to last year’s fair and they’re back here this year with a job encouraging new apprentices to come forward. ”
Ricky-Jay Jones, 19, from Withywood, is now an IT Apprentice with Fowlers Motorbikes thanks to registering for an apprenticeship at last year’s fair. He said: “I got my apprenticeship at the fair last year. The best thing about it is that I’m learning a lot of new things and I’m learning to get on with a lot of people. It’s building my confidence up and it’s helped me get to know more about IT than before. I’m hoping to try and stay on with Fowlers when my apprenticeship finishes.”
Chris Mitchell, who works for Bristol City Council and helps organise the event, said: “Today has been fantastic. We’ve had very happy employers and very happy people who we’ve encouraged to come here. It’s been the biggest and best event we’ve done here and, by working together, we’ve brought together a great range of employers and people.
“It’s vital for people here in Bristol South; because if anyone is a bit unsure about themselves, it’s much easier for them to talk to an employer at this sort of event. They’ve still got to apply for the jobs in the usual way but because they’ve actually broken the ice with the employer and they’ve decided, after talking to this employer, ‘yes, I’m going to work for you’, it makes the world of difference.”
Mike Gregory, was manning the HMRC stall and recruiting for a range of jobs and apprenticeship opportunities. Originally from Knowle West, he commented on how brilliant this event was for local people.
He said: “We’ve seen lots of people from students at the college to people who’ve been made redundant and are looking for new work, for retired people who want to get back into the workplace; a massive range, it’s been brilliant. Events like these are essential for Bristol South. Growing up in the area, I didn’t find that there was anything going on. Becoming an adult, looking for work in the area I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t have any help; but with stuff like this there’s advice and a face-to-face interaction that makes people feel much more confident in going for a role. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
City of Bristol College Principal Andy Forbes said: “It’s my first fair, since I’ve only just joined the college as Principal but I’ve been really impressed with the size, the scale and the energy in the event. We’ve seen a really good mix of people coming through the door – parents, youngsters, our own students. It’s such an important event for Bristol South and Karin has been such so helpful in getting this organised, it’s been a great partnership. She is such a champion for South Bristol.”
Karin added: “It’s been great to work with Andy and the team at City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions on this important event. We’re already starting to think about next year’s fair and hope to be able to help even more people take their first, or next, step in their career.”
The fair comes just weeks after Andy and Karin celebrated the start of work on the new Advanced Construction Skills Centre at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove. The Advanced Construction Skills Centre, due to open in September 2021, will help train the next generation of construction workers and will open up opportunities for young people in Bristol South.