Colleges Week SME Leader Survey text


Small Businesses Call for Urgent Action on Skills

At Bath College we were not surprised to hear small business leaders calling for urgent action on skills. We work with hundreds of businesses, large and small across Bath and North East Somerset and the wider West of England region and we understand the challenges they face.

Carole StottThis recent national survey of small business leaders conducted by Opinum reveals that more than half (53%) say that COVID-19 is now their key concern. More than two in five (44%) say that the skills gap in their sector is likely to increase because of threats such as COVID-19, and 54% believe that they are going to need to train their workforce to adapt to the opportunities and threats thrown up by the virus. 45% believe that it will become even more difficult to hire people with the right skills once the Brexit transition period has ended, and that the country’s skills gap will only get worse (44%). Seven out of ten businesses surveyed believe in the importance of colleges to tackle this.

Developing the skills of their present workforce and providing young people and adult career changers with the skills and talents that will help businesses to be more productive and succeed, is what we do. With more investment we can do more and alongside business organisations we are calling on government to invest and create a more flexible and agile skills system that helps us to be even more responsive to local business needs.

If you live in BANES then Bath is your college. We stand ready to do all we can to support our community: young people, adults, businesses, to gain the skills and talents they will need to succeed and thrive. Contact us if you think we could help you or your business. This week Bath College and colleges throughout England celebrate Colleges Week. If you agree that colleges and skills need more investment and support then write to your MP or take to social media using #LoveOurColleges #CollegesWeek

– Carole Stott
Chair of Governors, Bath College





Association of Colleges (AoC) has published its latest bi-annual research showing the majority (68%) of SMEs say that if their business is going to “survive and thrive” then skills must be a top priority for the government.

Despite recent high-profile skills speeches and announcements, almost 40% of SME decision-makers say that it is more difficult now than it was five years ago to find employees with the right skills, and 53% still do not think that enough is being done to help them skill and reskill their workforce as we get closer to the end of the Brexit transition period.

Almost one in two (45%) believe that it will become even more difficult to hire people with the right skills once the Brexit transition period has ended, and that the country’s skills gap will only get worse (44%).

The national survey of SME leaders – conducted by Opinum – also shows that the impact of Brexit is no longer the biggest worry for businesses – more than half (53%) saying that COVID-19 is now their key concern. More than two in five (44%) say that the skills gap in their sector is likely to increase because of threats such as COVID-19, and 54% believe that they are going to need to train their workforce to adapt to the opportunities and threats thrown up by the virus.

The study, released to mark Colleges Week (19 – 23 October), shows that seven in 10 (71%) believe colleges are important to business for training and retraining staff. As a business, 39% say they would look to train, retrain or upskill their employees through colleges, compared to 21% who would turn to a university or 13% online courses. A further 44% believe colleges are best placed to skill their future workforce, compared to universities (22%) and schools (21%).

Further evidence of the importance of colleges to the UK’s future workforce shows around six in 10 (59%) say that it is important that their business has staff with Level 3 qualifications, all of which can be gained at college.

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges said:

“The economic recovery has to be skills-led if we are to support businesses and people through this pandemic. It is only through training and retraining that we will be able to make sure that people have the skills they need to keep their jobs and to apply for new ones, and that businesses have the employees they need. Both will allow the country to grow back better.

Skills gaps did not emerge in this pandemic, they are long standing challenges which have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the UK nearing the end of the Brexit transition period. Government has rightly expressed its commitment to prioritising skills, but now we need the investment to flow quickly to the right people and places. People and businesses need skills and training as an urgent priority if they are going to survive the coming months, and thrive in the coming years.

Colleges in every part of the country provide first-rate education and skills, working on average with more than 750 businesses in their local community, skilling, and reskilling business staff, helping them to overcome the problems of today and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. Colleges already do so much to support business and they stand ready to do so much more.”

Joe Fitzsimons, Senior Policy Advisor, Institute of Directors said:

“Skills are fundamental to business, and the coronavirus outbreak has only made this clearer. However, the pandemic has also put further pressure on a training system that was already in need of an upgrade. For many firms, with uncertain cashflow, it’s proving challenging to invest further in training staff. Business leaders are ready to work with the education sector and government to ensure we can address crucial skills gaps in the months and years ahead, and the UK’s colleges will undoubtedly be a key piece of the puzzle.”

British Chambers of Commerce, Head of People Policy, Jane Gratton said:

“To remain competitive in a global business environment, employers will need to invest in upskilling and reskilling people at all levels in the workforce. Business communities will want to see greater priority from the government on further education, digital and technical skills and creating a skills system that is more agile and responsive to their training needs. Colleges are key to boosting skills levels in local business communities across the country.”

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Student Community Partnership shows continued commitment to protecting community with Covid-19 safety reminder


Bath’s Student Community Partnership has sent thousands of students living in the city a ‘Protecting our community together’ Covid-19 flyer.


The flyer, part of the partnership’s commitment to stopping the spread of coronavirus in Bath, follows a joint open letter to students last month from the universities and their students’ unions.
Delivered to areas with large student populations, the flyer reminds recipients of the importance of following safety measures put in place by both universities and colleges to protect the health of everyone.
The flyer was produced by the Student Community Partnership (SCP) – a body representing Bath Spa University and its Students’ Union, the University of Bath and its Students’ Union, Bath College and its Students’ Union, Norland College, and Bath and North East Somerset Council.
It complements existing measures that are in place at all university and college campuses in Bath to limit the spread of infection, and to ensure they remain Covid-secure for students, staff and the wider community.
Safety measures include social distancing; use of face coverings; increased sanitation points; a mix of face-to-face and online learning; frequent email reminders of Government rules; reducing numbers on public transport and on campuses; using one-way routes and maximum occupancy restrictions; and creating Covid-compliant study and recreation spaces throughout the city.
The NHS Covid-19 app is now in operation across campuses, and students and staff have been asked to download it, and scan into buildings each time they enter.
All students have been provided with clear instructions on what to do if a member of their household develops symptoms of Covid-19. This includes the entire household going into isolation and reporting it to their respective university or college immediately.
Plans are also in place to support students who are self-isolating and can’t leave their home. This includes helping provide food and other essential items along with wellbeing and mental health support.
Furthermore, Bath Spa University is encouraging students and staff to commit to the Bath Spa Community Pledge which reinforces the University’s core values and reminds everyone to act respectfully and be compassionate citizens.
At Norland College, any breach of its risk mitigation measures will also be considered a breach of the Norland Code of Professional Responsibilities.
Both universities and colleges have made extensive Local Outbreak Management plans which detail the procedures they will follow in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak. To see this, and to find out more about Bath Spa University’s Covid-19 advice and to read its FAQs visit www.bathspa.ac.uk/about-us/covid-19-advice.
To find out more about the University of Bath’s Covid-19 advice visit www.bath.ac.uk/topics/coronavirus-covid-19.
To find out more about Bath College’s Covid-19 measures visit https://www.bathcollege.ac.uk/news/84327
To find out more about Norland College’s Covid-19 measures and advice visit www.norland.ac.uk/coronavirus-response.
Any residents with local community concerns are advised to contact the SCP using the details found on its website: www.scpbath.org.uk/contact-us or phone 01225 383419.


Apprenticeship Minister to launch West of England Institute of Technology

Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, will be ‘virtually’ opening the West of England Institute of Technology (WEIoT) on Thursday (8th October).


The official WEIoT launch will be a virtual event, which brings together all the education institutions and employers that have been involved bringing it to its fruition.
In 2019 the first Institutes of Technology (IoT) were selected through a government-led competition and 12 were awarded – the WEIoT was one of these.
The WEIoT is a consortium of education providers and key employers across the West of England. It has been led by Weston College and includes the University of the West of England, Bath College, Gloucestershire College, and Yeovil College as well as a network of key local employers, including; GKN Aerospace, Airbus, GE Aviation, Renishaw, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust, St Monica Trust, Jisc, Mayden Academy, National Composites Centre (NCC), North Somerset Council, Leonardo, Rolls Royce and Bamboo Technology.
Speaking ahead of her visit, the Apprenticeships Minister said: “I’m looking forward to launching the West of England Institute of Technology and speaking to some of the employers, including GKN Aerospace Services Limited, Mayden Academy and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, who have worked so hard to bring it to life.
“Institutes of Technology will be the pinnacle of technical training, offering higher technical STEM education and training in key sectors, such as advanced manufacturing and engineering, construction and infrastructure, and digital which will be even more important as we build back better from the pandemic. By collaborating with businesses, IoTs can deliver the technical knowledge and practical workplace skills employers are demanding – like nowhere else.
“I’m excited to speak to students and staff about the opportunities the IoT will offer them and the wider benefits it will have for the wider community.”
Laurel Penrose, Principal and Chief Executive of Bath College, commented: “Bath College is delighted to be part of this ground breaking initiative. The opportunities this will bring to our students through the collaboration with employers and fellow Colleges and university is significant as it brings together the expertise of industry, state of the art resources and strength and depth of Further Education skills delivery. This will be of huge benefit to Bath and North East Somerset, as well as the whole wider region.”

Dr Paul Phillips CBE, Principal and Chief Executive of the Weston College Group, commented: “We are thrilled to be launching the WEIoT, and to welcome the Minister to witness the investment that this initiative is bringing. The WEIoT will significantly influence skills development and innovation on both a regional and national basis and the WEIoT strength is working collaboratively with other institutes and employers.”
In December 2019, the consortium appointed Claire Arbery as the Director of the WEIoT. Claire has been pivotal to the mobilisation of the project, Claire commented on the importance of the investment for the area: “The WEIoT funding has created opportunities for the educational partners to invest in cutting edge technology to provide their learners and employers with facilities to drive forward the developments needed to help build recovery. The focus on technical skills and education offered by the collaborative approach will bring wider benefits and the IoT will be able to support learners who may not have thought that higher level skills training was for them using our digital connectivity to its full potential.”

The West of England Combined Authority has also contributed £500.000 towards the project, and this funding has been used to support the digital capability toolkit for the WEIoT, so that all FE partners can be upskilled to deliver digital lessons.



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