The Principal of City of Bath College, Matt Atkinson, has been out and about in North East Somerset to share with businesses his plans for Norton Radstock after the two Colleges merge in April to provide the district with a single further education institution.
I heard him when he spoke impressively and enthusiastically to members of Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce, explaining his intention to run engineering, construction and landbased courses at his new campus.
It’s an exciting development which will provide a real boost to the economy of North East Somerset. There’s no doubt that Bath is the main engine for generating prosperity in the district, but the City can’t do everything. There isn’t the room for one thing.
Therefore, it is important to promote and develop businesses in the surrounding areas which can offer space and potentially lower cost premises. And they will be businesses of all kinds, not just traditional market town or rural activities, but those involving modern technology and high level skills.
To help in that process we have to find ways of improving transport links and the availability of high speed broadband, which are now fundamental requirements for business. In that way we can spread economic activity throughout Bath and North East Somerset, reducing the need to commute into the city or over to Bristol and so doing something about congestion.
But infrastructure alone won’t deliver the kind of economy we need. We must continually drive up the level of skills in every sector. We are fortunate in having two fine universities and good quality schools. However, the role of Further Education must never be underestimated. The City of Bath College has developed a highly respected reputation for its courses, with a great emphasis on preparing young people for the world of work.
The Principal and his team have gone out of their way to forge long standing and effective contacts with the Bath business community and I expect them to do the same in North East Somerset. For businesses in that area this is a great new opportunity. Tell the College what skills you need, I know they will be listening and you will be the beneficiaries.