South Devon College staff and students welcomed Minister for Apprenticeships & Skills, Gillian Keegan, following the Government launch of technical bootcamps, to see the difference these are making to provide job opportunities for people aged 19 and over who are seeking work, looking to change careers, or wanting to retrain.

The bootcamps are one of the new initiatives following on from the recent DfE white paper “Skills for jobs; lifelong learning for opportunity and growth” and the Government’s “Plan for Jobs” which is focused on protecting, supporting and creating jobs across the country. Its aim is to support people to develop the skills they need to get good jobs and will also strengthen links between employers and further education providers.

On her visit to South Devon College the Minister saw for herself students learning about photonics, the physical science of light generation, and micro-electronics, the study and manufacture of very small electronic designs and components.

Student, Rachel Coles (43) left her previous job working for a local charity in January and enrolled on the college’s photonics bootcamp, she said:

"I decided I wanted to do something more practical and saw the course advertised and it appealed to me

“I think it’s great that the college is supporting this, and there’s hope for people with no background in this. I am halfway through the course now and it's going really well. We have a good tutor and we are learning the broad overview of photons and lasers."

Rachel wasn’t confident about sharing her intention to enrol on the course, she said:

“I needed to push myself to enrol in the course. At first, I didn’t tell my family the name of the course.”

Not knowing what kind of reception she’d get, Rachel waited until the college accepted her application.

That acceptance gave her the ‘push’ she was looking for, she said:

“I thought, why not? This opportunity is there, I’ve enrolled, they’ve accepted me - so somebody can see that there’s potential there, so why not? I would be holding myself back and I don’t want to do that, I want to go forward and see this through. Everybody’s got potential and now is my time to see what I can do.”

" This could be [the start of] a new career for me, something exciting and after lockdown everyone has come to realise how important the medical and scientific fields are."

The College’s £17m Hi Tech & Digital Centre, which opened in 2019 was of particular interest to the Minister, this is a leading-edge facility that reinforces South Devon College’s specialism in the fields of digital technology and engineering.

Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan said:

“It was great to hear first-hand how learners of all ages are using our technical skills bootcamps to help them in to new careers or gain the skills and confidence they need to re-enter the workplace.

"Skills bootcamps are unique, giving people the chance to upskill or retrain for free over a short period of time, with a clear line of sight to a job at the end.

“I look forward to hearing how all those taking part in the bootcamps progress, and would encourage anyone in the area looking for a new opportunity to find out more.”

South Devon College, which has strong and well-established links with local employers, has welcomed the government’s bootcamp initiative.

“We were delighted to welcome the Minister to the College, it’s important for our students and staff to know that their hard work and enterprise is of interest nationally. We work very closely with over 1000 local and regional employers, offering apprenticeships and helping people earn as they learn and successfully progress in work.

“We know how important it is to ensure the workforce has the technical skills needed to help our economy grow,” said Laurence Frewin, Principal and CEO at South Devon College.

“A report published just yesterday, Disconnected: Exploring the digital skills gap, published by the Learning and Work Institute says the gap in digital skills is already costing the country billions in lost growth.

“These bootcamps will enable us to reach even more people across the area and help train the engineers, technicians and health professionals of the future, giving employers in key sectors of the economy access to industry-ready talent and individuals the chance to re-train or gain new skills.”

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