AS I stated to the Prime Minister recently in the Chamber of the House of Commons (in yet another Brexit debate), it is beholden upon us to take heed of the generations coming along behind us, and important to leave them both a sustainable planet and a sustainable economy.

With this in mind, I was delighted to spend some time with a wide cross section of students, drawn from Wellington, Taunton and further afield, on a visit to the University Centre of Somerset / Bridgwater & Taunton College before Christmas.

I left with a real sense that these young people were not just getting a good education but that the courses they were engaged in would set them up well for the future.

The diverse courses varied from textiles and fashion to digital, media-makeup, nursing and barbering (the latter experiencing a boom with beards being so on-trend.) Students from the theatre make-up course are now working at Madam Tussaunds, on Game of Thrones and Star Wars; bespoke apprenticeship courses are booming funded by the apprenticeship levy, with more than 2,500 students involved, many on courses designed for specific local businesses such as the UK Hydrographic; and the college is one of just two places piloting the Nursing Associates Programme.

This is valuable stepping stone between the role of healthcare assistant and nurse and is supported by three local NHS Trusts.

This course is especially popular with mature students, some with children that don’t want to leave to go away to study but can get an extra qualification on their doorstep. It also helps address the issue of retaining skilled staff in the health service, since students often tend to stay and work in areas close to where they have received training.

A next step would be for the college to offer a full blown nursing degree programme and I shall do what I can to push for this.

In recognition of the innovation that has taken place across the college around work-based learning, vocational courses and apprenticeships, the college has been recognised as Centre of the Year in the prestigious City & Guilds’ Lion Awards.

Well done to all - and here’s to an even more successful 2019.

MP for Taunton Deane