New centre to help young get into workBy Laura Herbert
June 30, 2011
A new centre launched to help tackle rising youth unemployment in Wokingham and Bracknell Forest was officially unveiled last week.
The Bracknell & Wokingham College building in Sandy Lane has been renamed the Wick Hill Centre and offers practical vocational courses for GCSE students from secondary schools in Bracknell and Wokingham.
Youth people can learn practical skills in hairdressing, motor mechanics and carpentry thanks to the new centre, which it is hoped will help young people avoid unemployment after leaving school.
Funding for the centre came from various sources, including Wokingham and Bracknell Forest councils.
Bracknell & Wokingham College’s outgoing principal Howard O’Keeffe was joined by new principal Campbell Christie and representatives from both councils during the event last Thursday.
James Langdon, 14 to 19-year-old vocational programmes co-ordinator, said: “We are very fortunate to have a capital injection from Bracknell Forest and Wokingham councils to enable us to do a renovation of this site.
“It was looking very tired beforehand and in fact the college had expected to sell it, so they hadn’t really done much to it over the last couple of years.
“That funding has now enabled us to have a really nice hair salon, a beauty salon, really good car mechanic workshops, good construction facilities, offering electrical installation and carpentry, health and social care, childcare and this year in September we will run a public services course.”
James continued: “The fact we have 550 students here shows there is a big demand. If it weren’t a popular option for young people we wouldn’t have 550 people wanting to come and do this sort of programme.
“We can offer things here that schools can’t and lots of students are interested in automotive engineering, construction skills and so on, but schools can’t afford to develop workshop facilities and resources for those areas.
“Whereas, here we can have those for all of the schools across the two local authorities so all of those schools can benefit from the facilities we have here.”
The college worked in partnership with Bracknell Forest and Wokingham councils on the refurbishment, which will be completed on September 16.
Howard O’Keeffe said: “Both councils have contributed £400,000 of their own money which has been enough to make this thing happen and make the building fit for purpose.
“It all happened in an era when public funding was feast but if you tried to do it now we are back in an era of famine.”
He added: “It has happened and I am enormously grateful. Many hundreds of young people will benefit from this facility.”
Youth unemployment in Wokingham has been above targets for the borough for several years, although it has been in decline.
According to figures, 5.3 per cent of young people aged 16 to 18 were not in education, training or employment last year.
Councillor Rob Stanton, executive member for education services, said: “I think this is an exciting piece of good news for the young people of this area and will provide to class facilities in many highly skilled areas.
“It is a very good piece of news for the young people of Bracknell and Wokingham and I wish all who attend great success in a great facility.”