The pandemic has presented many challenges, not least of which has been how we continue to educate our young people to ensure that they are able to gain the practical skills needed for future employment. Pembrokeshire College has been leading the way delivering live online learning and sourcing additional spaces for learners to complete practical activities.

Following the February announcement by the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, which allowed trade courses in Engineering and Construction to return with two metre social distancing, the College worked quickly to put plans in place to accommodate as many learners as possible. 

The new social distancing restrictions meant that learners could no longer ‘bubble’ reducing capacity in many of the College workshops to a quarter, meaning that learners would only be able to attend once every four weeks whilst the social distancing arrangements remained in place. To tackle this, Pembrokeshire College formed a partnership with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society (PAS) to open a temporary facility at the Withybush showground. The conversion of the 2,500m2 Camrose building into a brickwork workshop and the Brithdir Hall as a breakout space, took just two weeks from initial discussions to opening the doors to the first learners.

A spokesperson for the PAS Board commented: “We were delighted to be given the opportunity to work with Pembrokeshire College on this project. We are very pleased that the versatile facilities on our showground have proved to be suitable for the College’s use, and that we were in a position to be able to support the College during what has been a very difficult time for both learners and education providers.”

Head of Faculty for Engineering and Construction at the College, Arwyn Williams, who led on the project added: “We are grateful to the PAS for their quick response to allowing us to rent the two buildings at the showground and our contractors A & V Builders and EMC Electrical for undertaking the work in such a short timeframe.

“Opening a new workshop capable of accommodating 60 learners at two metres, has meant that learners are now back in College working towards their qualifications.”

Arwyn continued: “We have also opened two new workshops at our Haverfordwest main campus at the same time to allow a total of 30 additional learners per day to attend their Plumbing and Carpentry courses.  We have over 1,000 learners studying Engineering and Construction at the College and it is critical that we can help and support each one to achieve their qualifications and progress into employment.”

The opening of the additional facilities has been made possible thanks to the Welsh Government making a new funding pot of over £23m available to further education colleges across Wales to help them to re-open their doors to learners in a COVID safe manner. Further announcements in recent weeks have meant that more learners will be returning to the College from April 12 across the remainder of the subject areas.