Lord Baker opens new College facility named in his honour

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By YouPR | Monday, January 27, 2014, 15:52

One of the most influential Education Secretaries in British politics visited Weston College this week to open a new facility named in his honour.

Lord Baker of Dorking - who, as Kenneth Baker, served in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet in the 1980s - was at the College's South West Skills Campus in Locking Road, Weston-super-Mare, to open the Lord Baker Innovation Centre, a facility dedicated to vocational education and skills training.

The Innovation Centre will help to train the next generation of young people to become skilled in the workplace, and assist unemployed people or those with other challenges to get back into work.

Lord Baker, who also served as Home Secretary under John Major, has assisted and supported Weston College in the development of the Innovation Centre since he first visited the College two years ago to talk about the concept of University Technical Colleges (UTC).

On Tuesday (January 21) Lord Baker, accompanied by VIP guests from North Somerset Council, local schools, businesses and other organisations, toured the South West Skills Campus, meeting learners and staff, before officially opening the Innovation Centre.

The Skills Campus is in the final phase of an £11 million renovation project, which has included the creation of an Automotive Technology Centre, a new and expanded home for the Business Enterprise Centre, plus a new library, canteen and classroom facilities. The ongoing work is expected to be complete by September this year.

Since leaving Government, Lord Baker has pursued the idea of specialisation after the age of 14, when the national curriculum should end and pupils choose one of four curriculum pathways, including those of technical and vocational education.

After unveiling a plaque, he said: "It is an honour to open a building named after me, at such a remarkable College. Weston is one of the best FE colleges in the country and is a great tribute to its Principal, Dr Paul Phillips, who shows real leadership.

"In this country we have always been bad at skills training, going right back to Victorian times, but now technology is changing things very quickly. Innovation is the way this country will prosper once again, and it is the successful colleges like Weston who will train people the skills needed to innovate."

Dr Phillips commented: "Two years ago Lord Baker came to talk to us about UTCs and career colleges, and while we didn't go down the UTC route there were certain characteristics about them which I thought could apply to what we do.

"He has kept in contact solidly, to make sure that we realise our ambitions and we're now very much heading in the right direction. Success is built on partnerships, of course, and I hope North Somerset Council will now help us to sell the idea of the Innovation Centre to the people of Weston and beyond."

Gina Brunt, 23, who is studying for a Diploma in Maintenance Operations (Level 2), met Lord Baker as he toured the campus. She said: "He asked me how it was being a woman in the construction industry and I said it was absolutely great! He seemed very impressed with the facilities at this campus and it was good to meet him."

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