Whilst the pandemic presented many challenges for both businesses and education, partnership working between Pembrokeshire College and Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society ensured that more than 200 learners were able to complete their construction qualifications despite the lockdowns and requirements for social distancing.
In February this year, when the Education Minister announced that trade courses in engineering and construction could return face-to-face learning, the challenge was how to accommodate learners given the social distancing restrictions that needed to be observed.
The restrictions at the time 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.
Head of Faculty for Engineering and Construction at the College, Arwyn Williams, who led on the project commented: “We are extremely grateful to the PAS for partnering with us on this project. Their quick response led to over 200 students being able to complete their qualification within the academic year, something that we could not have achieved without the additional workshop space. Moving bricklaying up to the showground enabled us to convert our own brick workshop into additional space for carpentry and plumbing enabling the maximum number of learners to attend College each day.
Arwyn continued: “With over 1,000 learners studying engineering and construction at the College, the support we have received from local companies and organisations such as the PAS has been invaluable in helping our learners to achieve their qualifications and progress into employment in what has been an exceptional year.”
Mr Mike Davies, Chairman of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society said: “We are delighted to have been able to help learners to complete their qualifications during the period of the pandemic and look forward to continued partnership work with the College in the future.”
The opening of the additional facilities was made possible thanks to the Welsh Government making a funding pot of over £23m available to help all Welsh colleges re-open their doors to learners in a COVID safe manner.