THERE is no room for complacency when people talk of economic recovery and business growth. This is a slow and precarious process, as we have sadly been reminded of this week with the announcement that Honda is scaling back its production in Swindon resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs.
My heart goes out to all those families directly affected and I can reassure them the council is liaising closely with Honda and partners, such as Forward Swindon, to minimise the impact of this devastating news.
Whilst it is positive Honda has reaffirmed its long-term commitment to the Swindon plant, the changes put livelihoods at risk and as much as possible must be done to provide support at this difficult time.
Announcements like this emphasise the importance of making sure we continue to develop a highly skilled, diverse workforce.
This September will see the opening of our University Technical College, sited on the former historic railway works.
It is encouraging that nearly 200 budding engineers have already received formal offers and I am pleased to hear its principal Angela Barker-Dench, a former engineer herself, has never looked forward to a job so much.
The Ferndale Campus of Oxford Brookes University has been hosting a series of open evenings, giving students and parents an opportunity to discover what this tremendous place has to offer.
There is a session tonight and another next Wednesday, so I encourage anyone who is interested in applying or finding out more to go along.
I passionately believe this sort of partnership, sponsored by Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and Oxford Brookes, holds the key to ensuring our young people have fulfilling careers both here and across the world.
That’s why I have already been talking to businesses in Swindon about potential opportunities to create a second college of this type, developing different skills to emulate our strength in the engineering sector.
I set out this vision speaking at a recent event, organised by Influence – a forum for the business community, which debated the town’s future.
Progress is equally promising on the former Swindon College site which every day takes a step closer to becoming a vibrant leisure and retail hub.
Residents will also no doubt be pleased we have now applied to demolish Sussex Square in the first phase of the site’s regeneration so we can look forward to an array of new shops and homes there.
Next month the long-awaited Waitrose store in Wichelstowe opens and the extension of the popular Designer Outlet is also taking shape fast.
Developments like these are very welcome, as they not only create jobs but also improve Swindon’s ability to retain and attract new employers in the borough.