THE man leading Swindon & Wiltshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership has spoken of his mission to develop an 'earn and learn' concept in the town.

Paddy Bradley believes the announcement that a £21 million Institute of Technology will be built at Swindon College could be key to achieving that goal as he continues to develop a new local industrial strategy for the area.

“To me, the selling point of it is you come to it and start with a job," said Mr Bradley, a no-nonsense ex-headteacher who is now a director of the SWLEP.

"So you have got to galvanise business to be interested enough to put in some time and effort to shape the concept. You have got to get them to commit to saying we do want to bring people here and we will be able to employ them.

“One of the routes we are looking to is degree apprenticeships – we want an earn and learn approach.”

The SWLEP studied other similar models around the world – most notably at North East University in Boston.

“We found it is the power and partnership with strategic business in the area," said Mr Bradley. "One of the things I looked at was that over 80 per cent of their students leave there with their degree and a job.

“Wouldn’t it be brilliant if you could start with a job? It is not a new concept. The Army do it.”

The new IoT at Swindon College is due to open in 2021 and will see more than 1,000 students studying advanced engineering, high-end IT, life sciences, financial and business services.

Mr Bradley said: “These are the things on which the Swindon and the Wiltshire economy are based – on knowledge. It is a knowledge-based economy, not so much straight manufacturing.

“Then if we can get degree apprenticeships established, that will begin to help us cross the divide between academic and vocational learning.

“I would almost like us to end this distinction between academic and vocational.

“Vocational is looked down upon, and I believe Further Education colleges are looked down upon as part of the education system.

“I do think we have got a biased system.”

“A degree does not give you a career but apprenticeships can give you a career," he added.

“We have to get parents to see the quality their children are getting from that training."

“They could do an apprenticeship and then do another one at different levels.”