Ensuring we equip all our young people here in Swindon with the education and skills they need has always been a key priority for the council as long as I have been a cabinet member.

And that very firmly remains the case as we set out our new Council Plan at last night’s cabinet meeting.

Providing additional and enhanced skills and higher education opportunities is the fourth of six key priorities we will be focusing on as a council over the next few years and we have already made a great start in delivering on the pledges we have outlined in the Council Plan.

Much of the council’s work in this area is often done behind the scenes and involves providing support for funding bids, lobbying the Government and facilitating educational opportunities by providing investment or our buildings and land.

One of the focuses of Priority 4 will be to ensure we have regular large cohorts of learners at the new Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology (IoT), which is based at New College’s North Star campus.

The council was a big supporter of the bid for the IoT, which is now open to some students and will specialise in engineering, manufacturing, science, health, creative and media, digital and computer science and business management professions.

It will be employer-led and will ensure young people leave with the skills needed for local businesses including technical qualifications, higher apprenticeships, and training to plug the gap between demand and supply for key technical and digital roles.

I was fortunate on Monday to receive a tour of the IoT with Chippenham MP Michelle Donelan, who is also the Minister of State for Universities. The visit was organised to see at first hand the Government’s In Work Skills Project, which focuses on giving the workforce of tomorrow the digital skills to progress their careers.

It covers areas such as cloud management, cyber security and agile methodology as is a direct response to an acknowledged national skills gap.

Meanwhile last Friday, I was really pleased to attend the official opening of the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) Cultural Heritage Institute at Brunel’s historic former Carriage Works.

Mayor of Swindon Coun Garry Perkins was also in attendance and if you saw the pictures in the paper, it was interesting cutting a rather large ribbon with a garden tool instead of scissors.

The Cultural Heritage Institute has been a long time in the making and was only possible thanks to £1.5m of investment from the council and the enthusiasm and commitment from the RAU.

The CHI will offer a number of postgraduate courses to people from across the country, from archaeology to historic environment management.

It is another example of the council using its assets to rejuvenate part of the town centre and finding a new use for one of its heritage buildings.

With the University Technical College situated just a stone’s throw away in the former Great Western Rail Works we now have two great educational facilities in the heart of our new Heritage Action Zone.