I’d like to start this week’s column with a big congratulations to Excalibur Communications who have been adding to the trophy cabinet this week. For the second year running they have been listed in the Sunday Times Top 100 Small Businesses to work for and also added the Federation of Small Businesses South West Employer of the Year award.

A great achievement and recognition for the value the company puts on employee engagement, contributing to the community and supporting charitable causes. Excalibur, like many businesses in Swindon, also actively supports apprenticeships which are incredibly important if we are going to bring the next generation into the workplace.

JobsFest 2018 next Tuesday at Steam will bring together over 50 Swindon employers that are offering apprenticeships and employment opportunities to young people and jobseekers in the area. I’ve mentioned the event in previous columns and now in its fourth year JobFest is proving to be an excellent platform for Swindon businesses to meet their future workforce.

The Switch on to Swindon team will be at Steam along with many ambassadors who will not only be offering employment opportunities but also practical advice and support to help young people. This will include things like constructing a professional LinkedIn profile and presenting yourself in the best possible way to potential employers. It is vital for the continued growth of Swindon’s economy that we make our young people aware of the fantastic opportunities there are in Swindon in a whole range of careers at a huge number of first class companies. Apprenticeships are one of those routes into employment and an increasingly attractive one for both employers and employees.

There is, in my opinion, still a bit of a perception problem with apprenticeships and they can be viewed by some, unfairly, as some sort of inferior option. Learning while you earn and achieving qualifications while gaining invaluable experience in the workplace is no inferior option – it is a great opportunity. There are some films featuring Swindon apprentices doing the rounds at the moment (#routestoemployment) that bust a lot of the myths and show how good apprenticeships are which I encourage you all to watch. For all details on JobsFest go to www.jobsfestswindon.co.uk

And now for something completely different as the saying goes. I was delighted to see the work take place at the Locarno, as I know it, in Old Town last week. Ok, it was in essence a site clearance but what a difference that has made and it does at least give some confidence that things may well be progressing.

I was similarly excited to see some pictures of unit 3 at the Carriageworks over the weekend which show progress on this exciting new workspace. We had a Switch on to Swindon event and tour of the building last summer and it was an impressive spectacle as a blank canvass. Some of our ambassadors will be some of the first tenants in the new space and I look forward to inviting the whole network back to an event there soon after it opens.

Along with the plans for the new ski slope submitted for planning approval and the new plans for the Kimmerfields development anticipated in the next few months it certainly seems like there is cause for a lot of optimism in Swindon.