High tech skills training at former Flybe centre shows how Devon is preparing for life after the pandemic

(L-R) John Laramy, David Allen OBE, Rufus Gilbert, John Hart. Picture: GRW Photography

(L-R) John Laramy, David Allen OBE, Rufus Gilbert, John Hart at the former Flybe training centre last year Picture: GRW Photography - Credit: GRW Photography

John Hart, chairman of Devon County Council, writes for this title.

Council leader Councillor John Hart says this is Devon's 'best budget in a decade'. Picture: contrib

Council leader Councillor John Hart says this is Devon's 'best budget in a decade'. Picture: contributed - Credit: Archant

One of the greatest pleasures of my job is being able to get things done for the benefit of the people of Devon.

Sometimes there are really simple solutions that help just a handful of people in a specific community, at other times we can achieve really positive things for the whole county.

Obviously a huge part of my time has been devoted to Covid-19 in the past year but there are still a number of achievements of which I'm proud.

And a lot of our efforts have been devoted to making sure we all have the best possible chance to recover from the pandemic as quickly as possible - as individuals and as communities - and a thriving economy is vital for that to happen.

Last year I wrote about how the county council had spent over £4 million on the former Flybe training centre at Exeter Airport.

Working with Exeter College, the building has been refurbished and is offering training in high-tech skills for our young people and those seeking to switch careers. We've named it the Future Skills Centre and it will play a big part in our economic recovery.

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These are skills and training that will enable our young people to find work in sectors such as high-tech engineering, digital and data technology, advanced manufacturing, sustainable construction and clean growth and energy.

These are the growth areas of the 21st century and both locally and nationally we have to ensure our children are equipped with the skills to compete in these areas in what is a global market.

Our young people have been among the groups worst affected by Covid with their education seriously disrupted and this directly benefits their future prospects.

But it will also cater for people of all ages who may want to re-train. Creating and retaining a highly skilled workforce will underpin the economic prosperity of Devon and will be a key part of our recovery plan after Covid-19.

Also at Exeter Airport, work started last month on road improvements to enhance the access via Long Lane. This will facilitate the development of the AirPark site which is projected to create around 1,000 jobs and is part of our partnership with East Devon council and the Local Enterprise Partnership.

It will also improve access for the Future Skills Centre with better public transport provision and enhanced walking and cycling facilities.

Next month we will also be starting work on the new railway station to serve the Marsh Barton industrial estate in Exeter.

Clearly this isn’t investment directly in East Devon but we believe it will have benefits for a much wider area than Exeter itself.

Over 6,000 people work at Marsh Barton -  I believe it has the greatest concentration of car dealers in Western Europe.

Over half of these 6,000 people commute into Exeter from outside the city and we are expecting that around 20 per cent of rail commuters will come from East Devon.

At the moment, people can catch a train on the Exmouth line into Exeter and continue to St Thomas but it can be quite a hike to then get to Marsh Barton. The new station will allow direct access to the industrial estate as well as providing for recreational opportunities in the nearby valley park and the Double Locks pub.

More generally, more than a quarter of Exmouth residents and a fifth of Honiton residents work in Exeter. Better rail links will enable people to leave their cars at home if they wish, reducing emissions and contributing to our commitment to be zero carbon by 2030.

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