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West Dorset bids to BLAST young people into work

A NEW training centre could be set up for young people in West Dorset if a bid for European funding is successful.

The aim is to get 16-25 year-olds developing business ideas that will improve the local environment.

Ros Kayes, the director of Bridport Local Area Skills Training (BLAST) has asked the European Rural Development Fund Local Action programme for £210,000.

Ms Kayes thinks that agriculture, horticulture, renewable energy systems and tourism could all benefit.

Kingston Maurward (photograph by Chris Shaw, reused under Creative Commons licence). The college is one of the partners in a scheme which hopes to encourage more environmentally-friendly forms of tourism

BLAST’s partners include local FE colleges at Kingston Maurward and Yeovil, and private training providers at Windmill Training, Monkton Wyld and Trill Farm.

Subject ideas for courses and diplomas include:

generating energy from waste

anerobic digestion

wind and solar power technologies

wood fuel technology and developing supply chains for solid fuel and water heating systems

setting up a smallholding


organic growing

creating herbal products

biodynamic techniques for farm and garden

food preparation

sales and product development

reuse of materials

design and marketing

promotion of eco-tourism

rural business skills

the  use of composites in sustainable construction

and animal husbandry.

The aim is to reshape West Dorset's rural economy and encourage growth. (Photograph of topiary at Kingston Maurward by Chris Downer, reused under Creative Commons licence).

Ms Kayes, who is also a West Dorset district councillor and Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for South Dorset, said the project embodied “an audacious vision for transforming the rural economy”.

Ros Kayes

She went on: “West Dorset has always been a hard to reach area for further education, because of the high numbers needed to make a college sustainable financially.

“As a result in Bridport we have very low levels of qualification post-16.

“That’s the rationale behind BLAST. We decided to find a way of bringing in colleges to provide training without colleges having to invest in premises or do the recruitment or have the overheads.

“We find the students, we identify the training needs through liaising with employers and schools, and we liaise with the colleges to deliver courses they can afford to deliver.”

Ms Kayes said that Blast had so far focused on helping post 16-learners Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs) through its successful ASPIRE educational outreach project, and on the delivery of E2E (education to employment) at its new West Dorset skills Training Centre in Bridport, funded by Nacro.

But she continued: “Rural Dorset has also historically had a problem with developing its economy beyond traditional agriculture. We have poor transport infrastructure which means that our tendency is to support light industry and agriculture, but the latter has become increasingly unprofitable in a global economy, which is why so many small farmers are turning to organics and local food markets.

“Bridport has become known as a town which specialises in local food production (with our excellent farmers’ market) and the community and town council have very strong environmental leanings.

“Many, many people have moved here in order to live more sustainably. The town has many allotments, a zero waste group and a renewable energy group.

“I felt it was time to add some of these things together – our genuine desire in the town to live more sustainably; the excellence and expertise available, and the importance of developing the rural economy here.

“We think it ticks all the boxes”

“The bid is designed to support members of the community who want to live more sustainably but also to train up our young people to be entrepreneurs in areas like eco-tourism, renewable energy, sustainable construction and organic farming which have been identified as the growth industries of the future.

“We are linking the courses with mentoring and business support and hope to be setting up a business incubation centre with another of our training partners as a follow up to the project.”

She added: “My experience of working in South Dorset over the last 18 months has convinced me that this is a model that can be rolled out across Dorset as a whole, especially in the Purbecks where there are similar problems with access but a huge interest in sustainable technology and local food markets.

“Also if you look at somewhere like Portland, with its proposal for an academy to rejuvenate the economy and a huge windfarm about to be located off the coast, there is clear potential to roll out something like this there as well.”

Bid partners have been supported by West Dorset District Council, Dorset County Council, Bridport Town Council, the Learning and Skills Council and the South West Regional Development Agency.

“We think it ticks all the boxes,” said Ros.

“We had a big hold up because I was standing in the general election but now that’s over we have finally managed to get it finished.

“Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed and see whether it’s successful.”

2 Responses to “West Dorset bids to BLAST young people into work”

  1. The Red Bladder

    Somewhere to live

    All strength to these endeavors. This is something that could help build a viable future for our young people. Let us hope that whilst coming to terms with the employment prospects of our future generation that serious consideration and action is undertaken to ensure that they actually are able to find somewhere to live in rural locations around the area. I am convinced that the two go together and one is of little use without the other.

  2. Toni McKee

    Dorset Youth Association – a small countywide charity is currently submitting a bid to create a similar project to roll out to areas of need across the county. We hope to pick up some tips and suggestions for making our bid stronger and smarter by speaking to such projects and the good work that they are doing to ‘spread the fire’
    If anyone has any information or help then please contact Toni at DYA on 01305 262440 or We would be pleased to hear from you.

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