A college in the region is in the running to be one of the first Institutes of Technology to boost technical skills for 16 to 18 year olds.

Weston College in Weston-super-mare is one of the first 16 picked from 35 applications for the £170m scheme.

Weston’s £14m bid, called SWIFT, will see the College’s virtual learning environment extended with AR and VR technologies to support students across the region. It is working with the University of the West of England (UWE), Bath College, City of Bristol College, Gloucestershire College, and Yeovil College as well as a network of key local employers including GKN Aerospace, Airbus, GE Aviation and Renishaw.

“This provides a great opportunity to enhance the technical skills offer of the wider region in partnership and collaboration,” said Jo Watson, Group Director for Business Intelligence and Product Growth at Weston College.

“UWE, Bristol is delighted to be supporting a very strong bid for an IoT that engages FE partners and employers from across our region,” said Prof Steve West, Vice-Chancellorof UWE. “Clearly the strength of an innovative and collaborative bid focusing on developing the skills we need for the future has captured the attention of Government. We look forward to moving to the next stage of our application where we would hope to secure the backing of Ministers.”

The 16 UK colleges selected now move onto phase two and the successful bids will be able to set up the IoT institutes starting later in the year.

Other local education organisations in the last 16 include Swindon College and the University of Exeter.

This comes alongside the announcement of new T-levels that will focus on technical subjects such as manufacturing, engineering and construction as an alternative to A-levels in 2021. These will include work placements that will last a minimum of 45 working days, but can last up to 60 working days. Weston College is also one of the first to offer T-levels, as well as Bridgewater and Taunton College in Somerset and Cirencester College in Gloucestershire.

Nick Flaherty