Developing Skills & Employability and Supporting the Rural Economy

The economy of West Dorset is truly varied – this is partly dictated by our geography, the rural nature of the constituency, its distance from the Bournemouth and Poole conurbation and our poor transport infrastructure.

In Dorchester the majority of employment is in the administrative and public service sector; in Bridport, care, services, tourism and hospitality dominate; the engineering specialisms of the Granby Estate in Chickerell feed into the aerospace belt supported by Augusta Westland; in the more rural parts of the constituency the need to diversify from traditional farming operations involves a constant battle with the EU, supermarket pricing and a struggle to find investment. We must find imaginative ways to support growth in West Dorset into the 21st century – and one of the requirements to achieve this is high quality broadband.

Both Bridport and Sherborne were recently voted in a Sunday Telegraph poll as two of the Top Ten UK High Streets. At the same time Bridport was in the BBC Countryfile poll as one of the UK Top Ten Market Towns.

It is no accident that these two communities have very strong support for their economies from local people – but a healthy and vibrant town centre demands more than that. In Bridport Ros helped found Spirit of Bridport a community led organisation. In 2012 it received European funding for a 2 week festival of culture, which, along with a range of other festivals, has helped put Bridport on the map as a place to visit. Ros was also involved in setting up the Spirit Business Forum. Working closely with Market Traders and the Chamber of Trade, the Forum has released three short films to promote this part of West Dorset: ‘Landscape & Seascape’, ‘Art & Culture’ and ‘Food & Drink’.

Ros says:

“I believe that it is the responsibility of elected representatives to work as hard as they can to support their local economies. In 2012 I was instrumental in setting up Skills Training Bridport. This includes the Fresh Start project, which last year helped 34 unemployed people into employment, apprenticeships or training. We are supported by the local Chamber, volunteer business mentors and a range of local employers.

“In rural West Dorset there is poor accessibility to training; developing local solutions that have the support of the community, is an innovative way to improve the poor level of employment skills. If we don’t do it ourselves, no-one will do it for us.

“I am very much looking forward to the opportunity of working with chambers and businesses throughout the constituency to support them in developing their local economies.”

Ros with the Skills for Self Reliance team at the Kingston Maurward College Centre in Bridport which was opened as part of the project

Ros with the Skills for Self Reliance team at the Kingston Maurward College Centre in Bridport which was opened as part of the project

In 2009, Ros co-wrote a successful bid for £220,000 of European funding to set up ‘Skills for Self Reliance’ a unique public/private/ third sector initiative that aimed to help local rural businesses diversify and to provide training in ‘eco-skills’


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