The Kings Chase Shopping Centre in Kingswood is now fully occupied, following the purchase of the centre by South Gloucestershire Council in 2021, with ever more reasons to visit the high street.
The newest addition is a Skills Hub, which will act as a base for services to help local people develop skills and qualifications to get into employment or progress their careers.
The ultimate aim is to roll out Skills hubs to other high streets in the district following the pilot in Kingswood, which will run through 2023.
The space in the Kings Chase Shopping Centre is designed to allow one-to-one and classroom sessions for people who want to grow their skills to meet the needs of local employers. Services will be provided by a range of providers and sessions and courses will include:
• Professional learning activities, including formal classes, and workshops
• Lectures, presentations, and events
• One to one and personalised career coaching &/or personalised learning activity
• Entrepreneurial space for individuals and businesses to show case products, share and develop their skills.
The Hub is seeking to welcome between 500 and 800 residents, supporting them to develop their skills over the period of the pilot. Classes have begun on site, with full opening to take place in March. The activities offered will be varied, seeking especially to support those who are unemployed, looking to progress in their current jobs and/or wishing to gain new skills and qualifications. Some activities will also support those living with or have experience mental and/or emotional health and wellbeing difficulties and those who may be returning to learning or employment after a gap.
Sessions and support will be coordinated by the councils Community Learning and Skills team, including learning and workshop activities, individualised career coaching and mentoring under the Future Bright, WE Work for Everyone and Works4Youth programmes.
As well as now having all units in the shopping centre occupied with a variety of businesses and services providing more and more reasons to visit the high street, other improvements have also been completed in recent months, including upgrades to the public toilets.
Enhancements to the shopping centre, the renovation of the Tabernacle and the approval last year of the Kingswood Masterplan are all designed to restore and reinvigorate the centre of Kingswood for locals and visitors alike. This reflects the fact that increasingly, high streets are changing from being simply a place to buy things to a place to go and have experiences, meet for coffee and eat out and are evolving to include more service and hospitality-based venues, specialist and independent retailers.
South Gloucestershire Council Leader, Councillor Toby Savage, visited the new Skills Hub with the Cabinet Member responsible for education, Councillor Erica Williams, and the Cabinet Member responsible for council property, Councillor Ben Burton. Councillor Savage said: “Kingswood is thriving and the plans we have produced alongside local people and businesses will ensure that it continues to do so into the future.
“Investing in infrastructure and services is key to supporting everyone in Kingswood to have access to learning and development opportunities, as well as employment, shopping, cultural and leisure facilities, which is what underpins our Masterplan for the area.
“I am delighted that since we have taken ownership of the shopping centre we have been able to use our position as the landlord to promote the business and we are now using the space to help the whole community, as well as to generate revenue to support our council budgets, with all units now occupied.”
The Skills Hub is funded with a grant from the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Community Renewal Fund (CRF), as well as grant from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the council’s own resources.