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Further afield

Students construct new Plymouth Life Centre .

Nearly 200 students at City College Plymouth will help build a pound;46.8 million council-run leisure centre in an ambitious work-experience project. The first group of students, aged 18-28 and studying for a level 2 diploma in construction, started work with contractor Balfour Beatty this week. Other students - on courses ranging from brickwork, carpentry and electrical installation to plumbing, plastering and decorating - will also gain experience on the project, dubbed the Plymouth Life Centre.

. while Cumbrian apprentices build SEN learning hub

Meanwhile, Lakes College in west Cumbria is embarking on a similar project, using its own apprentices to help construct a new vocational centre for 14 to 19-year-olds. The pound;1.2 million building, which includes provision for students with special educational needs (SEN) as well as vocational arts facilities and performance spaces, is being built by Stobbarts, whose apprentices are trained at the college. Work on the centre, which was funded by a pound;1 million SEN grant from Cumbria County Council and pound;225,000 from the Skills Funding Agency, began last week. It is due to open in September. College principal Cath Richardson said: "We are especially proud that our own learners studying on apprenticeships will be involved in the construction of the site and that this project is contributing to welfare of the local community."

Welfare-to-work success at risk from job-offer scam

Training providers with welfare-to-work programmes are being warned about a spate of bogus job offers which could threaten their success in helping unemployed people into work. The Department for Work and Pensions has written to providers to say that fake job offers have been made as part of a "scam, organised and run by individuals based outside of the UK". Providers are advised to thoroughly check job offers received by their unemployed students, since funding on the welfare-to-work scheme depends on them moving into sustainable employment. Any providers concerned about the legitimacy of a job offer are asked to contact the Department through its existing procedures for reporting security incidents.

Hayes backs skills in battle against unemployment

Skills minister John Hayes is to chair a cross-Government group to tackle youth unemployment, as more than a fifth of under-25s struggle to find work. Mr Hayes told a conference held by unionlearn, the TUC's education arm, that he intended to provide more than 400,000 apprenticeships in the future - a record number - in order to help people back into work. He said unions and the Government should focus on their shared belief in skills, rather than their disagreements. "That includes the belief that a high- quality further education system can be a vital asset in meeting our shared ambition to help more people out of unemployment and into a job," he added.

First minister cuts ribbon on college buildings

Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones (pictured) opened two new college buildings last week, at Coleg Gwent and Bridgend College. He first formally opened Coleg Gwent's Centre for Learning in Crosskeys near Newport, which includes classrooms, a sports hall, two dance studios, a music studio and a rooftop garden, all built with pound;5.5 million of Assembly funding. Then he cut the ribbon on Bridgend College's Construction Training Academy at its Pencoed campus, which received pound;3.2 million from Welsh taxpayers. Mr Jones said: "Learners in Wales deserve to have the best facilities and I'm pleased that the Assembly government has been able to provide funding for these two new facilities. I'm delighted that students at Coleg Gwent and Bridgend College will be able to develop their skills by using the most up-to-date equipment and environmentally friendly facilities fit for learning in the 21st century."

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