National Apprenticeship Week

Today’s guest blog comes from Jaya Kaur, Marketing and Communications Apprentice at Bristol City Council.

This week we celebrated National Apprenticeships Week (3-9 February), which shines a light on apprentices and employers across the country. The aim is to encourage others to look beyond the common stereotypes surrounding apprenticeships and celebrate the diversity of opportunity and value they bring to our city and beyond.

I’ve always liked the option of doing an apprenticeship because you can learn whilst working and that was a better option for me. After leaving college, I applied for various jobs but I was unable to find anything I really wanted to pursue.

At this point, I started to look at alternative routes into work and after much persistence I secured this apprenticeship. I was drawn to this type of role because of the experience that it would offer me in social media, events and campaigns. I was really nervous at the interview, but I felt passionately that this was something I really wanted to do.

Since joining the council I’ve gained experience working on a wide range of projects including St Nicholas Market, Bristol’s Going for Gold bid and National Apprenticeship Week. I’ve also developed a range of skills including producing and editing films. This week I had the chance to interview apprentices from across the council who shared their thoughts on apprenticeships and the benefits they have to offer.

Overall, I think this whole journey has opened my eyes to how important it is to keep positive and motivated.  I’ve learned so much on my apprenticeship and it has certainly changed my whole outlook and aspirations for life. If you’re thinking of applying for an apprenticeship, I would certainly suggest you go for it. It’s a good option for those who want to start a career and learn at the same time.

Bristol City Council currently has over 250 apprentices across all areas, including the Mayor’s Office. They help deliver key services and play an important role in the organisation. Current apprentice vacancies include Chartered Town Planner, Solicitor and Business Administrator roles. 

Did you know?

  • Apprenticeships are suitable for anyone aged 16 or over
  • Apprenticeships are available at a range of levels, from Level 2 for those just starting their career to Level 7 Master’s Degree equivalent across professional and management roles
  • Apprenticeships cover a range of sectors, including law, finance, education, sales, marketing, IT as well as more traditional subjects
  • Doing an apprenticeship can increase your long term earning potential and are also great for those returning to work or changing career
  • Apprenticeships offer a competitive salary whilst all your training costs are paid, including at degree level

If you would like to apply for the apprenticeship programme, visit the Bristol City Council website.

For information about National Apprenticeship Week, click here.

Destination Bristol

Today’s blog comes from Kathryn Davis, Head of Tourism at Destination Bristol

This week sees Bristol host the UKinbound Annual Tourism Convention. This is in recognition of Bristol’s growing reputation as a visitor destination, with a visitor economy now worth over £1bn.

Bristol is a UNESCO City of Film. We’re home to Aardman animation, creators of Wallace and Gromit and has been used as a filming location in many popular TV programmes and films. We were crowned Best Culinary Destination in the World at the Food Travel Association’s Food Trekking Awards, and one of the Best European Cities to visit by The Independent. In 2015, Bristol was the first UK city to hold the title of European Green Capital and we are a Fairtrade city.

So there’s a lot to shout about. Destination Bristol has been supporting and developing the visitor economy in Bristol and South Gloucestershire for 20 years, during which time its value has almost doubled.

More places to stay and more reasons to visit mean that we have enjoyed sustained growth.  Around 80% of all staying visitors are estimated to come from within the UK.  And with around 20% of all staying visitors estimated to come from overseas, this makes Bristol one of the most visited towns and cities by international visitors in the UK (currently ranked 7th). 

So why do people come? 

Business events and conferences are a critical part of the visitor economy.  Worth around £307m, those here on business are likely to visit because, well, they have to.  Attracting conferences and other business events to the region is a year-round task, which involves investing in relationships with professional organisers, agencies and influencers, developing marketing communications and connecting with organisers at a variety of trade shows and events. 

Those coming for leisure come for a wide range of reasons, often simply to see a band, play or performance, attend a festival or event, try a certain restaurant or visit a specific attraction. 

Street art continues to attract people from around the world, as does our reputation for a diverse nightlife and outstanding food and drink scene.  Bristol’s evolution as a place of independent, sustainable and collaborative businesses and experiences means that it is genuinely unlike anywhere else.  Something we often take for granted living here.

World class events such as the Cricket World Cup in 2019 undoubtedly bring huge numbers of visitors and attract worldwide attention. But it is the everyday range of activities, experiences, events and attractions that make Bristol such an attractive proposition for visitors.  Visitor research has shown that often it isn’t always just one thing, but the broader offer that make Bristol such a popular place to visit. 

There is a phenomenal amount of work that takes place to maintain interest in the city region as a visitor destination.  In the last 12 months, this has included articles being produced in countries including the UK, USA, China, Germany, The Netherlands, France, and Spain.  This not only acts as inspiration to visit but builds a ‘soft power’, raising the profile of the city region as a whole.

As well as short breaks focussed in and around the city, we highlight Bristol as a base to explore other places within the region, using sustainable travel solutions wherever possible.  For instance, there are a wide range of rail passes, some available exclusively for international visitors, which enable uncomplicated off-peak travel in a short period.

There are at least 45 religions, 187 countries of birth and 91 main languages spoken in the city. This diversity means our communities are often well-connected internationally. It is critical that Bristol remains open and welcoming to all – from those who live here year-round, to those visiting from the rest of the UK and overseas. 

Ultimately, it is the people of Bristol who make this such a special place to be.

Bristol declares an ecological emergency

Today, with city partners, we  declared an Ecological Emergency– making us the first city in the UK to do so. This declaration will provide a focus for the whole city to come together and take positive action on the nature and wildlife emergency.   

The figures are shocking. 15% of British wildlife is now at risk of extinction. In Bristol, swifts and starlings have been virtually wiped out, with recorded numbers dropping by 96% since 1994

Priorities will include looking at ways to stop wildlife habitats from being destroyed, managing land in a sustainable way and creating and caring for wildlife-rich spaces in every part of the city.

It is our hope that this announcement will kick-start the response that is required to deal with the scale of the challenges that face us, providing a focus for the whole city to come together and take positive action.

Action is needed at all levels, from central Government, through to local partnerships, communities and individuals. In recognition of this, we will be working with our colleagues across the West of England and with Government to seek to secure the policies, funding and powers we need to restore nature nationally and locally.

Building on the city’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2018, today’s announcement acknowledges the essential role nature plays in society and the economy, from clean water and air, food, timber and flood protection.

Pioritising the protection of wildlife is motivated by economics as much as the ecological need.   The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats humanity will face in the next ten years. Over half the world’s total GDP is dependent on nature and its services through impacts on operations, supply chains, and markets  – that’s $44 trillion.

We are not starting from scratch on this issue. The One City Plan already includes an ambition to double wildlife in Bristol, which demonstrates the ambition of the city to stop the decline in wildlife and start to restore what has been lost.

Some examples of the work we are doing include:

  • MyWildCity, a 3-year project led by Avon Wildlife Trust project with Council support to raise the profile of eight wildlife sites in neighbourhoods across the city;
  • Replant Bristol, a multi-stakeholder group championing the current One City Plan’s ‘double tree canopy by 2046’ target;
  • Bristol Green Capital Partnership have chosen Nature as one of its five workstreams;
  • The West of England Nature Partnership is working on a regional Nature Recovery Network as part of a national initiative, which supports biodiversity by joining up wildlife-rich landscapes.

As a council, we are committed to playing our part. My ask is that you do yours too. If you’ve got a garden, let your grass grow, build a bug hotel or pond, or let a patch go wild to support more wildlife. Maybe you could work with your neighbours to create wildlife rich green spaces in your local area. And if you’re not green-fingered, you can still have an impact by reducing your consumption of products produced in ways that damage wildlife habitats worldwide.

We know that there will be times when this intention comes into conflict with other aims and goals, but we endeavour meet these challenges with practical compromise and pragmatic approach to do our best for Bristol’s wildlife.

It is not too late to start the recovery of our wildlife. We must work together to grasp this last chance and put things right for nature and wildlife in our city. This is about how we responsibly build and develop the city so humans don’t threaten wildlife and instead support them to grow alongside us.

Thank you to the Avon Wildlife Trust, We the Curious, the SS Great Britain Trust, the University of the West of England, Bristol Zoological Society, NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG, North Bristol NHS Trust, University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust and the Future Economy Network for their support.

Thinking outside the box

Sacha Mirzoeff speaking at inclusivity in media
sector workshop at the Channel 4 Hub

Today’s blog comes from Sacha Mirzoeff, Head of Hub and Factual Commissioner at Channel 4

It feels like there’s been a lot of waiting for things to progress since the announcement that Channel 4 would be moving to Bristol last March.  But we officially opened two weeks ago and the launch party took place at the Old Vic.  Since then I’ve already become crazy busy and it feels like there’s a new buzz in the city which we want to keep going and develop.  New companies have moved here and more are coming.  Our media industry is flying high, despite hard times in the economy.

Our aim is simple – to bring the very best business to companies in the South West, West and Wales to help win commissions in all sorts of programmes – from documentaries, specialist factual and popular factual to drama and daytime.  By 2023 50% of main channel UK commissions – a target which we are well on course for. But we want to do it in the right way with the right people.

From its inception Channel 4 has had a long history of being disruptive and daring to say the things that other broadcasters wouldn’t. In an age where most media feels vanilla – the same middle of the road, I want to see Channel 4 being bold in ways that relate to our lives in this city and beyond. We in the West are underrepresented on and off screen and my job is to make that change.

So we don’t only want to bring new work to the West and Wales.  We also want to help find new young local people to do it – some who might never have imagined a career in television, but are passionate, driven and have something to say about their own world that feels relevant. They are the people that could reinvigorate the television workforce here – a different set of people than currently exists in our trade.  We can offer support, advice and guidance as they progress.  Channel 4 want to take risks, and this includes stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of the people we traditionally collaborate with.

To do this successfully we need partners across the city as we don’t make any programmes ourselves – we can only help facilitate change.  It may not all happen overnight, as we need to work closely with people across the city to see how we can do it best.   But one thing is for sure – Channel 4 is here to stay and aims to build legacy in innovation for generations to come.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Today in City Hall, we are hosting an important remembrance event, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution. Between 1941 and 1945, over six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered by the Nazis. This systematic attempt at annihilating the Jewish people accompanied a brutal programme of persecution of anyone who threatened the Nazi’s ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’. Roma and Sinit people, black people, Slavic people (especially those from Poland or Russia), LGBT people, disabled people, trade unionists and political opponents were all targeted by the regime and their collaborators.

Holocaust Memorial Day also serves as a day of remembrance for those killed and persecuted in subsequent genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

I am particularly struck by this year’s theme of ‘Stand Together’ – a message which is fitting at this current turbulent moment in national and global politics.

We know that the poison of antisemitism is on the rise across the world, and our own city is not immune. As an administration, we are working closely with and listening to Bristol’s Jewish communities to root out antisemitism wherever we find it in our city and our society. As survivors of the Shoah tell their story in City Hall today, I hope people across Bristol will be reminded that stamping out antisemitism in our midst is an urgent task for us all.

Holocaust Memorial Day also prompts us to reflect on our humanitarian duty to stand together with all those fleeing persecution today. I am proud that Bristol is a City of Sanctuary, with a proud tradition of extending solidarity and a welcome to those who have come here over the decades.  We offer our ongoing support to those who come to Bristol in search of a haven, and celebrate the contribution refugees make to life in our city.

Bristol is a global city, home to over 45 religious faiths and 92 languages and residents who come from over 180 countries of birth. Wherever persecution and racism raises its head in the world, it is felt here in Bristol – by our families, by our neighbours, by our friends. This spirit of solidarity struck me vividly when religious leaders from across Bristol joined together in City Hall in condemnation of the terrorist attacks on mosques in New Zealand in March last year.

Standing together in the face of racism, intolerance and persecution means living out the values we want to see reflected in our communities, in our city, and in our society. It means remaining united as a city in our continued belief in freedom, democracy and the right of communities to live together in peace. We wear these beliefs proudly and refute extremism in all its forms.  I extend my welcome to all those attending the commemorations in City Hall today, and to all those who are reflecting and remembering loved ones across Bristol.

International Day of Education

Today’s guest blog comes from Matt Gillett, Unite Regional Education Officer.

As we celebrate UN International Day for Education it’s worth noting that learning is something that does not end with school or university but continues, both formally and informally, for all of our lives. And for trade unions, access to ongoing learning and education is an issue that is central to so much of what we do. Ensuring that our members in the workplace and the community have the chance to refresh and add to their skills and knowledge to support them in every aspect of their lives.

Learn with Unite is my union’s lifelong learning section. We are part of the Unionlearn project, a government funded initiative, started in the late 1990s to support workplace learning. By working constructively with employers right across industry we have ensured workers have had the opportunity to complete functional skills courses in English and Maths, and vocational qualifications right through to adult apprenticeships. This has been done with the active participation of the more than 40,000 Union Learning Reps who have been trained since Unionlearn was set up. This means we have a quarter of a million learners able to access courses each year through the project. Unite alone currently has over 450 learning agreements with employers that cover around 800,000 workers. Our aim is to build sustainable learning through these agreements and the involvement of our Reps and partner colleges and training providers. Our work with the Bristol Mayor’s office and the Learning City initiative will also help us do this.

Working with those partners we also provide key support to those affected by redundancy with courses in employability skills such as interview techniques, CV writing and job searches. Through our online courses, we provide a further range of recognised and transferable qualifications. Recognising that computer skills are becoming increasingly important in all of our lives we provide computer training from basic through to Level 1 and 2 qualifications. Digital exclusion is a huge equality issue that should concern us all.

Through our focus on equality and diversity we work to increase inclusion and overcome barriers to learning. Our offer of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) allows us to support migrant workers. In Bristol we have a learning centre in our Unite Regional Headquarters in Tony Benn House which offers support to the community through a jobs club, computer classes and ESOL conversation as well as one off sessions such as diabetes awareness. Working with key organisations in the city we are pursuing ideas to make learning available to refugees and asylum seekers.

Lifelong learning, and the access to it, is vital to every aspect of our lives.

“I was homeless, I was you”

“A few weeks ago, me and my daughters moved into a council house. Now we can finally put down roots. I feel like I have my life back.”

Lola, aged 40, Barton Hill.

This week you may have noticed letters addressed to those who are experiencing or facing homelessness posted across our city. These letters carry voices that are heard too rarely – the voices of those who have experienced homelessness, reaching out to those who need similar help and support.

Lola, John and Danni’s experiences of homelessness are all different, but their message to those who are facing homelessness is the same: you can turn your life around.

Ending homelessness in Bristol is one of our major priorities – last year we agreed our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy which will support our efforts to eradicate rough sleeping by 2027.

We are also delivering on our promise to provide the homes Bristol needs to tackle our housing crisis. Before Christmas I visited a brand new council housing development in Brislington, and met residents and families whose lives are being transformed by having a safe and secure roof over their head. We are building affordable homes that can help people like Lola reclaim control over their lives in every corner of our city.

Reading Lola, John and Danni’s letters, however, shows that those who are homeless face a range of different challenges and therefore need different programmes of support. One thing is common throughout the success stories shared by Lola, John and Danni – it is crucial to get help early.

That’s why the work we do with city partners to provide a range of support services is so important in helping people who are experiencing homelessness to find and maintain a safe and secure home. From our welfare rights and money advice services, to our Youth Homelessness Hub, we helped more than 3,600 people from becoming homeless in 2018. In the same year, Bristol City Council and homelessness support services in the city helped more than 900 people who were homeless, through support services like the St Anne’s Winter Night Shelter. We are also support residents in private accommodation, by cracking down on rogue landlords and introducing licencing schemes to drive up standards and security in the private housing sector.

So if you are worried that you or a family member might be at risk of homelessness, seek help now. Information is available on the Bristol City Council website on the ways we and other agencies in the city can help.

As homelessness continues to increase across the country, I am acutely aware of the difference that a safe and secure home can make to a family like Lola’s. That’s why I will continue to put delivering new housing at the top of the city’s agenda. Families across the city like Lola’s, facing homelessness or living in temporary accommodation, rely on us to deliver our pledge for safe, secure and affordable homes across the whole of Bristol. I’m proud that in this campaign we are hearing their message of hope loud and clear.

Recognition for Making Bristol a Living Wage City

This week, I feel proud to be able share the news that the Living Wage Foundation has formally recognised Bristol for its commitment to becoming a Living Wage City.

Not only are we amongst the first cities to achieve this, we are the biggest city to be recognised so far – an example of what we can achieve when we pull together as a city.

The TUC took to the stage at our City Gathering exactly a year ago to challenge the city to improve wages. Therefore, it seemed fitting that we used the City Gathering on Friday to share this major success with hundreds of employers across Bristol and launch this new status.

I was struck by how fair pay became a theme for the morning. It was highlighted as a crucial factor in reducing crime and Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, also shone a light on the importance of rising wages for the economy as a whole.

Financial security, or the lack of, affects every aspect of life. It impacts on a person’s housing situation, their mental and physical health, their educational attainment and their likelihood to be involved in crime.

Increasing the pay of those living and working in our city is key to unlocking improvements in each of these areas. As a tool for social justice, it’s vital. But it’s also good for business.

As Pete Gibbs, owner of the Volunteer Tavern, said to a room full of Bristol employers on Friday: ‘My staff are your customers, and your staff are my customers’. Higher wages means more money to put back into the economy.

In fact, the Living Wage Foundation has found that 93% of Living Wage businesses have benefited since accrediting, through improved recruitment and retention of staff, as well as fewer sick days taken.

As a city, we now have a 3-year plan, with ambitious targets: we want to double the number of Living Wage Employers in the next three years, lifting thousands more people out of in-work poverty. We plan to start by targeting those sectors where workers frequently find themselves trapped in low pay, such as hospitality, retail and tourism.

Working with a key Action Group of organisations representing different sectors, we will continue to influence change and strive for a future where everyone earns a fair wage for a hard day’s work; where earning a real Living Wage is the benchmark, not the aspiration.

This is just the start of our journey – and we need more organisations to work with us.

We’re organising a Living Wage Meet and Greet on Monday 17th February at 3.30pm at City Hall. It’s an opportunity to meet other employers and the Living Wage Foundation to learn more about how you can get involved. Please get in touch with the team to register your interest for this or future events by emailing

Making Bristol a Living Wage City is a perfect example of something we, as a council, could not achieve on our own. It demonstrates the collective power we have to make Bristol a fairer city for everyone and a true city of hope.

Thank you to all those who have helped us on our journey so far, by becoming Living Wage accredited employers, coming to events we’ve organised or being part of our Action Group.

In particular, thank you to our fellow Action Group members for being part of Making Bristol a Living Wage City, namely: University of Bristol, Triodos, DAC Beachcroft, Wessex Archaeology, the Soil Association, Bristol Credit Union, Business West and the TUC.

2020 City Gathering

This morning the City Office held its bi-annual City Gathering. These meetings bring together leaders from all aspects of society, public, private and third sector and today’s was the largest to date with over 250 attendees. City Gatherings are key to how we work collectively as a city to get things done.

Following the success of last year’s One City Plan launch, this morning’s gathering saw the launch of the second iteration of the plan. This year’s iteration includes updates on the plan to include increased ambition towards carbon neutrality as well as updates from the City’s thematic boards. This year’s plan is also now available in a filterable format through the City Office dashboard which is a first attempt to improve the accessibility of the One City Plan.

The gathering also saw a review of what the City Office has achieved over the previous year. Last year’s City Office priority objectives (Period Friendly Bristol, Affordable Childcare and Tackling Street Conflict) were reviewed and are covered in the City Office annual report which is now live on the City Office website.

Our January City Gathering also establishes the City Office’s three priorities for the year. Our Youth Council and Babbasa youth ambassadors voted to select the City’s Connectivity priority to explore funding measures for mass transit systems in Bristol. Gathering attendees then voted for the two remaining priorities, and they chose the Environment Board’s Going for Gold Food Sustainability programme and the Homes and Communities priority of reducing the number of families in temporary accommodation.

We were also incredibly honoured to have Dame Caroline Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, and former Ambassador David Donoghue. Dame Caroline spoke about the need for more positive engagement between business and Bristol’s schools. David facilitated the negotiation process of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gave a strong endorsement for the work of the University of Bristol and the City Office to embed the SDGs in Bristol and the One City Plan.  

The positive, collaborative and incredibly productive nature of today’s gathering is a testament to what we can achieve as a city when combining our efforts. We welcome your comments and suggestions on the One City Plan. If you would like to share your solutions and get involved, please get in touch with the One City Office.

You can hear more about today’s gathering in the video below.

Period Friendly Bristol

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, my Cabinet Lead for Women, Children and Families.

After a whirlwind 14 months of endless meetings, email and lots of hard work; today is the day that we launch Period Friendly Bristol.

This project, born out of the desire to correct an injustice that many didn’t know existed in Bristol, has involved some 200 different people or partners and has demonstrated how Bristol can truly work as One City, with this having been identified by city leaders as a key priority for the One City Approach for 2019.

In 2017, 140,000 young people missed school because of period poverty. In Bristol 40% of students have missed school because of their period. These are huge numbers that undeniably have an effect on education and especially, physical education.

These shocking statistics gave us the impetus and energy to focus on making a real change in Bristol. We used all mechanisms open to us – we passed a unanimous full council motion, we held the world’s first Period Poverty Summit and took our ambitions to the whole city where it was voted as a key aim for 2019.

So we set to work with a small but dedicated team determined to make a change that no other city in the world has attempted. We came up with two key strands of work.

We commissioned local menstrual health experts, the Real Period Project, and anti-plastic campaigners, City to Sea, to develop a Bristol standard education programme that is free to access  for all schools in the city. Our intention is to change attitudes to periods through education – we want boys to understand menstrual health, as well as girls and we want to raise awareness of product choice in line with our ambitions to reduce plastic use. We also want to educate school leaders around toilet policies, access to products and ensuring that teaching staff are sensitive to the needs of young people.

We worked with the Youth Council and Plimsoll Productions to develop a short film and survey to explore young people’s views and experiences of Period Poverty and Stigma. The experiences of young people then informed the work of the education programme ensuring our programme is fit for purpose.

A key and innovative element of the work is a city wide donation and distribution network. We want Bristol to be a place where no one has to worry about having their period. Working alongside corporate partners we are now poised to redistribute donations in the communities that need them most. From January our pilot will launch with 16 community centres, GP surgeries, leisure centres and libraries involved from the outset. A really exciting element of this project has been working with Bristol’s tech and data community to create a web app to support our network. Seeing people come together on a rainy weekend in September to spend their time researching and creating a site to support vulnerable people in Bristol was humbling and uplifting.

Today is our opportunity to share this body of work with the city and to ask for more engagement and support. We want businesses to step forward to become involved, we want to see donations across the city and we want to truly make Bristol a city where everyone can afford to have their period.