Spacebar launches at the Sovereign Centre

Covid-19 has undoubtedly seen many sectors change the way they do business, having seen rapid migration to digital technologies over the past year. Something needed to be done to enhance the digital visibility of local businesses in Weston-super-Mare and it was at this point that the concept of Spacebar was created.

Spacebar is a digital hub located in the heart of the high street and has taken residence in the Sovereign Centre, in an empty shop that would have otherwise been left unoccupied. The new workspace provides Digital T Level and BTEC learners with valuable, practical industry experience whilst also allowing them to develop their technical skills and helping local employers.

Spacebar is a joint venture between Weston College, Sovereign Shopping Centre, Business Improvement District, NatWest, North Somerset Council and the Weston Place Agency. These key stakeholders in the town recognised the need for connection, education and collaboration within the community to build stronger links and networks of support.

With the return of non-essential retail in April, the Spacebar project team have physically returned to the space after months of providing virtual support. Under the guidance of host employer, Weston Town Centre Partnership’s Business Improvement District, learners have been working on projects for local businesses, supporting them on improving their digital presence, specifically static website creation. Weston College learners gaining experience at Spacebar will also be receiving a series of sector-specific talks and advice sessions delivered on a weekly basis by NatWest’s Digital Team. Over the coming months mentors will offer technical support and guidance to learners, allowing them to further develop their technical skills and knowledge.

The branding for the project was designed by University Centre Weston (UCW) Graphic Design students, who developed:

  • The concept
  • The name: Spacebar
  • The logo
  • Artwork
  • The design of the unit

Dr Paul Phillips CBE, Principal and Chief Executive, Weston College, commented: “Spacebar is a really exciting project for our learners.

“Over the past few years, our computing learners have earned themselves a first-class reputation, after supporting businesses across the region to develop their presence online, and also solve problems that full-time employees have struggled with.

“We are so proud that this project has incorporated such a variety of students, from different courses, all with the overall goal, of helping local people develop their business in such difficult circumstances.

“Working so closely with key partners was also important for this project, as together we can share knowledge, to nurture our future talent, and prepare them for life after College.”

Steve Townsend, Manager at The Business Improvement District, agreed, adding: “It is important that as a business we support local talent, and allow them the space to harness their skills.

“Spacebar is a fantastic opportunity not only for learners, but also for our community, and we are delighted to be part of driving the digital agenda for the region.”

Jon Walton, Manager of the Sovereign Shopping Centre has also voiced his positivity, saying that “ The team at the Sovereign are delighted to host Spacebar and it is another example of how the centre is repurposing itself to deal with the current challenges and opportunities facing Weston-super-Mare”.

Cllr Mark Canniford, Executive Member for Placemaking and Economy, at North Somerset Council, said: “The Digital Hub is a fantastic example of collaborative working for the good of Weston’s business community and I’m incredibly impressed with the learners and the upskilling opportunities they’ve been offered. I am delighted to see the partnership between the college and the Council gaining strength and giving opportunities to our highly skilled students.”

Rachel Beale at NatWest said: “Weston College learners have been supporting businesses through our NatWest Accelerator Programme for the last few months and we always hear positive feedback on the support they receive.

“We wanted to help to further enhance their development by delivering weekly talks to learners, covering a range of topics such as software development, network infrastructure and project management”.


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