West Nottinghamshire College’s A-Level students had the chance to discuss where they would like to see funding allocated in their communities with a panel of key stakeholders from Mansfield and Ashfield.

Local leaders were guests of honour as they highlighted to students the local benefits of the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ initiative, during a Question Time-style debate.

Panel guests invited to the college’s Mansfield and Ashfield Sixth Form Centre included Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, Sarah Mayfield, head of higher education at Nottingham Trent University’s Mansfield Hub, Theresa Hodgkinson, chief executive of Ashfield District Council and Martin Rigley MBE, chief executive of Lindhurst Engineering.

The panel briefed the students about the government’s new initiatives to ‘level up’ the country, backed by £860 million, to better the high streets, schools, colleges and public sector jobs outside of London. It means that a number of local areas across the country will receive investment, including places such as Ashfield, which will receive over £62 million, and Mansfield, which will receive £12.3 million – both through the government’s Towns Fund – to improve areas such as business, education, health and wellbeing and visitor economy.

Students posed questions about a range of subjects including how could better rail networks help infrastructure and connectivity to new jobs in the area? Other matters that were raised included how injections of money are hoped to be given to uplift accommodation and standards of living in deprived areas.

Members of the panel spoke of how councils make decisions for the funds spending and how councils work closely with businesses to improve industry links and openness about skills gaps in a range of sectors.

Theresa Hodgkinson said: “I think the questions that the students posed were very challenging which shows the level of detail which they wanted to get from the panel. The panel did well in answering those questions in a constructive way. 

“I was pleasantly surprised by the level of challenging that the panel got – there are some very brave students here, showing that they weren’t afraid to ask those supplementary questions.”

Ben Bradley said: “This generation of people will see the most opportunities from the funding in these communities. In five or ten years’ time when some of this work comes to fruition and those jobs are created, these are the young people will hopefully have better life chances as a result of the things we’re doing. 

“Young people growing up in Mansfield and Ashfield today will have a much better opportunity to do the things they want to do compared to their parents and grandparents did when they were young,”

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