Our Economic Development team work on a wide range of projects, covering multiple sectors.

In the next of our profile pieces, you'll hear from Cath Parnall, one of the team's Senior Economic Development officers at Plymouth City Council. 


I am Cath Parnall and I joined the Council on 1 April 2020!  What a baptism of fire, joining two weeks into lockdown!

I have a strong background in Business Support, having worked for University of Plymouth and Business Link in previous roles.

Although my main remit is Manufacturing Lead for Plymouth City Council, the first 18 months in post were spent with the team on the administration of the Additional Restrictions Grants and, alongside many others, generally getting to grips with both working remotely and meeting colleagues and businesses over Teams and Zoom.

Last May I was also assigned the role of Project Manager for the Reopening the High Street Safely Fund (an ERDF Programme).  This fund was replaced by the Welcome Back Fund earlier this year, and I have continued to project manage it. The fund has enabled us to create some exciting content to encourage people to shop locally and to visit our lovely city of Plymouth, together with a host of entertainment events taking place at regular times throughout the year.

Now we are back to ‘business as usual’ I am keen to embrace my remit, to engage with as many Plymouth based manufacturers as possible and to look to work closely with them on their journey to success. 

This also includes gaining a good working knowledge of all the support offerings available, both local and national, that I can then signpost businesses to.

So, with this in mind I visited the STEM facilities at City College’s Kings Road campus to gain an insight into their offering. My host was Alan Austin – Head of Academy for Maritime and Manufacturing.

The Regional Centre of Excellence for STEM (to quote its full title) was conceived in direct response to addressing the skills gaps that exist within the region. It is an impressive facility, offering a wide range of training for apprentices and other learners across the entire STEM facilities.  It offers bespoke apprenticeships to suit the individual needs of the employer.

My visit was to the Engineering, Automotive and Marine section. I was able to witness first hand apprentices learning techniques hands on as well as visiting the impressive Augmented Reality Welding Suite.   The suite is home to 17 AR welding simulators, each one capable of allowing more welders to be trained up to a higher level much more quickly.  

The kit is also safer, cheaper than the alternative of practising with real material, and more environmentally friendly. By using the latest technology it is hoped to attract more young people to become welders, including women who are seen as more dexterous than men.  The suite is open to apprentices during the day but also offers open access evening classes in both MIG and TIG. 

I also visited the Automotive Suite, where it was encouraging to see females undergoing the training but also to note that they were being supervised by a female trainer.

The STEM Centre is open to visits from employers – not only to view the facilities with a view to using them in the future but also to see their own apprentices in action.  It is worth a visit as well to see some of the exhibits that have been made by apprentices at the Centre, in particular the sculptures of the Tamar Bridge and the Samurai. 

If you would like to visit the Centre or indeed learn more about the training on offer – in particular the bespoke apprenticeships on offer then Alan will be pleased to accommodate you. 

I will be reaching out to all manufacturers and support offerings over the course of the next few weeks. If you would like a visit from me or to be featured in a future blog, please email me directly.



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