BASINGSTOKE MP Maria Miller was given a VIP tour of one of the town’s top performing colleges – and the visit saw her face a range of challenging questions from students.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport chatted to young people about their studies at Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) and how their courses prepare them for the workplace.

She was given a tour of the college’s new £3million science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) block, which was opened in April by Lord Paul Drayson, a former minister for science and innovation.

Mrs Miller also spoke to a group of apprentices, who told her about the benefits of coming to college to gain formal qualifications, while experiencing on-the-job training at the same time.

Tyler Donaldson, 26, said: “Finding someone willing to take an apprentice on is difficult. I spent a while finding an employer but it was all worth it. I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship.”

Lynda Pickering, head of the STEM department, said to Mrs Miller: “As a college, we must ensure our learners gain the right skills here which can then transfer to the workplace. This is vital for employability.”

Mrs Miller said: “It is fantastic that 1,200 people in Basingstoke started an apprenticeship last year. That is 100 per cent more than under the last Govern-ment.”

She added: “BCoT is a top performing college, delivering a wide range of apprenticeships, and provides a fantastic opportunity for people in Basingstoke to have the chance to earn and learn at the same time.”

During her visit, Mrs Miller met sports and exercise students and spoke about the importance of sport, following the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year, and continuing that legacy for the next generation.

Students then had the opportunity to question Mrs Miller, and they asked her about her role in the Government, the impact of funding cuts to enrichment programmes at colleges, and her experience of being a female MP in a male-dominated environment.

Mrs Miller said that as a country, women need to be encouraged not to put a glass ceiling in place when it comes to their career, and that more support should be offered with childcare and flexible working hours.

Anthony Bravo, principal at BCoT, in Worting Road, said: “The visit was a great opportunity for staff and students to showcase the new STEM building and all the new facilities and equipment we have invested in.

“I know learners really enjoyed chatting to Maria about their studies and progression routes – and they also enjoyed firing questions about life in Westminster.”

Last month, BCoT was chosen to receive £515,000 of Government funding to pay for improvements to its buildings.

Mrs Miller said the money would help “continue the programme of improvement.”

She added: “This funding shows the Government’s commitment to enabling students to grow and flourish in an exciting, inspirational, modern learning environment in the heart of the local community, while equipping them with the skills they need for the workplace.”