From education to employment

AoC Beacon Award success for Walsall College

Richard Brennan Jackie Bradnick, Leanne Houghton and David Hughes

Walsall College students and staff are celebrating after winning an Association of Colleges Beacon Award.  The college has received the prestigious The Edge Award for Excellence in Real World Learning.

The award recognises the college’s successful delivery of a Virtual Work Experience Week at the height of the Covid pandemic. 

Over a 36-hour week, around 2,000 students worked independently on an employer-set project, with opportunities built into their timetable for the employer to check progress and provide feedback. The projects were completed alongside a bespoke programme of industry specific talks, demonstrations, site tours, careers guidance sessions, progression talks and LinkedIn learning courses relevant to their area of study.

157 industry specialists from over 90 companies were involved.  These included Midland Metro Alliance, Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Balfour Beatty VINCI, Black Country Chamber of Commerce and HSBC.

Jatinder Sharma OBE DL, Principal and Chief Executive said: “This is an award win that celebrates how the world of work is embedded in our curriculum. 

“We are grateful to our many employer partners who have been so passionate about supporting the next generation of talent.  They, along with our students and staff should also be congratulated for embracing innovative thinking and using digital technologies to

ensure future workforces did not miss out on exposure to industry experts and professional development opportunities.” 

He continued: “We are already building on the employer and student engagements resulting from this initiative and our confident our education provision will continue to

be proactive in helping to meet industry needs and skills priorities for our region’s growth and prosperity.”

The Association of Colleges’ Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK colleges each year. The award supported by the Edge Foundation seeks to recognise examples of practical teaching and learning that equips people with the skills that today’s global and digital economy demands. This is done through a broad and balanced curriculum, high quality training, engaging real world learning and rich relationships between education and employers.

Mark White, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said: “The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them. This award recognises examples of excellent practical teaching and learning. The work of

the winning college shows how important colleges are in providing students with the necessary skills for the real world.”

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive Officer, Edge Foundation said: “Edge are proud sponsors of the Award for Excellence in Real World Learning. Our award celebrates colleges which have developed high quality practical teaching and learning approaches that give students experiences that are real, meaningful, challenging, stretching and life changing. Congratulations to this year’s finalists.”

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