An exciting industry-led project has come to an exciting climax, with 58 students from four digital Career Colleges presenting their ideas to judges at Amazon Web Services’ head office in London.

 The 16-18 year old students had undertaken an eight-week challenge – which was run by the Career Colleges Trust in partnership with AWS, Samaritans, London Sport, Marylebone Cricket Club and UK Active.

The live project brief - given to the students from Barking & Dagenham College, BMet, Coleg Gwent and Westminster Kingsway College - was to develop an innovative digital solution to promote the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of young people.

At the final, students gave impressive presentations about their group’s solution. Each student reflected on their personal performance during the project – highlighting areas they found challenging and the parts they most enjoyed.

Many students explained that their confidence had grown throughout the project and time management was frequently flagged as a challenge. The judges found the sharing of students' own personal experience of mental health issues very moving and inspiring.

The standard was very high all round, but a team from Westminster Kingsway College was chosen as the overall winner for their ‘Hope Box’ solution. The innovative design impressed judges, as did the group’s genuine desire to give hope to people who may be struggling with mental health issues.

Teams from other colleges also picked up awards: Teams from Barking & Dagenham College were presented with Best Run Project and Best Solution, and a team from Coleg Gwent picked up the accolade for Best Presentation. The prize for Best Reflection was presented to another team from Westminster Kingsway College.

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Individual prizes were also awarding to outstanding students:

Career Colleges Awards: Sophie Habberley (BDC), Chris Wielgos (BMet), Callum Oliver and Adrian Rylski (Coleg Gwent) Kyle Woodhams (Westminster Kingsway)

Alan Livett Award – role model – Oliver Crew (BDC)

The task had to be managed and run in exactly the same way as any other ‘real’ industry project. Each team appointed a Project Manager and students had two project meetings with the client during the eight weeks, focusing on issues, design, finance and the project plan. 

Representatives from Career Colleges Trust, AWS and Samaritans sat on the project board, joined by representatives from UK Active, London Sport and the Marylebone Cricket Club on the judging panel. 

Digital Lead for the Career Colleges Trust, Julia Von Klonowski, says:

“This is the third year we have worked with AWS to give our digital students experience of working on a real industry project. The theme of this year’s project was wellbeing, which is hugely important at a time when mental health issues are in the spotlight – and working with the Samaritans provided students with the opportunity to raise awareness of this issue and especially about the growing issue of suicide amongst young males.

“Not only have the students developed their technical skills in this challenge, they have also learnt about the importance of team working, communication skills and working to a deadline. These attributes are all essential within a workplace.

“The standard of the presentations and indeed the solutions themselves were of an incredibly high standard. A high level of professionalism shone through and I think many of the students have surprised themselves in terms of how far they have come in just eight weeks.

“The students have also found out about many exciting roles that exist within the digital industry, which they may not have been aware of before. I hope the students are inspired to continue working hard; I have no doubt that each one of them has an exciting career ahead. Congratulations to our winners and to everyone else who has worked so hard”

Samaritans’ Service Improvement Manager Education, Karen Harvey, says: 

“Samaritans was proud to be a part of this project, the ideas that the students have developed are fantastic, showing great creativity and a real understanding of the support that is needed for young people. All of the entries have considered how to use technology to enable greater human connection and support for those in need. 

“I am so impressed by the personal stories that have been shared and the compassion that these young people have for each other. The project has enabled them to gain many skills and to think about how they can reach out to each other. I am very excited by many of the solutions the groups put forward, Samaritans will be considering how to use some of these ideas in their digital developments.”

The winning team was presented with Echo Dots from AWS. Other winners were awarded prizes from the judges including visits and work shadowing. All students received certificates.

Ezekiel Lachevre (17) is studying Computer Science at Westminster Kingsway College and was part of the winning ‘Hope Box’ team. He says:

“I have loved working on this project. My group got on really well and we created a good solution.

“The best thing for me has been working on something that can help people. Mental health issues affect many people and this project has been an opportunity to get people talking and sharing their experiences. After college I want to go into medical AI, which can help people who have lost limbs and many other amazing things that can dramatically improve people’s lives.”

Jessica Kelleher (18), from Dagenham is studying IT at Barking & Dagenham College and was part of the team who were awarded a prize for Best Run project. She says:

“I have found this project to be so inspirational. I’ve learnt about new digital techniques as well as understanding more about mental health issues and the work of the Samaritans.

“I was so nervous about public speaking but having presented my ideas to so many people, I now feel much more confident. I was the only girl in my group and didn’t know any of the other members. But this wasn’t a problem and we all worked together really well.”

Farhan Malik (18) attends BMet College, studying Level 3 IT. He says:

“This project has given me the opportunity to learn new things, especially about managing my time and working to deadlines! It has also given me chance to help other people through the connection with the Samaritans.

“I plan to go to university after my course and working on this project has made me sure that I want a career in IT.”

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