From education to employment

How colleges can support able students to access employment opportunities

With the government pledging to create 3 million apprenticeship starts over the course of this parliament there is again a focus on alternative options for bright school leavers, other than the traditional University route. This was something we discussed at our Opening Doors to Employment with the Study Programmes Forum in March. For this theme 4 speakers from colleges we have partnered with in the past spoke about how they support and guide able students, who do not want to go to University, into fulfilling employment.

Lynnette Elshawarby, Vice Principal Learner Experience at Cadbury College explained that in her experience some Level 3 learners are still lacking confidence and are scared of job interviews. They are not fully ready for work yet as many are inexperienced and lacking key workplace skills such as team work. In some cases even learners going to university need workplace skills in order to get a part time job whilst they’re there. There needs to be some kind of bridge between college and the workplace for these able learners who are not prepared to go straight into employment. For Cadbury College they focus on using internal apprenticeships and jobs to bridge this gap. This is something that is also done at East Kent College. Christine Ricketts & Janet Chandler, Assistant Principal and Head of Apprenticeships and Workplace Learning at the college explained that their nursery, restaurant and hotel are all run on-site by the learners. This gives their learners real work experience but internally, which removes any problems that could be caused by them not being ready for the external workplace.

John Waite, HOF Business, Finance and Computing at Tower Hamlets College discussed how with 73% of finance and banking graduate trainees having already worked for their employer, work experience placements are crucial. He said that bright school leavers are now realising that they need work experience either as well as university or instead of it by taking part in internships and school leaver programmes. To ensure their learners are prepared for such programmes Lynnette talked about how her college hosts career talks with employers, has a job shop run by and for the learners and also engaged Working Knowledge to deliver the Employer Aware programme which allows their learners to interact with business people, have business meetings with them, pitch them an idea and ultimately get an employer reference to use on CVs, UCAS and other application forms.

At East Kent College staff in each curriculum area are encouraged to develop employer links and bring employers into the college to co-deliver some aspects of the curriculum. The college is also focused on trying to find work experience placements that will result in apprenticeships.

Having spent 9 years partnering with FE colleges to open the eye of business to the young talent available locally I am passionate about ensuring learners of all levels have access to work experience and experiences of work which equip them with the skills they need in the workplace. It is essential that colleges are engaging employers to bridge the gap between education and the workplace and ensure that if their learners do not want to go to university that they have the ability and support to achieve high-level apprenticeships and school leaver programmes. We believe that by training staff to create networks of curriculum-relevant employers employability can be easily embedded in the full time curriculum and staff will be able to call on their networks of employers to help co-design and co-deliver and employer focussed curriculum.

For more information about this theme, or the others that were discussed at the forum please go to our website, or join the discussion on our LinkedIn.

James Lott is the managing director of Working Knowledge, a social enterprise that has over 8 years experience of partnering with the Further and Higher Education sectors to support the education of full time learners through employer engagement via a range of value-added work experience, enterprise and employability services

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