From education to employment


78 students from four Digital Career Colleges around the country are undertaking an 8-week digital challenge set by Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help address youth violence and tackle knife crime.

The 16-20 year-olds were briefed on their exciting challenge at AWS HQ in London.  The ‘live’ project is being run by the Career Colleges Trust together with AWS for the fourth year running.

This year, new partners include The Prince’s Trust and the BBC. Representatives from London Sport, Marylebone Cricket Club (Lords) and UK Active are also on the judging panel.

The four FE colleges involved – Barking & Dagenham, BMet, Coleg Gwent and Westminster Kingsway – all have digital Career Colleges, where every curriculum is part designed and delivered by employers. This ensures that young people are equipped with skills that are relevant to the real world of work.

During the project briefing session, the challenge was revealed. The students must come up with a solution that will help to tackle and overcome the issue of knife crime and youth violence by using digital technology in a positive way.

The project’s judging panel introduced themselves to the students, offering some insightful talks.

Project Lead for Youth Violence at the Prince’s Trust, Helen O’ Connor, said:

“The Prince’s Trust is delighted to be working with our partner AWS on the Careers College Digital Project. It is a brilliant opportunity for young people to develop confidence and skills for their futures, as well as have their voices heard on issues that affect their lives such as overcoming youth violence.”

Alice Castle from the BBC presented a Real News workshop to students – helping them understand how to spot fake news stories and the importance of critical thinking. And, in addition to the judges, an ambassador from the Prince’s Trust, Emmanuel Balogun, spoke to students, along with two former Career College students who have gone on to work for great companies.

A careers talk about design and digital marketing was presented by Experience Haus’ Amit Patel and the day concluded with AWS representatives speaking about roles at AWS. These included talks on apprenticeships, gaming and cloud solutions as well as presenting AWS Educate, Amazon’s global initiative to provide educators and students with comprehensive resources for building skills in cloud technology for free.

Students will be working in groups of six on one of three briefs. These briefs were chosen from over 500 ideas submitted by Career College students in the first stage of the project. 

Welcoming students to the briefing at AWS, Digital Director at the Career Colleges Trust, Julia Von Klonowski, said:

“Our annual digital project with AWS is a highlight for all our digital Career Colleges. Every year I am delighted by the hard work and dedication each student puts into this challenge – it really is remarkable to watch the transformation of these young people over the 8-week period in terms of skills, confidence and self-belief.

“Each one of the speakers emphasised that while qualifications are important, employers are far more interested in the transferrable skills such as problem-solving communication, teamwork, curiosity and critical thinking. These are the skills that Career Colleges helps young people to prioritise and develop.

“This year we are tackling an emotive and difficult subject – youth violence and knife crime – but one that is sadly very relevant to young people today. We are lucky to have such iconic organisations involved and I very much look forward to working with the students and seeing what great ideas they come up with.”

The ‘live’ task must be managed and run in the same way as any other real industry project. Students will have two project meetings and a Product Design workshop with the client during the eight weeks, focusing on design, finance and the project plan.

The student teams will return to AWS’ offices in March to present their solutions to the panel of judges, with a range of prizes to be awarded to the winning projects. Students will be assessed not only on the quality of their solution, but on their reflection and evaluation of the task.

Chris Hayman, Head of UK & I Public Sector, Amazon Web Services, said:

“We are proud to support the Career Colleges Trust and its students for a fourth year, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of digital technology experts in the UK.

“Introducing young people to the latest and most innovative cloud technologies is critical for both today’s workforce and the workforce of the future.

“We know from the previous three years just how talented and creative Career College students are and we can’t wait to see what innovative ideas they develop to support charities such as The Princes Trust in tackling problems that are affecting communities across the UK.”

Students attending the event were extremely enthusiastic about their experience

Jerin Akter (20) from Birmingham is studying graphic design at BMet. She said:

“Knife crime and youth violence is affecting my generation so I was keen to get involved in a project that may help tackle this. I hope that it will also give me more confidence and experience for my future career.”

Jack El-Tawil (17) from Northolt, London is a computer science student at Westminster Kingsway College. He said:

“I am very interested in using technology for good and worthwhile purposes – so this project really appealed to me. I am keen to be a software engineer in the future so this project is a great start for me in terms of experience. I am really looking forward to the challenge but am nervous about the presentation.”

Adam Bezent (16) from Newport, Wales is studying digital technology at Coleg Gwent. He said:

“This project will give me the experience I need to help me stand out when I apply for jobs in the future. I am particularly interested in coding and am looking forward to that aspect of the challenge rather than the presentation!”

Joe Maya (18) is from Dagenham and studying IT at Barking & Dagenham College. He said:

“I love gaming and my dream is to be a computer game designer. I want to get experience of working in a team and improve my presentation skills, so this project is perfect for me.”

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