Work experience opportunities helping students develop skills
Not all National Star students aspire to get a job or volunteering placement when they leave college. But for those who do, our tutors, job mentors and transition specialists provide information and guidance to students throughout their time with us.
As we begin to mark National Careers Week 2021 Livy Dickinson, Programme Manager (Work Outcomes) explains how, despite coronavirus, her team has provided meaningful work experience opportunities to helps students develop their skills and experience.
From the moment would-be students start thinking about learning with us at National Star we begin to explore their plans for the future in terms of securing full-time or part-time work or a volunteering position. We enjoy finding out what makes a young person tick and what inspires them. We’re good at spotting the twinkle in the eye that appears when a student starts talking about something that they enjoy or wish to do in the future.
We’ll design an individual learning programme to help them work towards their ultimate goal. Functional skills in maths and English and a vocational qualification are usually included in these plans. However, equal emphasis is placed on developing soft skills, such as teamwork, communication skills and interview practice.
Work experience placements were initially thrown into chaos at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. We had no control over when employers would start accepting students back for placements. With restrictions still in place, and the health and wellbeing of student uppermost in our minds, we began to make the most of the in-house work experience opportunities provided at National Star itself.
Recognising the need to adapt in order to continue providing work placement courses we did not shut up shop during lockdown, but pivoted our offer to meet the needs of our students.
Work related learning programmes
StarMart, a student-run ‘corner shop’ selling gifts, make-up and toiletries, as well as confectionery, greetings cards, DVDs and books, opened its doors at Ullenwood. Students were trained to serve customers, stock shelves and work the till.
Elmscroft Community Café in Gloucester opened its doors to the public, with students serving cakes sandwiches and hot drinks.
At Greensteps in Cheltenham we set up an enterprise centre. Students are engaged in upcycling furniture, making handmade cards and gifts as well as embarking upon gardening projects. In Hereford, students are making craft items ready to sell at a local market in the future.
Students have packed and posted Christmas cards and student-made goods after orders were received via our online shop. One Work Outcomes student is gaining valuable facilities management experience, working alongside our Site Services team.
Job mentor support and remote learning
Following thorough risk assessments, and with job mentor support, several students have been able to maintain their external placements. Marks & Spencer in Cheltenham is providing invaluable retail experience to a number of our students. A Cheltenham-based trainee has continued with his warehouse placement, impressing his supervisor with his growing confidence and communication skills.
Remote learning sessions and job coaching has focussed students’ attention on preparing for ‘virtual’ and face-to-face interviews and the importance of dressing appropriately when meeting prospective employers.
National Star students will be ready and raring to go when the time is right for them to start applying for roles after college and we’ll be with them every step of the way.
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