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Jasbir Sondhi, Vice Principal at Westminster Kingsway College, shares how her college has been able to innovate and adapt to the changing landscape in this new Covid-19 world to prepare young people for their futures. 

Last month we had over 1,200 students (from ‘A’ Level and Vocational studies) anxiously waiting for their results. When the College closed, the Careers and Employability Team played a pivotal role re-assuring and giving advice to learners. In this new COVID-19 world, we are reflecting and acting upon information at breakneck speed and developing new ways of delivery across all Directorates in the college.

Sir John Holman talks of how, in a post-COVID world, good careers education will be critical. With the job market ravaged and the futures for employment uncertain, young people, more than ever, need help with making the right career decisions.

Innovating and adapting to support learners’ needs

At Westminster Kingsway College, as in many other schools and colleges around the country, we understand that we are preparing young people for their futures. How can we ensure our learners are still gaining qualifications and having the best experience possible while on their journey with us?

With learning moving in and out of the classroom, with blended learning approaches, technology is key. It is imperative that we innovate and adapt to the changing landscape of learners’ needs.

We delivered over 300 virtual 1:1 careers appointments’ (through Microsoft Teams) to our Y11 -Y13. We learned quickly that students engaged with this format, as it can be flexible with cameras on or off, and through the chat function. Initially uptake was low, however by the 2nd week, we had 80% making their appointments.

Collaborating with partner organisations

We moved most of our careers education activities to a virtual platform using our partner universities and employers, discovering they were keen to engage and offer their time. You’re not on your own. There are some great resources and organisations to support your careers education programmes. Many of our learners took part in events, such as the Career Ready Skills Festival. The Speakers for Schools ‘Virtual Talks’ has also been supporting schools and colleges with some great initiatives, including partnering with the Camden STEAM Hub to bring over 150 virtual work experience opportunities for local leaners missing out on summer work placements. 

The journey has just begun…

We will continue on our journey, as over the past 24 months Westminster Kings College have brought together curriculum and careers teams to better meet the needs of learners. 

The College has developed a clear vision for Careers and Employability education that focuses on providing learners with high quality opportunities linked to broadening horizon, meeting the needs of employers and the aspirations of learners.  

Learners are benefiting from individualised careers guidance support that enables them to make good progress. The Careers team monitor and support learner progress across the whole study programme, working closely with learners to help them achieve individualised targets to support them to achieve positive outcomes. Learners who need support, are ‘at risk’ or are facing barriers to learning are being identified at an earlier stage and interventions to support them are being put in place in a timely.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic with unemployment and educational issues (chief amongst these the gap in education and effect on the job market due to COVID) are creating a significant challenge for all ages of the UK workforce. As an education institution, how we will be judged is not only on learners gaining their qualifications but also on how prepared they are for the new post-COVID world of work.

Jasbir Sondhi, is Vice Principal at Westminster Kingsway College, one of the largest further education colleges in London with a diverse student body of around 14,000 learners.

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