Kathryn O'Neill - Wigan and Leigh College
Kathryn O’Neill is a Careers Champion for her work in removing barriers with dedicated programmes for foundation year students at Wigan and Leigh College.
Kathryn is the Careers Leader at the college where she and the careers team consistently strive to improve the experiences of their students, offering a wide range of events and activities to demystify careers, open up opportunities and make a lasting impact.
Foundation year students come from a diverse range of backgrounds, from those with significant learning support needs, to those with little or no qualifications either because English is not their first language, or because they have not had a particularly beneficial experience at school.
Kathryn and her team have delivered a number of in-person events alongside a range of employers and partners. Along with centrally-organised employer talks, tours and workshops, each faculty runs their own Career Ready week through the year. Additional events this year have been delivered such as a creative and digital careers fair.
In particular, as part of National Careers Week in March, the team ran their first ‘Exploring Careers’ Conference day for foundation learners. This conference was set up to develop the knowledge and planning of this group of learners and to support them as part of developing their confidence for the next step into wider curriculum subjects. Sessions included a world of work session from Mencap, designed to encourage learners to think about their pathway, recognise strengths and weaknesses and how to develop these, with college alumni attending too. They were all engaged and participated well throughout the day. Many of the students already have part time jobs or volunteering places that they enjoy and were able to discuss the benefits and employability skills they get from these opportunities.
Vicky Madden, Head of Department for Foundation Studies, said: “Foundation learners oozed enthusiasm, direction and clarity of what their next steps were to be. It was like watching a light come on. Its enlightening to see learners piece together their progress and see the reality that hard work and determination does pay off. This is a great example of how the careers team at Wigan and Leigh are focused on removing barriers for all their learners."