This is a guest post by Dick Palmer, Chair of City & Guilds Foundation and City & Guilds Group Trustee
Being Chair of the City & Guilds Foundation is one of the jobs I am most proud of and privileged to undertake. There is so much social need in the world and so many people deserving of our support, so it’s a pleasure to be able to be a tiny part of making a difference – particularly in combating key societal issues through the work that is happening across the Foundation. Whilst the pandemic put a temporary hold on getting to meet some the beneficiaries that we have funded over the years, I am pleased to now be getting out and about to visit them and hear first-hand the difference that our funding is making.
Transitioning from school to college with Gower College
Gower College received funding from the Foundation to support with the recruitment of two Transition & Engagement Mentors. These two new posts are supporting and working with young people who are getting ready to transition into post-16 education and are likely to become NEET (not in employment, education or training). The team at Gower trialled running a summer college for the last three weeks of the holiday last year where they brought in 60 learners who fit that category. Over the summer they worked on building their resilience so that they would be able to start college with some confidence and, more importantly, stay in college. All 60 leaners started at the college in September, many of whom had not had positive prior experiences of education and, although wanting to learn more about things they enjoyed, they found the prospect of going to a large educational institution daunting and were genuinely afraid of crossing the threshold. Over the last academic year the two new mentors have been working with 16 schools in the region and are confident that this year’s summer programme will be even busier than the last, with places for another 24 learners already organised.
Whilst at Gower I got the chance to meet three of the learners who were part of the summer project last year. They spoke glowingly of the support they have received which has enabled them to feel confident in their own abilities and has meant that they feel able to enjoy their time at the college. All of the learners would recommend their college to their friends (which they certainly wouldn’t have done prior to this project), and all are hoping to come back to undertake more courses in September – some are even thinking of pairing up as ‘study buddies’ for future cohorts, really evidencing their newly gained resilience.
Speaking about the programme, Lucy Abraham, one of the Skills and Transition Mentors said: ‘There’s a lot of focus on transition from primary to secondary school, but not so much from key stage 4 to key stage 5. Our role has been vital in offering a bespoke offer to schools who have students at risk of becoming NEET. We have been looking at future career paths with the young people, whilst raising their aspirations, and it is wonderful to see the hard work pay off.’
Skills for all in Cardiff
Just 40 miles east across the coast of South Wales, our funding with Cardiff and Vale College is all about supporting Cardiff’s refugee, asylum seeker and ethnic minority communities to deliver impactful interventions around skills development. It was fantastic to meet the newly appointed work coach who has been funded by the Foundation – Ellie, who even though she’s only been in post for a month, has already made her mark by working with various employer and third sector networks in the wider Cardiff region to gather together new opportunities for her target group of learners.
Ellie is part of the college’s REACH+ unit which is also supporting asylum seekers, refugees and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) learners more generally. And Ellie’s focus within the team is to really focus on understanding the needs of those communities whilst developing bespoke interventions to support the learners with life skills, language development and core employability and digital skills. There is so much latent potential here and you can already see Ellie’s focussed passion and commitment to the project, it is clear to everyone at the college that this project will be a resounding success. I’m going to enjoy watching this develop over the next year!
It’s worth also noting that Cardiff and Vale is a Princess Royal Training Award recipient (also managed by our Foundation), which is no surprise given their commitment to learning and development. They achieved the standard in 2022 for delivering quality teaching as part of their staff development. Over 200 of their employees gained professional qualifications which has had benefits to the staff themselves and overall learner experience and outcomes.
Making a difference
Joining me on my visit was City & Guilds’ Stakeholder and Partnerships Manager, Angharad Lloyd Beynon. Angharad was uniquely placed, given her extensive network and connections, in accompanying me on the visits – indeed, she organised them all! Sharing my joy in being able to get out and see the difference our funding through the Foundation is making, Angharad said:
‘It’s been a pleasure to meet the teams across Gower and Cardiff. I felt so emotional hearing from the learners who are already benefiting immensely from the funding. It truly does make me so proud to work for a fantastic organisation which is really making a difference’
Sometimes it’s the little things that have the greatest impact, and to be able to visit these two Colleges who we are supporting with funding has highlighted to me just how much we really are transforming lives through the various aspects of City & Guilds. I am looking forward to being able to play my small part in the Foundation, which continues to shine a light on skills development, particular for those people in society who are hardest to reach.