Oswestry’s Derwen College is thrilled to have been presented with the Career Development Institute’s award for the best ‘Careers Programme in Post-16 Education’. The UKCD Awards recognise and celebrate excellence across the career development sector, both in the UK and internationally.

This award recognises the creativity and commitment that is needed to bring career management activities to life, and to inspire young people in post-16 education to think about their future careers.

Specialist further education provider Derwen College uses a person-centred method to support its students to reach their aspirations. As the goal for the majority of the college’s learners is employment, careers information and relevant, meaningful work placements are part of each student’s timetable. Work placements are weekly, allowing students and employees to gain the most from partnerships and to learn industry-standard work practices.

Initially, students learn work skills in the college’s on-site Marketplace – which features a café, restaurant, charity shop, garden centre & gift shop, and mini hotel. Here they are supported by skilled teaching and commercial staff, backed by industry champions who are experts in their fields. As students grow in confidence, they move on to external work placements.

The college’s application demonstrated its diligence in forging partnerships with local business, and its dedication to giving students high quality, regular work placements. These work placements allow students the opportunity to gain real knowledge of the routine and expectations of work.

At Derwen College, vocational learning is backed up by a robust careers and employability programme, as well as sessions which enhance skills in independence and travel training.

Derwen College’s tailored approach to its young people’s career journeys means that those students who are anxious about moving straight into a customer facing role are gradually nurtured in practice vocational environments until they feel ready to progress. Having this clear structure in place, culminating in real industry experience, means that students leave college feeling confident and excited to enter the world of work.

Figures from the college’s 2022/23 leavers show that 63% of Derwen College graduates have gone on to, or are in the process of, starting paid or voluntary employment or further training after college. Across England, less than 5% of adults with a learning disability are in paid work, meaning that these figures far exceed the national average.

Derwen College’s Careers Leads, Samantha Brown and Jennifer Fawcett-Jones, travelled to the Museum of Making in Derby for the official awards ceremony on 18 June.

Jennifer Fawcett Jones, also the college’s Head of Curriculum, said, “we are very proud to have been one of the short-listed companies represented at the awards. We are especially proud to have won, despite being short-listed against two strong mainstream career development provisions.”

The Career Development Institute judges commented that, “The [college’s] approach was highly inclusive and underscored by strong ethical principles. Their innovation, particularly in establishing a partnership with an employer and constructing a replica environment, fostered a sense of confidence and preparedness among students.

“The enduring impact was evidenced by students securing employment, highlighting the efficacy of a staged approach in supporting individuals before their immersion in real-life experiences.”

Derwen College is incredibly proud of its relationship with employers in local industry, who provide students with the opportunity to experience a real vocational environment. As a charity, the college relies on donations to underpin its careers programme, which supports students towards a more independent future. If you would like to make a difference by making a donation, or enquiring about an internship opportunity for one of the college’s learners, please visit www.derwen.ac.uk for more information.

College Careers Leads, Jennifer Fawcett-Jones and Samantha Brown.