Derwen College the national specialist further education college for young people aged from 16 to 25, has 143 residential and day students with a variety of special educational needs and disabilities, including autism, communication difficulties and challenging behaviours. Its ethos is to be ‘a place of possibility’. The college encourages students to enter WorldSkills UK skills Competitions as a way of developing both technical and employability skills. One of the college’s greatest achievements is getting young people into the world of work. 69% of students from 2021/22 have gone into employment against a national average of 5.1% of those with learning disabilities and special educational needs (NHS Digital, 2021).
The college identifies barriers to EDI as being a lack of awareness about people with special educational needs and disabilities. WorldSkills and WorldSkills UK Competition activity if used successfully can encourage students to step out of their comfort zone and learn how to excel.
Learners follow vocational pathways in hospitality and food, horticulture, retail, enterprise and performing arts. Those not yet ready for vocational pathways, can follow a Learning for Life pathway which builds confidence and teambuilding skills as a strong basis for work-based learning. The college launched a bespoke Nurture Programme catering for students with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
Students learn vocational skills in workplace environments with teaching support staff. At the Gobowen College campus students work in the customer ‘marketplace’ hosting a café, restaurant, garden centre, gift shop, charity shop and a small hotel.
The college is passionate about enabling students to communicate their feelings and opinions, and incredibly proud of its bold Student Voice initiative, pushing barriers to ensure that every student’s views and opinions are heard. The college has an active and powerful elected Student Union Board, with representatives from each programme area, as well as for freshers, satellite sites, day students, and LGBTQ students.
Four learners took part in the WorldSkills international restaurant and catering competitions, demonstrating their skills to a wide audience. One learner won third place for the restaurant service competition, and one was highly commended for his participation in the catering competition. Four more students have been entered for the next WorldSkills UK Competitions, taking place in the summer 2023 term with the final in November.
Four business support and enterprise students took part in the WorldSkills UK Foundation Media Competition. The project centred upon the theme of Respect. Learners were asked to create a marketing campaign to promote respect of yourself, others, the environment and the future. They reached the finals and went on to win a bronze medal. All four Business and Enterprise graduates who took part in WorldSkills UK Competitions last year have gone on to employment or further study towards their career goals.
Skills competitions have given students the chance to experience the sense of achievement and understand how hard work and training impacts on their development and futures. This has supported students to build confidence and resilience.
Students took pride in their achievements and rose to challenges. Although there has been a multitude of successes both individually and as a wider team, it is particularly pleasing that students don’t feel disheartened or demoralised when they aren’t placed. This resilience to setbacks, and a wish to improve for next time, is evident. As is the students’ enthusiasm for competition activity. They enjoy teamwork and showing off their skills.
Students on our vocational pathways, continue to benefit from WorldSkills UK Competitions. Four students on the hospitality and food programme have already been entered for the next WorldSkills UK Competitions cycle.