With the new year – and new decade – almost upon us, we thought it would be nice to look back on the last 12 months at Westminster Kingsway College. So, here are all the best bits from 2019….
We are central London’s leading further education college in the exciting field of visual effects (VFX) for TV and film, so it was fitting that the year kicked-off with us winning a contract – with Capital City College Training (the specialist training arm of the Capital City College Group) – to deliver a new Visual Effects (VFX) Apprenticeship, beating-off competition from universities. The two Apprenticeships are being delivered in partnership with the NextGen Skills Academy.
During the February half-term holidays, many of our students do work placements, to gain new skills and experience the world of work. For some, it will prove to be vital experience for their CVs.
Business student Victoria Freitas Tineo, spent a week at the leading London think-tank Centre for London. The week was lined-up by Victoria and Wendy Breakell from the college, working with an organisation called S4S: NextGen.
Victoria really enjoyed her week, saying that “I learnt so much during my week at the Centre for London. I met all the team and they gave me training every day on a new skill to help develop my skills for a career. I learnt Excel which is proving to be useful in my studies as well as in a future job.” Presenting in front of different audiences is a key skill that will prove invaluable in developing Victoria’s confidence, cooperation and communication, so her week ended with her presenting a research proposal, with some of the Centre for London team.
March was a bumper good news month, us marking National Apprenticeships Week with WestKing’s Hospitality Apprenticeships Programme Manager Sharon Barry and Chef Lecturer Nick Gunyon being granted an ancient and coveted honour – the Freedom of the City of London – for their years of service to apprentices.
We also had a group of 16-18-year-old students participate in – and win – a Digital Career Colleges challenge at the London offices of Amazon Web Services, the global cloud computing and cloud services giant. The students had undertaken an eight-week challenge to develop an innovative digital solution to promote the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of young people.
And our students won! Their ‘Hope Box’ idea beat off competition from three other colleges (Barking & Dagenham College, BMet and Coleg Gwent). Hope Boxes would be placed at public places like train stations – giving people a space to talk about their problems with someone on a screen. As Renata Cann, Lecturer in ICT and Computing, who supported the students through the challenge said: “A lot of people tend to shut themselves off from communicating with others when they are suffering from any problems so the Hope Box is a great way for people to anonymously talk about themselves face-to-face without being in person. The innovative design impressed the judges, as did the group’s genuine desire to give hope to people who may be struggling with mental health issues.”
At the end of March, our thoughts turned to planning our big summer push to encourage lots of students to enrol with the college. We decided to make the students the stars, so we turned some of them from our Victoria Centre and King’s Cross Centre into models, making them over and turning them into #StarsForADay.
The student stars have been everywhere – on our website, on bus stops, bus-sides, in adverts on social media, in emails and even on the odd leaflet – and they helped us hit our targets for new students, helping the college provide more great courses for more people.
April was another busy month for good stuff, including:
Digital Arts and Photography students Charlotte Allcock, Patricia Medina and Annie Koyce won a student competition to design a 10 metre-long bespoke hoarding, for the construction site at 150 Holborn in central London, where Dar Group – a leading global professional services company – is building its new UK headquarters. The college ran the competition with Dar Group and the winning design, on the theme of Connection, was finally installed in October and the students visited the site to see their hoarding in place.
Over at our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria, We collaborated with leading think-tank The Centre for London on their ground-breaking report, Kitchen Talent, on the future of London’s culinary and hospitality industries. On the morning of the report’s launch, BBC London News filmed at our Victoria centre and an interview with student Kyla Bertrand featured on the News that evening.
Our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts’ training kitchens and Escoffier Room fine dining public restaurant recognises international cultures with ‘themed weeks’ throughout the year. April saw Thai Week, so we hosted Thailand’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, HE Mr. Pisanu Suvanajata, and the ambassadors to the UK of Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. Senior chef lecturer Jose Souto conducted the group on a tour of the college’s kitchens and workshops, explaining the cultural history of the centre (we have taught culinary and hospitality skills on the site for over 100 years), before the group sampled the students’ Thai cuisine skills over lunch in our Escoffier Room restaurant.
In a first for the travel industry, Westminster Kingsway College ran a conference in May that brought the industry and college students together, to boost recruitment and enhance students’ understanding of the trends and issues facing the travel and tourism sector. At the conference, held at our Victoria Centre on 2nd May, travel and tourism students from Brooklands College, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London and Westminster Kingsway, heard from speakers from ABTA, Tui, BA, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Virgin Holidays. The students, who all aspire to work in travel and tourism roles, got invaluable insights into the hundreds of exciting jobs available to them.
The end of May saw an annual favourite – our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts’s annual Sponsors and Business Partners Lunch at the Brasserie in our Victoria Centre. Four years ago, this event welcomed 30 guests, but this year the Brasserie was buzzing to the sound of 175 eager industry professionals.
In June we met a truly inspiring student: Santiago Fori. When he was just 15, Santiago fell from a climbing frame in his local park and smashed the C4 cervical vertebrae in his neck – an accident that left him a quadriplegic: in a wheelchair, struggling to breathe and with no use of his arms or legs. Since then, his recovery has astounded his doctors and when we met him in June, he had just completed the Travel and Tourism – Level 3 Extended Diploma course at Westminster Kingsway College.
Armed with new skills and confidence from three years’ studying with us, Santiago is really positive about the future, and, most importantly, he has choices and options for what he will do next. “I am looking for work at the moment” he told us. “I would love to work in accessibility or disability jobs – I looked at a job at Tottenham Hotspur FC – and I am going to start volunteering at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where I go for some treatments and work out at the gym there.”
WestKing BTEC science student Denislava Andreeva couldn’t even order a McDonald’s when she arrived in the UK just two years ago. In the summer she scored top (D* D* D*) grades on her Science – Level 3 Extended Diploma course and in July, she won a silver award in the final of the prestigious Pearson BTEC Awards national student competition.
Also in July, our Kings Cross campus hosted our first–ever employability ‘thank you’ event. WestKing has relationships with more than 100 companies including ITN, Salesforce, Havas, Property Developers Argent, The Ritz, Harrods, Dar Group and FrameStore (the Bafta and Oscar-award-winning creative studio).
Throughout July we ran our first social media competition – the #WestKingCulinaryWorldCup – a series of public votes on our WestKing Twitter and Facebook pages. In it, we pitted 16 of our famous culinary alumni, including Sophie Wright, Ben Murphy, Jeff Galvin, Ruth Hansom, Ainsley Harriott and Jamie Oliver, against each other in a series of head-to-head winner-takes-all ‘battles’ – where the public decided who went through to the next round by voting for their favourite former student. After 3 weeks and over 2,500 votes from fans and the public, our clear winner was Ben Murphy, the Head Chef at Launceston Place restaurant in Kensington.
School was out for the summer, but we were still very busy! We:
- Launched a ground-breaking new degree course in Culinary Health and Nutrition, developed in collaboration with employers and industry professionals, which started in September 2019
- Helped tackle the massive issue of knife crime in London
- Wrote a thought piece for industry magazine Tes, about the value and importance of our amazing Access courses and the threat to them from universities
- Celebrated with our group of students getting their A level and BTEC results… and gave advice to anyone using clearing to bag a university place
- Shared the great stories of students doing summer placements and internships, thanks to our good friends at Career Ready UK
September is the start of the academic year and it’s our peak month for starting new courses Thousands of new students joined the college on a course in September and we held Welcome Fairs, Freshers’ Fairs and other activities to say ‘Hello’ to them all.
October sees the start of the awards season and we had two good ones to celebrate:
Our Careers and Employability team won the ‘Most Progress from a School or College’ category at the Careers and Enterprise Company Awards. We are the first-ever further education college to win at the awards, which recognise and celebrates the work of colleges, schools, businesses and careers professionals.
The team won the in a ceremony at the end of September at the Royal Society of Chemistry in Piccadilly, London – beating-off competition from 30 other schools and colleges to bag the award.
Not to be outdone, student Enrico Rizzi won the Most Outstanding Young Person in Business category at the inaugural Westminster Business Council Awards. Enrico – with fellow student Alan Manni – won the award for their work to devise and create a brand new crispy snack called Polenties, which mixes polenta with a secret blend of Japanese Nori seaweed and other flavours to create a healthy snack.
And, right at the end of October, we hosted A Taste of ASEAN – a celebration of South-East Asian culture and food. The 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – were represented and over 200 guests were treated to musical and dance performances from ASEAN nations and a selection of delicious Asian dishes that were devised, cooked and served by our culinary students – ably supported by their chef lecturers.
Among the guests were Ambassadors and Heads of Mission from many countries, staff and friends from the ASEAN nations, and staff from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) including Heather Wheeler MP, the UK’s Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific.
During November we encouraged our students to register to vote in the General Election. And in the run-up to the election, we held hustings events at Kings Cross and Victoria, where students could hear from – and grill – the Parliamentary candidates. A group of our politically-engaged students also appeared on the BBC talking about the election.
We value our place in our local communities, and in December we wanted to do something to help those who are far less fortunate than us. So, at all our centres, we arranged collections of clothes and hygiene products for Crisis – the national homelessness charity. Thanks to the generosity of our staff and students, we collected over 40 bags-full of stuff which will be going to people in need this Christmas.
And finally… over Christmas – like in previous years – our King’s Cross campus will be a place of refuge, safety and warmth for London’s homeless, as it will be one of the Crisis at Christmas London centres. Stay tuned to our website and social media in the new year for an update on how Crisis at Christmas went, and to keep in touch with us next year
Have a great holiday break – see you in 2020!