WestKing and Central District Alliance host Careers and Enterprise Day

Jobseekers had the chance to find out more about new employment opportunities and gaining work skills when they attended a Careers and Enterprise Day at Westminster Kingsway College.

The event was run with the Central District Alliance (CDA) business improvement district, which is partnering the college’s Mayor of London Digital and Hospitality Academy Hubs that launched earlier this year.

The CDA represents more than 400 businesses in central London and has backed the hubs to help its members upskill their staff and recruit new talent in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.

Mayor of Camden Cllr Nasim Ali was the special guest at the event at the college’s King’s Cross Centre, which was held to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week last month.

CCCG’s apprenticeship and training provider Capital City College Training and entrepreneurship programme Visionnaires, a subsidiary of CCCG, were also present at the event.

Among the other organisations that attended were Transport for London, Camden Council, Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade, DHL, Cutlass Security Group, Bidvest Noonan, London Communications Agency and Digital Influx.

There were also stands from several hospitality and entertainment businesses including Pret, Shaftesbury Theatre, Travelodge, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Imperial London Hotels, Kimpton Fitzroy London and Strand Palace.

Visitors had the opportunity to attend employability sessions with Samsung, LinkedIn and Edwardian Hotels, and have free professional headshots taken for their LinkedIn profiles.

Fashion and Communication Level 3 Diploma students modelled outfits for a fashion show sponsored by Dress for Success and Burton, which included advice on how to dress for a job interview.

There were also live demonstrations from students from the college’s School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria.

Attendees also had chance to win a tablet or one of several mobile phones in a prize draw.

Find out more information and apply for courses and apprenticeships at CCCG here.

WestKing’s Hospitality school accredited by Craft Guild of Chefs

Westminster Kingsway College’s award-winning School of Hospitality and Culinary achieved another milestone when it was awarded accredited status by the Craft Guild of Chefs this month.

The Craft Guild of Chefs is the leading chef association in the UK. It plays a key role in championing the skills and talents of the people in the foodservice and hospitality sector and, as a part of this, it runs a prestigious accreditation scheme which universities and colleges that teach culinary skills can apply to join.

To be accredited, universities and colleges must meet stringent criteria set by the Craft Guild of Chefs, demonstrating that the faculty offers a high calibre of teaching. An independent assessor also inspects the college to ensure it meets the high standards required.

As Curriculum Manager Miranda Quantrill explained: “We are absolutely delighted that the college’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts provision has been accredited by the Craft Guild of Chefs. This is great news and it’s a massive endorsement of the work that we do here. A big thank you to all the staff and the students who made this possible.”

The Craft Guild’s independent assessor visited the college in early November and spoke to staff including Miranda and Restaurant Manager Marc Whitley as well as a number of our students.

He was glowing in his praise of both the quality of teaching and the attitude of the students, saying in his report: “It is clear that everyone excepts nothing but the best from each other and both staff and students understand that ethos, respect it and are more than happy to ensure the high standards requested are maintained by everyone.”

As part of his inspection, the assessor also visited the Escoffier Room, the college’s fine dining restaurant, where students cook meals for, and serve, members of the public, and was served a meal by students.

He also spoke to a couple of first year students, both of whom talked with excitement about the course and their desires to progress through the industry and what they wanted for their future. Both students spoke extremely highly of the course the tutors and the facilities they had the good fortune to be taught within.

The assessor concluded his report saying: “Westminster Kingsway College benefit from a committed and professional team of hospitality lecturers. The standards set by the faculty team is reflected in the appearance and enthusiasm shown by the students. It is clear that many students will have successful careers and the continued relationships with industry will support this objective.”

Terry Tinton, Assistant Principal Hospitality, Foundation Studies and Commercial, said: “We are over the moon that the Craft Guild of Chefs has awarded Westminster Kingsway College accredited status.

“This award has been well-earned and recognises the decades of skill and experience that has gone into the quality of our culinary teaching, as well as the way that we structure our courses to make them as industry-relevant as possible.

“It’s why students from all over the south-east of England come to us, and why so many of them graduate from here into great jobs in some of the country’s top restaurants and hotels.”

Do you want to be a chef or work in hospitality? Learn from the best at WestKing. Find out more about our Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here and apprenticeship training here.

Capital City College Group set to launch T Levels from September 2023

Capital City College Group (CCCG) will be offering T Levels across its three colleges from September 2023.

Five T Levels will be available at City and Islington College (CANDI), The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) and Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing)

What are T Levels?

T Levels are two-year technical courses taken as an alternative to A Levels, apprenticeships and other 16-19 courses.

 A T Level is equivalent to three A levels and comprises a core component and an occupational specialism to give students skills for employment, higher education or apprenticeships.

Students spend 80 per cent of the course at college gaining the skills that employers need. The remaining 20 per cent is on industry placement where they put these skills into action.

They will spend at least 45 days in industry placements to enable them to gain valuable experience in the workplace and give employers an early sight of new talent in their industry.

Why choose a T Level

T Levels have been designed with leading employers and awarding bodies to give students the skills, knowledge and experience they need. More than 250 employers have been involved in their development to give students confidence they will take them to the next level.

What T Levels will be available?

The first T Level courses at CCCG colleges are listed below with more expected to start over the next few years.

T LEVELOCCUPATIONAL SPECIALISMCOLLEGECENTRE
Digital Production, Design and DevelopmentDigital Production, Design and DevelopmentCANDICentre for Business, Arts and Technology (including Health, Social and Childcare)
Digital Production, Design and DevelopmentDigital Production, Design and DevelopmentWestKingKing’s Cross Centre
Digital Support ServicesDigital SupportCANDICentre for Business, Arts and Technology (including Health, Social and Childcare)
Digital Support ServicesDigital SupportWestKingKing’s Cross Centre
Education and ChildcareEarly Years EducatorCANDICentre for Business, Arts and Technology (including Health, Social and Childcare)
Education and ChildcareEarly Years EducatorCONELTottenham Centre
HealthSupporting the Adult Nursing TeamWestKingKing’s Cross Centre
HealthSupporting the Adult Nursing TeamCONELTottenham Centre
HealthSupporting the Mental Health TeamWestKingKing’s Cross Centre
HealthSupporting the Mental Health TeamCONELTottenham Centre
ScienceLaboratory SciencesCANDICentre for Applied Science

Entry requirements

Entry requirements are the same as for A Levels and many other Level 3 courses, which require five GCSEs at grades 9-4 including English and maths. At least a grade 4 in GCSE Science is also required for science and health related T Levels. 

Grading and certification

Students completing their T Level will receive a certificate which will show their overall grade shown as Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction*. 

The certificate will show A*-E grades for the core component, and Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction* for the occupational specialism. It will also confirm they have completed the industry placement and met any other mandatory requirements

Students who do not pass all elements of their T Level will get a T Level statement of achievement that will only show the elements they have completed.

Find our more information about T Levels at CCCG and apply here.

Former WestKing Hospitality student named runner-up in UK Receptionist of the Year

A former Westminster Kingsway College hospitality student has been named runner-up in the AICR UK Receptionist of the Year competition.

Emily Gilson-Jones, 19, who works at the five-star Pan Pacific London hotel in the City, came second out of 10 finalists at a ceremony at Hotel Café Royal in Regent Street on 14 November.

She said: “It’s a huge shock to be named as one of the best receptionists in the UK, but one of the best achievements of my career so far.

“When they announced the second runner-up as the girl from Four Seasons, I thought I haven’t got a chance, but then they announced me as the first runner-up. Suddenly, they handed me a certificate and I was in tears. I’m still gobsmacked to be honest. It has only just started to sink in.”

Emily achieved a triple-starred Distinction in her Hospitality Level 3 Diploma at WestKing in 2021 and was one of two students to share the college’s Best Hospitality Student of the Year award that year.

She began her hospitality career working part-time in front and back of house roles at the Roslin Beach Hotel in her hometown of Southend-on-Sea while she was studying at college.

After finishing her diploma, Emily worked as a Private Events Waitress for The Connaught in Mayfair before joining Pan Pacific London as a Front Desk Agent in March this year.

“I loved my time at WestKing. Even when everything went online during the pandemic, we were still doing all our classes and working as a team and all of the college tutors supported us,” she said.

“By the time it came to the graduation ceremony I couldn’t believe it was over. I wanted to stay on for another two years and do it all again.”

Emily was among a group of students at WestKing who provided catering and hospitality for a schools’ event at 10 Downing Street to mark International Women’s Day just prior to lockdown.

“I remember thinking this is quite overwhelming but really cool, I’m 16 years old and I am having the opportunity to do this,” said Emily, who along with other students met then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other political figures on the day.

“My connection at The Connaught was also through the college. If I hadn’t gone to WestKing I wouldn’t be where I am now, because if The Connaught wasn’t on my CV I wouldn’t have got the opportunity at Pan Pacific.

“I’m working at a five-star hotel, which wouldn’t have happened if I had just walked out of school with A Levels and then decided I wanted to work in hospitality. WestKing gave me my first real stepping stone on my hospitality journey. I wouldn’t change it.”

Emily learnt she was among the finalists in October following an interview with AICR UK committee members after she was nominated by Nicole Cechmann, Front of House Manager at Pan Pacific.

“The team I work alongside at Pan Pacific is one of the best teams I’ve ever worked in,” said Emily. 

“For a business to be successful you need to work as a team, and when you get on with the team you work with, it makes it so much easier.

“It’s also nice when guests are checking in and excited about their stay, and when they leave and they tell you their experience has lived up to or gone beyond their expectations. That is probably one of the most rewarding things. It’s the reason we work in the industry.”

The AICR (Amicale Internationale des Sous Directeurs et Chefs de Réception des Grand Hôtel) was founded by the receptionists of several hotels on the Côte d’Azur in France in 1964.

AICR UK was formed when the Association of Front Office Management (UK) joined the AICR in 1989, three years after the association was established in 1986.

Liane Bhalla, Lecturer in Hospitality, Food and Beverage and Supervision, said: “We are all super proud that Emily has finished as the first runner-up in the AICR Best Receptionist UK 2022.

“At college she showed huge potential. She was always bubbly and enthusiastic, going above and beyond what was required of her in her assignment and practical sessions in the training restaurants and happy to volunteer to take part in other events. She was clearly destined for a fantastic career in hospitality.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here.

Young chef ‘humbled and proud’ to win Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year

A “phenomenal” young chef from Westminster Kingsway College has been named Apprentice of the Year 2022 at Compass Group UK & Ireland’s Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.

Dylan Patel, 25, who is undertaking a Chef de Partie Level 3 Apprenticeship at Compass Group’s head office in Chertsey, Surrey, won the award in the Retail, Hospitality and Tourism category.

The awards showcase the huge talent and hard work within multicultural communities that is made possible through the contribution and support of employers and education providers.

Dylan, from Hounslow, who started his culinary career on a Commis Chef Level 2 Apprenticeship, said: “I am so humbled and proud to being named the winner of this award.

“Taking on this apprenticeship has allowed me to follow my passion, balancing learning with practical work whilst getting paid. I love being part of the team here and learning from others around me.

“There is always something new to uncover and that’s what I enjoy most about being a chef and I hope to build my knowledge further, as I continue this exciting journey.”

Compass Group UK & Ireland is part of Compass Group, the largest contract catering company in the world employing 500,000 people and serving 5.5 billion meals to 55,000 clients each year.

Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers at Compass Group UK & Ireland, congratulated Dylan on his “wonderful achievement.”

He further praised Dylan’s “phenomenal efforts” as he has progressed in his career and described him as a great role model for anyone looking to start an apprenticeship.

Tom Damen, Chef Lecturer at WestKing, said: “Each week at college I see Dylan’s commitment to improving his culinary skills. Through his apprenticeship at Compass Group he has excelled to a new level of professionalism and confidence.

“I would like to congratulate him on wining Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year, which is so well deserved. He is an outstanding young chef and destined to go far in the industry.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts apprenticeships here.

How can Levelling Up help tackle the UK’s skills shortage?

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK hard – in London alone, unemployment rose to 7% in 2021. Through Levelling up and the skills agenda, the Government have announced a range of initiatives to help the UK recover, supporting people to up-skill and re-skill in the changing job market.

In light of the cost-of-living crisis, the talent-drain that has resulted from the UK’s departure from the EU’s single market and the after-effects on labour markets of the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting Britain’s skills is more important now than ever before. According to research by the accountancy firm BDO, some 26% of businesses say that finding staff with the right skills will be their biggest challenge over the coming months.

Levelling up can play a useful role in this process. Although it’s often categorised as a regional, ‘not in London or the south east’ issue, our experience as London’s largest group of further education colleges tells us that it doesn’t matter where ‘under-skilled’ people live – their needs, and the challenges that they face, are similar. Without key skills (be they, for example, basic literacy and numeracy; digital skills; or even more advanced technical skills to gain work in high-tech industries or the green economy), thousands of people face being left behind, excluded from the workforce and with only a lifetime of poorly paid and insecure work to look forward to.

What is Levelling up?

The Levelling up White Paper, released in February 2022, sets out how the Government plan to spread opportunity throughout the UK. While it is important to challenge geographical inequality in tackling the imbalance we see within the UK, the Government’s Levelling up plans do not take into account the fact that poverty and lack of opportunity is found even in wealthy areas.

The White Paper promises a “moral, social and economic” programme for the Government to follow, to improve opportunities and productivity for many parts of the country, but it does not address the needs of Londoners. London is used in the White Paper as a place of comparison – one with high levels of economic and social standards. Although this is true to a degree, many Londoners live (and learn) in some of the country’s most deprived areas – and this cannot be ignored. So, as well as improving regional inequality, levelling up must also help the most disadvantaged communities within our major cities and towns.

Cost-of-living crisis

The cost-of-living crisis, like Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic before it, highlights again just how important skills are for the people of this country and, if anything, makes the need and demand for new skills even more urgent. With rises in the cost-of-living and a predicted recession on the horizon, more people will lose their jobs and will need to re-skill or up-skill to gain sustainable employment. No community will go untouched.

So what’s to be done?

As well as their Levelling up White Paper, the Government have launched a range of ideas and initiatives in the last 18 months, including Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs). Enshrined in law in the 2022 Skills and Post-16 Education Act, LSIPs are coalitions of education providers, local/mayoral authorities, local businesses and business groups, and other local stakeholders, which will set out the key priorities and changes needed in a local area to allow local post-16 technical education and training provision to be more responsive to the changing needs of the local labour market.

The Government are expecting the roll out of LSIPs to have concluded by 2023 and have set aside £20.9 million for 38 areas including 10 mayoral combined authorities, the Greater London Authority and 27 local enterprise partnership areas. We will see in the next year how these developments progress and if they succeed in helping local businesses fill their skills gaps.

Supporting Further Education colleges to plug the nation’s skills gaps

As London’s largest further education college group, Capital City College Group know the vital role that colleges play in re-skilling and up-skilling their students and the positive impact that this has on their communities, as well as the key role that employers play in our students’ success. We already have strong partnerships with well over 900 employers every year, both through our delivery of apprenticeships and through work placements, paid internships and other activities. We fully intend to work in, or with, London’s Local Skills Improvement Plan, to ensure that the skills we teach are in tune with the needs of London’s labour market – and so that our, and our students’, voices can be heard.

While these recent initiatives are welcome, further education colleges have long been an after-thought for Governments, falling behind schools and Higher Education, both in respect and funding. If the Government is committed in their pledge to level-up the country and improve skills, they must acknowledge further education colleges as a key partner in the delivery of these vital skills and fund the sector accordingly.

Stay-tuned: Party Conferences

In September and October, we will be hosting breakfast events at both the Labour and Conservative Party conferences, where we will continue these discussions, as well as exploring the role of apprenticeships in Levelling up. In partnership with BusinessLDN (previously London First), we have invited key political and sector stakeholders to join us, to share their views on Levelling up and the skills agenda. Keep updated with developments and discussions here, and on our Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

The SEND Review: Why can’t the Government get it right?

The Government’s SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper and subsequent consultation, published in March 2022, are a missed opportunity for improving SEND and Alternative Provision.

The proposals are quite vague, but the fundamental problem with them is that they are more focused on changing the current system for children, young people and their families.

On the face of it, that may seem like a good idea, but as we see it, the current system is not the problem – it’s how it is implemented that is our main concern.

For example, the Green Paper makes proposals for developing new national standards to ensure improved outcomes and experience for children and young people. However, there is already a clear national SEND framework in place. The problem is local authorities do not fulfil their legal duties in providing the adequate support and assistance required of them. What difference will a new national standard structure make, where many local authorities already struggle to deliver the current one? How will they be held accountable for their failures to prevent thousands of families who are forced to go to tribunal every year?

We have 3,239 (10.8%) students aged 16 plus with SEND, with 600 learners with an education health and care plan (EHCP), and we’re proud of our provision. We work with 35 local authorities, which refer young people with SEND to us. The quality of the EHCPs that we get from local authorities – which are a vital component of their referrals – varies. Some of them are great, while others are less so. So, we know that accountability is key to improving the SEND system. What we need is an accountability framework which will force a change in local authorities. The Green Paper’s acknowledgment of accountability is poor at best – of the 22 questions in the consultation, not one addresses accountability. It also fails to offer ideas for what additional measures need to be put in place to ensure the accountability procedure is sound.

There are a range of ways that local authorities can be measured and held accountable for how they support children and young people with SEND in their areas, but the Government are looking to providers for ideas. Will Quince MP, Minister for Children and Families, has admitted that the Government must improve accountability but urged responders of the consultation to push him further on this and suggest additional approaches.

Clarity and consistency are essential – the SEND system will never work unless all local authorities deliver their legal duty. What we need is a cultural change; from teachers and local authorities to the general public, and that starts with the Government. Attitudes to SEND must change to ensure that there is a universal understanding of the lived experience of people with SEND so that their needs can be properly met.

The Green Paper also proposes a national banding system to education provision and its funding, but the proposal is incomplete and doesn’t go far enough. What about those students with the most complex and multiple needs, how will their requirements fit within a banding system? Care needs to be taken to ensure that any national banding and tariff system is flexible and does not cap support for children and young people with the most complex needs. The name says it all – ‘special educational needs’ – it is special. It is unique. It is individualised. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

The Green Paper discusses supported internships. These help SEND students into work and we think they are really valuable, as long as they are properly run and managed. We run fully-funded supported internships with good quality employers (read about supported intern Otis Smith here.), where SEND students get support from a job coach – this is a very good model for employers to follow and would help more SEND students make a successful transition from college to work.

However, not enough people with SEND benefit from a supported internship. Employers can claim £1,000 for taking on an apprentice, but nothing for a supported intern, so, to make supported internships more popular, we think that employers should be similarly rewarded.

The purpose of the SEND system is to ensure that children and young people with SEND are prepared for adulthood, – the Green Paper is too school-centric and as a further education college group this raises significant concern. In the 100-plus page document, only 2 pages mention further education and the preparation of children and young people for adulthood. This is disappointing as the country’s colleges play an important role supporting 16-25-year-olds with SEND and helping many get ready for the world of work.

Further education has long struggled with a lack of funding relative to schools, but they must be given the same backing and investment as schools to ensure they can best meet the needs of all their students, especially those with SEND.

Many further education colleges also run alternative provision, educating school-age children who would otherwise be excluded from school or be in a pupil referral unit. We feel that its focus should be on attempting to understand why a child cannot stay in a mainstream school, rather than managing behaviour which may have been as a result of their SEND needs not being met. We strongly feel that no child should be excluded or moved to alterative provision without first having a full education health and care assessment of their needs and the right provision made for them.

We feel that this would significantly reduce the number of exclusions from school, because those students – with an EHC assessment of their needs – would instead be able to receive the funding and support they need to remain in a mainstream setting. This is a stated aim of the Green Paper.

But as with many elements of current SEND provision, the primary challenge to alternative provision is that the frameworks in place are not being consistently monitored and adhered to. Any new frameworks must be rolled out nationally and supported by a monitoring and measurement regime which holds local authorities and providers to account.

It’s this measurement, monitoring and accountability – and how it is implemented – which hold the key to SEND success. Rather than the Government attempting to cover the cracks of the system, they need to address the root causes of the issues – particularly better monitoring and accountability, and the need for better and earlier intervention. These will only be achieved if local authorities and health care professionals and schools have the necessary knowledge and resources.

Ultimately the Green Paper leaves more questions unanswered than answered. We hope the Government listen to children and young people with SEND and their families, to understand what they need from the system, and not just use these reforms as a way to cut costs and continue to let down those who need it most.

See Capital City College Group’s response to the SEND and Alternative Provisions Green Paper here.

CCCT and CONEL highly commended in Women into Construction awards

Capital City College Training (CCCT) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) have been highly commended in three Women into Construction awards.

Both education providers were named runners up in the Partners with Purpose Award, for their work running a five-week programme to help women find on and offsite jobs in the industry.

Jasmine Anthony, 39, from Islington, who undertook the Women into Construction programme with CCCT in August 2020 was also highly commended in the Women’s Champion of the Year Award.

Rutuba Zala, Delivery Manager for Adult Education, and Shiv Emmimath, Head of Employability and Trade Union Education, collected the awards on behalf of CCCT and CONEL respectively.

Rutuba said: “We always look to go the extra mile to help people realise their dreams regardless of their background, race or gender. Women into Construction is a perfect example of this, which has helped give many women the opportunity to enter the industry and start new careers.

“This programme enables women, who otherwise would not get the opportunity, to pursue and acquire skill that  set them up for success in an industry where women are still under-represented.

“Women make up just 11 per cent of the construction workforce in the UK, but this number is only set to rise with more women gaining the skills they need to progress in the industry.

“CCCT is a very proud partner of Women into Construction, to help bring about this change.”

Shiv added: “We’re delighted to be highly commended by Women into Construction. At CONEL we’re committed to working with developers and contractors to support women from our communities to get the skills and support they need and help change the face of construction by getting more women into the sector.

“The programmes we’ve delivered for Women into Construction are a fantastic way to help improve women’s job prospects and for employers to find new workers with each programme, aligned to actual job vacancies.

“Women on these programmes are fully supported with skills training and given the opportunity to spend valuable work experience on sites with different employers with a range of vacancies.

“In this way, we have been able to shape our programmes to deliver a positive impact on women going into this sector. We’re very pleased to be recognised for the work we have done.”

The Women into Construction programme includes 15 days’ work-focused training followed by two weeks’ work experience.

This includes five days’ construction-related training leading to a Level 1 Health and Safety Level 1 Diploma and a CSCS card test which they need to pass to work on site. The women also receive support with overcoming barriers to employment, writing CVs and interview skills.

Jasmine began working as an electrician for BW Electrical Contractors after impressing on her placement at a 1,000-home development in Bromley-by-Bow being built by Henry Construction.

At the time, she said: “Working as an electrician was always something I had a passion to do, but I never saw it through until now. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but the programme gave me the confidence I needed. When I was told I’d got a job, I couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t think it would happen so quicky.”

Jasmine added that she had been “treated with a lot of respect” by her male colleagues and urged women not to hold back and to join the programme.

The awards were presented at Women into Construction’s Celebration Event attended by 200 guests at Carpenters’ Hall in the City on 15 June.

Women into Construction has now supported more than 1,000 women into jobs.

Find out more about the Women into Construction here.

Apply for Construction and Plumbing courses at CONEL here.

CCCT’s Managing Director Jackie Chapman speaks to Parliamentarians on Apprenticeships in the House of Commons

Jackie Chapman, Managing Director of Capital City College Training (CCCT), spoke at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships meeting in the House of Commons on Tuesday 14 June.

The meeting examined flexible working and apprenticeships, looking at the lessons learnt from remote apprenticeships. Jackie, alongside fellow industry speakers, discussed the challenges that apprenticeships faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how a hybrid model of working has enabled new opportunities for apprentices. She also called on Government to make changes to the Apprenticeship Levy.

What’s an APPG?

All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal, cross-party groups formed by MPs and Members of the House of Lords who share a common interest in a particular policy area, region or country.

Although they are not official parliamentary committees, these groups can be influential because of their non-partisan and cross-party approach to an issue. In addition, the fact that APPG usually have both MPs and Peers in them makes them uniquely representative of both chambers of Parliament.

Parliamentarians interested in the education sector can join a number of APPGs, including for Further Education and Lifelong Learning, Digital Skills, Adult Education, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and Skills, Careers and Employment, as well as this one – on Apprenticeships.

CCCT is the largest further education apprenticeship provider in London, training more than a fifth of apprentices in the capital. The APPG on Apprenticeships meeting was an excellent opportunity for Jackie to raise the profile of CCCT with MPs and Peers. With over 25 years of experience within the apprenticeships sector, Jackie shared her knowledge with to the APPGs members, giving examples of the effect of the pandemic on apprenticeships and apprentices.

The meeting was chaired by APPG Officer, Lord Alastair Aberdare, who introduced the speakers. In addition to Jackie, the session also heard from Dr Jacqueline Hall, Head of Apprenticeships and Skills, BAE Systems Plc; Sue Parr, Director of Part-time Programme and Work-based Education, Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick; and from the HomeServe Foundation, Michelle Price, Director, and Liz Slee, Research and Public Affairs Specialist.

Jackie spoke of the challenges that CCCT faced at the start of the pandemic and how they worked to overcome them – these included “learning about data poverty for the first time because although we supplied devices [with help from the Department for Education’s donations], we also had to supply broadband or mobile data to a lot of households, particularly for young apprentices – so they could actually use their device.”

CCCT adapted to the needs of the sector during the pandemic, for example in Pharmacy, where the pressures of the pandemic changed the hours and shifts of pharmacists and increased their workload, making it harder for them to support our apprentices.

“What we found is that every industry is different in terms of the pandemic, the impact on apprentices and how we had to adapt” she said.

CCCT had around 100 Pharmacy apprentices working in the NHS during the pandemic, and the programme had to be adapted into bite-sized chunks of learning, with breaks in the programme when the pharmacists’ working hours became too busy. This resulted in some apprentices taking two years to complete a 1-year Level 2 apprenticeship, as COVID-related disruption meant they were only learning for 12 months of those two years.

Mental health and the lack of peer-to-peer support was a particular challenge for our apprentices during the pandemic. Jackie praised the staff who offered to take on pastoral support during evenings and over the weekends and said one of the most frequent compliments she gets from apprentices on completion of their course, is “my assessor was there when I needed them, but there isn’t someone in the workplace who could be there”.

Jackie concluded by calling on the Government to offer greater flexibility for providers by allowing the transfer of the Apprenticeship Levy to the organisation that provides the apprenticeship training (typically a further education college or a private provider), so they can continue to support the apprentice when they change jobs – currently as soon as an apprentice concludes their studies, the provider can no longer support them.

Lord Aberdare, Baroness Garden of Frognal and Baroness Verma asked questions about how apprenticeships can become more accessible to small and medium businesses, whether the Apprenticeship Levy works, and what the Government can do to improve the apprenticeship system. Jackie confidently answered the questions that she was asked and the APPG’s members were very interested in her suggestions.

Capital City College Group is the largest further education apprenticeship provider in London. As well as sharing our views with influential parliamentarians, we also train 22% of all of London’s apprentices. While most of our apprentices are trained by Capital City College Training, our hospitality and culinary apprentices are trained at Westminster Kingsway College’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria.

Through CCCT and Westminster Kingsway, we deliver over 1,600 apprenticeships each year, working with well over 500 organisations across a wide range of industries. Find out more about our apprenticeships and training courses and how to apply here.

Our political activity: a round-up

As one of the UK’s largest Further Education (FE) organisations and London’s largest FE college group, it’s important for Capital City College Group to work with politicians, and others in the education sector and in the wider economy. For example, MPs of all parties help shape public opinion and Ministers in Government make decisions that affect the funding of colleges and the lives of our staff and students – so meeting them and explaining to them the important work that we do, and asking them to consider changes to policy, is very valuable.

Over the last six months, we’ve built on the work we started last year – meeting MPs, hosting events and responding to consultations, as well as keeping up with the fast-changing post-16 education activity in Parliament. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to.

Back in November 2021, during Global Entrepreneurship Week, we hosted an event to celebrate the expansion of our innovative Visionnaires entrepreneurship programme. Visionnaires has already helped over 500 people start new businesses through its free programmes and earlier in 2021, we’d formed a community interest company with United Colleges Group, South Thames Colleges Group and NCG, to bring Visionnaires to eight more colleges around the country.

At the event, our guests heard from Small Business Minister Paul Scully, who said: “Visionnaires has already enabled innovative entrepreneurs to prosper through networking and support. These are initiatives that the Government strongly supports because being able to draw on the experience of others and connect with likeminded people is so invaluable whether businesses are starting up or scaling up. Projects like Visionnaires play a crucial role in complementing the support that’s given by the Government.”

2022 started on a high for us, as in January we were told by the Greater London Authority that the Group had been successful in its bids to run four new Mayor of London Academy Hubs. The Academies will fast-track Londoners into work by giving them the skills they need to drive the capital’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. CCCG won £1.5 million to run hubs in Digital, Hospitality, Creative, and Green industries after successful bids to the Mayor’s Academies Programme.

In February, during National Apprenticeships Week we welcomed Skills Minister Alex Burghart MP to our construction and engineering conference at our Westminster Kingsway College’s Victoria Centre. Mr Burghart mingled with employers and apprentices, before making a speech to the group where he spoke of the importance of apprenticeships to the current skills market.

Also during National Apprenticeships Week, the MP for Enfield North, Feryal Clark, visited CONEL’s Enfield Centre, where she had a tour of our facilities and met staff and apprentices on our engineering and construction provision. Feryal thoroughly enjoyed the visit and said: “Apprenticeships can make a real difference to young people’s future, and I’m delighted we have such a great provider with brilliant apprentices here in Enfield North.”

We’re doing a lot of innovative and important work with construction and engineering employers in Enfield and Feryal was very interested in how we are helping her constituents into great careers. She also asked us what she can do to help the Further Education sector in Parliament, and so we hope to continue working with her on this in the future.

February also saw the publication of the Government’s long-awaited Levelling-up White Paper. At the time, our Chief Executive Roy O’Shaughnessy commented on the White Paper’s failure to recognise London’s levelling-up needs. He said: “London is home to around 2.5 million disadvantaged people and a greater proportion of its population are poor than that of any other UK region. For example, some 67 per cent of our students are in the bottom three bands of social deprivation, but not one of the 55 new Education Investment Areas will be in the capital.”

Roy also urged the Government to acknowledge the vital role that FE colleges can play in upskilling the UK’s workforce, and called for the sector to have a sustainable and longer-term funding settlement, to enable colleges to support the Government’s levelling-up plans.

In March, during Food Waste Action Week, Jo Churchill, the Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaption, visited WestKing’s Victoria Centre, where she found out about what the college’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts is doing to tackle food waste. At the event – organised by the charity WRAP – our culinary students, led by Culinary Arts Lecturer Vince Kelly, treated the Minister and guests to a menu of delicious food made from some of the most commonly wasted foods in the home. The Minister was delighted with the food and enjoyed talking with our students about their experiences at WestKing.

We have also been busy keeping up with the changes to post-16 qualifications in parliament.

In January we briefed our local MPs on the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, along with other MPs with an interest in education. In the briefing we highlighted important areas of interest for the CCCG and what MPs can do to help. Once parliamentary ping-pong concluded (where the Bill was passed between the House of Commons and the House of Lords until all amendments were agreed to) the Bill received Royal Assent and became the Skills and Post-16 Education Act on the 28April 2022. 

The last six months have also seen significant Government proposals to change the post-16 qualification landscape, so we have responded to the House of Commons Education Committee inquiries into the future of post-16 education and careers information, advice and guidance; as well as a Department for Education (DfE) consultation on review of level 2 and below qualifications.

Our colleges also run a number of access and degree-level courses, and so we responded to several consultations on proposed changes to Higher Education, including changes to student loans through the Lifelong Loan Entitlement and the Higher education policy statement and reform, and Office for Students (OfS) consultations on a new approach to regulating student outcomes and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The work of analysing these consultations (which often run to over 100 pages each) and then writing our response, is complicated and time-consuming, but it’s important that our voice – and the voices of our students – are heard by those in power.

What next?

We are working with our staff and students on our response to the Government’s consultation on the SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) Green Paper, right support, right place, right time. Some 3,239 students (or 10.8% of our students) have some form of learning difficulty – including 595 who have an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP), meaning that they must have additional support to meet their educational, health and social needs and the proposals in the SEND Green Paper (to change both the SEND and alternative provision systems) will affect them directly.

Throughout the rest of the year, we will continue to engage with our local MPs and other important political figures and keep up to date with parliamentary activity.

If you would like to find out more about our political activity or would like to work with us, please contact Neil Cox, Head of Policy and Communications at neil.cox@capitalccg.ac.uk