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Students receive first class careers experience despite Covid restrictions

In the midst of the COVID pandemic when all non-essential businesses had their doors closed to visitors, students found it near impossible to secure physical work experience, however help was at hand as Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust, Buckinghamshire Skills Hub’s Bucks Enterprise Adviser Network and Aylesbury High School, worked in partnership to ensure students still received first class careers education.
Pioneered by Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust, the partners rose to the challenge by creating a competition for the students to ‘Design a home for the future’. The aim of the competition was to enable students to meet a range of people from the workplace and have extensive two-way interaction with these employees. All 182 Year 8 students at Aylesbury High School participated in the competition, which included some outstanding entries. Pupils were able to ask questions and received answers and feedback through regular online tutor sessions with employees from Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust.
The competition was sponsored by Edgar Taylor Construction, with shopping vouchers awarded to the top three entries and a tree to be planted in the school grounds by the winning team.
Marina Jackson, Under 19 Skills Manager & Careers Hub Lead, Buckinghamshire Skills Hub, said: “Students worked in small groups and were able to acquire employability skills such communication and team working, as well as developing their time and project management capability, not to mention design and creativity skills. The students researched themes of sustainability and technology innovation, design and construction techniques and presentation ideas before presenting their final designs.”
Buckinghamshire Skills Hub is working with Daniel Cope, Low Carbon Workspaces Programme Manager at Ngage Solutions, who said: “I’m stunned at not only the innovation, but also the professionalism of all proposals put forward for ‘Design a home for the future’ by students. The projects highlight the importance renewable energy will play in the UK’s ambition to reach Net Zero by 2050. It’s also refreshing to see that many of the teams have recognised that enriching biodiversity and nature is imperative for a clean and healthy environment.”
The Year 8 competition winners were Esther and Megan (photo attached), with runner-up winners Amelie, Brianna, Hannah, Jessica, Lakshanika and Lily.
Feedback from students was extremely positive, with such comments as: “I plan on becoming an architect and have really enjoyed exploring new ideas for house construction”, and “Really enjoyed the experience and have learnt a lot from it. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!”
Year 8 students at the school are now able to demonstrate on their CVs and college/university application forms that they have an experience of a workplace. An unexpected benefit of this initiative was that once other employers heard about the task on LinkedIn, they contacted the Trust so that they could replicate the project at their schools, including as far away as Dorset.  
Julie Porter, Executive Director of Development at Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust and Enterprise Adviser to Aylesbury High School commented: “It was great to have the support of the teaching staff at Aylesbury High School and Buckinghamshire Skills Hub to facilitate this online work experience challenge.  I was struck by the enthusiasm and commitment from the students and the way that they engaged with the tasks set each week during the six week competition. The most difficult part was judging the fantastic entries!  I’m looking forward to physically meeting the winning team when we visit the school for the prize giving and tree planting ceremony.  I’ll also be taking along some Highly Commended certificates – in fact we’ve had to print more of these than I was expecting as the standard was so high.”    
For all your skills and careers needs please email one of the team at info@bucksskillshub.org or call 01494 927130.

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