This February we’ve been working with students from across the curriculum at Strode’s College, part of the Windsor Forest Colleges Group, to get them thinking about the world of work and where they see themselves fitting into it! 
 
99 students studying for vocational BTEC qualifications have taken part in work inspiration challenge weeks designed to build their team work, problem solving and creativity skills while learning from and interacting with business professionals from local firms. The volunteers from Carthy Communications, Slough Children’s Services Trust, FSP Law, Pink Spaghetti, Ipsen, Lonza, Mott MacDonald, Kehorne and Toastmasters have given talks, led activities, mentored teams and run training sessions on a wide variety of skills and industry specific topics that have supported the students to achieve their challenge objectives. We’d like to say an enormous thank you to Fiona Carthy, Kate Brewster, Charlotte Burroughs, Emma Scott, Luanda Barnham, Bianca Tankaria, Vani Saxena, Sarah Roberts, Kallum Mehta, Karen Bunting, Arnel Cuachin, Gurpreet Pharani, Heena Sheth, David Horne and Nick Bailey for giving up their time and inspiring the students. 
 
From the 10th to the 13th of February it was the turn of students on Business, Media and Arts programmes to come together in multidisciplinary teams to work on their challenge; a new marketing campaign for their college to attract more students. To create a realistic simulation of working in a marketing agency environment, the students were split into teams made of all three subject areas and had to take on relevant roles within the team to ensure that the challenge was completed to deadline. This also gave them experience of working collaboratively with people they didn’t already know. 
 
Having gotten started with their challenge on the 10th, they came to the Aspire Centre on the 11th to get a professional insight into the complexities of creating a marketing strategy and hear from our specialists. Each element of the day was broken down into a one-hour slot involving a 20-minute presentation from a business expert; a 25-minute group task that the students had to undertake in their teams and a 15-minute reflection period where they had an opportunity to apply what they’d learnt to their campaign. 
 
Fiona Carthy from Carthy Communications, the Windsor Forest Colleges Group own marketing agency, started the day off with an insight into why Branding is important and the guidelines for using the college’s branding. The students followed this up with an activity on Brands that were important or memorable for them with MacDonald’s and Amazon resonating particularly with our teams. From branding we moved on to the legal dos and don’ts of marketing with a great session from Charlotte Burroughs of FSP Law that covered everything from GDPR to Slander and who led an insightful activity looking at adverts from the past and why they got into trouble. After lunch we were joined by Kate Brewster from the Slough Children’s Services Trust who talked about her journey in Marketing within the media and the Public Sector and shared some fantastic tips about what a good campaign looks like. We also got the students really working on their team building skills with an activity to see which team could build the tallest tower from just newspapers and string. A lot of ingenuity, a winner well over a metre high and lots of lessons learned about team work! Emma Scott from Pink Spaghetti wrapped up the day with a session on matching channels to audiences, getting the students thinking about who their audience was for their campaign – students, parents, teachers etc. – and what would be the best method to reach them. While the students took part in some more team bonding activity through ‘a 2 truths and a lie’ getting-to-know-you activity. 
 
It was a brilliant day and the students were so enthused about getting back to college to get their campaigns ready to present. Just some of the feedback from them included “The activities were enjoyable. I learned something every time there was a presentation” “Interesting to learn about different aspects to a marketing campaign.” and “The interior design, the speakers were really interesting and activities were really fun”. As the week progressed the students developed their campaigns, created example marketing collateral and crafted a pitch presentation working to a deadline and for an audience of senior leaders at their College. 
 
At the end of the four days 8 fantastic pitches were presented and the two best have been put forward to attend a meeting with the college’s Principal to discuss possible adoption of their ideas by the college for external marketing purposes. A brilliant achievement for all concerned and made possible by the support of the College and all the business volunteers who took part. 
 
From the 25th to the 28th, the Science and Sports students were underway with their challenge weeks with two quite different weeks planned to reflect the career aspirations of these two groups of students. 
Our Science students began their challenge week on the 25th February, with a day at the Aspire Centre meeting science and technology professionals in preparation for their challenge to build a website about scientific career paths. Embedding some core knowledge about their topic, the day began with Luanda Barnham and Arnel Cuachin from Lonza sharing their thoughts on diversity and innovation in Science, sparking some great conversations about the importance of scientific ethics and independence. Fiona Jones, Chief Executive of Slough Aspire, then led a session on the science related labour market information in the Thames Valley and gave the students an insight into the wider position for careers and industry in the region. 
 
Luanda and Arnel were then joined by their Lonza colleagues, Bianca Tankaria, Vani Saxena, Sarah Roberts, Kallum Mehta, and Gurpreet Pharani, as well as Karen Bunting from Ipsen, to take part in our speed networking session with the students. This activity enabled small groups of students could chat with our business volunteers for about 10 minutes each and find out as much as they could about the volunteers’ career journeys so that they could gather insights for building their websites and widen their awareness of the careers that are out there and the challenges that might have to be overcome for students looking to take those routes. A lively seventy minutes of conversation ensued with some in depth questions being covered. As one student shared “Really helpful insight into career possibilities and how to prepare”. 
 
After taking some time over lunch to recharge, the students got into their teams that they would be working on their websites in for the rest of the week ready for their team activity. Each team was assigned a mentor to support them through the challenge and Team Sarah (Sarah Roberts of Lonza), team Kallum (Kallum Mehta of Lonza), Team Gurpreet (Gurpreet Pharani of Lonza) and Team Heena (Heena Sheth of Mott MacDonald) all voted to undertake the Great Egg Drop! Equipped with just their wits, some paper straws and a roll of sticky tape our future scientists designed and built a vehicle to prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from a height of two metres. Some ingenious engineering work meant that 3 of our 4 teams got their eggs safely through not just a 2m fall but and 4.5 metre fall as well! Along with mostly not broken eggs our students learnt a lot about team work and their own team dynamics putting them in a good position for the website building ahead. 
 
Given the technical nature of the challenge, we wrapped up the day with a workshop led by David Horne of Kehorne on building an effective website. David took the students through the process of creating and editing a website using Google Sites as well as covering some of those all-important GDPR and copyright issues that are part and parcel of web design. The workshop gave the students a chance to consolidate their learning from across the day and get started with planning their websites. 
 
Just some of the great feedback from the students about the day included “Had a good time, activities were exciting. Learned few new skills and got a larger view for my future.” and “Really interesting and a creative outlook on Science. Gave me a good choice of options.” They took this constructive approach into the rest of their week and the websites they produced to deadline on the Friday were of an extremely high standard. 
 
The Sports students were out and about in the community visiting leisure facilities and spending a day at St Mary’s University which was led by alumni of their college and got them some hands on experience of new technologies being used in the physical fitness industry. This exposure to different environments helped them to solve their team challenge to design posters or flyers incentivising young people to consider a career in sport. On the 28th, they wrapped up their week with a targeted session delivered by Slough Aspire on how to consolidate what they’d done across the week into their CVs and their applications for future work experience and employment. The session helped them discover what makes a good CV, how to write a cover letter or supporting statement on an application form and how to answer competency based interview questions. It was also great to have Nick Bailey, Quantity Surveyor and Toastmaster’s Public Speaker along to help the students unlock their personal presentation skills and talk effectively in front of an audience. As one student said in their feedback “you need to know what to do if you choke”! 
 
At Slough Aspire, our programmes are designed to bring businesses together with students or other people looking for careers or employment advice and align with best practice pertaining to careers education information advice and guidance including the Gatsby Benchmarks. If you would like to volunteer at one of our events or you are interested in working with us to sponsor a bespoke event linked to your company’s corporate social responsibility objectives please contact Fiona Jones via manager@sloughaspire.com. 
 
 
 
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