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Bringing careers strategy into reality, and into life

Newcastle College is the North East’s largest college, with more than 16,000 students. It is also part of Newcastle College Group (NCG) – one of the largest not-for-profit education and training groups in the UK, made up of seven colleges.

The college is supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s North East Ambition programme, which helps every secondary school and college in the region towards achieving the government’s Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks.

In just 12 months, the college has successfully improved the coherence and visibility of careers guidance across the whole organisation.

A dedicated Careers Portal is now prominent on the college website and every newly-enrolled student receives a clear and user-friendly Skills and Careers Programme Plan.

More than 5,000 16 to 18-year-old students, including apprentices, received this during their induction activities at the start of their qualifications this year.

Ronnie Burn, Head of Student Services and Careers Leader at Newcastle College, explains how they achieved this success, including the challenges they have navigated along the way:

Supporting the progression and next steps for our students was always at the very heart of our work. We set out to create a plan that could and would be embedded at a college-wide level, to ensure that all our students would be fully aware of our careers guidance and curriculum offer and could make informed decisions for themselves, at every opportunity.

One of our primary goals was to ensure that ownership and responsibility of careers guidance within the college is a key feature for each and every staff member.

We started our journey by completing North East Ambition’s benchmarks audit tool. We also used the Careers and Enterprise Company’s Compass assessment tool.

Doing all of this gave us a great starting point for creating a three-year action plan.

What we did next

Through North East Ambition, we were given the opportunity to join the country’s only regional College Hub, and this gave us many opportunities to consult on best practice models, drawing from career guidance peers from across the region.

The external evolution of careers guidance development work over the last two years, both nationally and regionally, has provided a network to share and test new thinking in developing working career guidance models that operationally fit with the college.

One of our priorities was to identify those colleagues with a responsibility for the provision of careers guidance from across the college, and ensure they were included in the planning from the start.

We consulted right across the college to gain feedback on the first edition of the Skills and Careers Programme Plan, and this included discussions with NCG Executive Directors, members of the college Principalship Team, college Directors, Heads of Curriculum and Service Managers, the Quality Team, Central Support staff and Marketing services.

The impact of this has been that our plan reflects a number of aspects of curriculum content delivery and developing practice.

These include the development of ‘schemes of learning’ incorporating the skills, knowledge and behaviours required in the context of a job role, as well as a focus on the relevance of English and Maths.

The process has also helped us to look at the expectations around work experience and engagement with employers, which has resulted in us developing the role of Enterprise Advisors by curriculum area.

Our continuing collaborative work with staff ensures that our next Skills and Careers Programme Plan aligns with the quality assurance cycle and the student journey, becoming a natural development within the business planning process.

Initial indications suggest we’ve achieved positive reinforcement of careers guidance from all staff and students across the college.

Our biggest challenges

Our biggest challenges have been around developing a sustainable model that is embedded across the college and is accessible to all.

What we learned

It was vital to involve colleagues from across the college, to ensure that responsibility and accountability was transparent. We scheduled fortnightly meetings with curriculum directors and managers to promote the context of the plan and embed this into the business planning process.

Top takeaways

Acknowledge the diversity and social mobility of your students and recognise that ‘one size does not fit all’, so build flexibility into your programme.

Early buy-in and agreement from senior leaders provides a springboard for the careers leader to accelerate action plans.


Visit Newcastle College’s careers portal at ncl-coll.ac.uk/careers

Read the latest Skills and Careers Programme Plan for 2019/20

Find out more about North East Ambition at northeastambition.co.uk