City College Norwich - working with employers

Sarah BrealeyWorking with employers is one of the most crucial parts of City College's role. As our series focusing on the college continues, Sarah Brealey looks at the ways the colleges meets the needs of businesses and helps people find jobs.Sarah Brealey

Working with employers is one of the most crucial parts of City College's role. As our series focusing on the college continues, Sarah Brealey looks at the ways the colleges meets the needs of businesses and helps people find jobs.

Most people study not just for the fun of it, but because it will help them to find a better job, or because it will improve their skills in their current job.

So it makes sense that working with businesses and other employers is crucial to making college education as relevant as it can be to the 21st-century workplace.

City College Norwich was the first college in the country to gain 'awarding organisation status', meaning that the college can work with employers to develop new qualifications that are nationally recognised in the National Qualifications Framework. It has already developed and launched qualifications in policing, banking, financial services and further education.

City College Norwich manages the National Skills Academy for Financial Services, based at St Andrews House in the centre of Norwich, run in partnership with leading financial services companies. National Skills Academies are employer-led centres delivering the skills required by each sector of the economy. The college is also involved in four other National Skills Academies - manufacturing, hospitality, retail and creative and cultural skills.

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It has also set up the Training Hub website, which allows employers to shape training to meet the needs of their businesses, to network and have direct access to the college online, for example seeing how their employees are progressing on their course.

The college is working on a major apprenticeship contract with AXA Insurance, one of the largest general insurers in the UK. The apprenticeship programmes are being tailored to the needs of the company, with AXA helping to design the training. Employees are offered the opportunity to do an apprenticeship or advanced apprenticeship in financial services, contact centre or team leading.

City College Norwich has also worked with Invent Health, with Norwich Housing Services and with Voluntary Norfolk, as well as with many companies on apprenticeship training.

The college's BusinessFirst team offers a single point of contact for businesses in Norfolk with a team of employer partnership consultants. These experienced training advisors offer companies a free analysis of training needs and advice on government-funded training. The team can also advise on short courses from Health and Safety in the Workplace to the European Computer Driving Licence.

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Employer Case Study: Lotus Cars

A training programme for Lotus Cars staff started in 2007 and has brought major benefits and cost savings to the company.

The company aims for all of its permanent manufacturing staff to do a level two NVQ in Business Improvement Techniques, and some are now embarking on a level three NVQ.

The Hethel-based company delivers the training itself, but had help from City College Norwich in the design of the training rollout programme, in training the Lotus trainers as assessors and to do quality assurance. It has had 120 staff finish the qualification so far and a further 240 are progressing or are waiting to start.

The results have been improvements in efficiency and quality. The first 80 staff who finished the course brought cost savings to the business of �108,000 - an average of �1350 per person. Predictions are that the total cost savings will be more than �250,000. Improvements have included disposing of a large surplus of fuel which the company had bought for its service vehicles and which was in danger of going out of date - some was sold and some given away to a museum, saving the company thousands of pounds.

John Vigar, manager for continuous improvement at Lotus Cars, said: 'It has been good for the college and good for Lotus. One of the reasons why it is good for Lotus is that the brand is not just about cars, it is also about people and people who put the effort in and create wonderful cars. Upskilling had to be on the agenda in order for us to keep moving forward and be ahead of our competitors.'

In 2008 the work won a National Training Award in the partnerships and collaborations category.

Dealing with the recession

City College Norwich has also been helping people back into jobs through a project with JobCentre Plus, aimed at people who have been unemployed for six months or more. The college receives referrals, and then provides training in a vocational area where there are skills shortages or demand from employers.

The scheme started with retail and hospitality and has expanded to health and social care, business finance and electronics. The training courses last for between 5 and 12 weeks, depending on whether they are done full or part time. As well as vocational training, all participants receive training in employability skills from the college's BusinessFirst team.

At the end of the training period the college tries to find a local job for the trainee. Employers are given an incentive to take them on with a �500 upfront payment and a further �500 after they have been in the job for six months. The college provides ongoing training and support.

Daniel Courtney, 24, had been unemployed for two years when he attended an Introduction to Hospitality and Catering course starting in October. Since December he has been working part-time as a waiter in a Norwich restaurant.

Mr Courtney, who lives in the city centre, said: 'I had been doing nothing for the last two years. I lost my last job when the bar I was working in closed. After the first six months of trying to find a job, so many people were looking and I wasn't getting picked, and my motivation to find a job really fell.

'The college helped me gain confidence and prepare for interviews. We had a mock interview and that helped a lot, they showed us how to answer difficult questions.'

'I was taken on a three month contract which I hope will be extended. I would like to continue with this kind of work in future.'

Another way in which the college is tackling the economic downturn is through the Evolve project. The project involves UEA, City College Norwich, Norwich University College for Arts and Norfolk County Council, and runs from last June to September this year. Funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, it is designed to help unemployed or underemployed recent graduates, middle managers who have been made redundant or are at risk of redundancy, and the owners, directors and senior managers of small and medium enterprises across the county.

As part of this City College has been delivering a range of free programmes to support individuals and employers through the economic downturn and help them emerge stronger from it. Events have included sessions on the management of change, helping middle managers and small business owners to rise to the challenges of the recession, a female entrepreneurs workshop and a session called 'The Winning Edge', an insight into what makes successful businesses tick.

The most popular programme so far has been Evolving into Employment which will run for the fourth time in March. It is designed to help everyone is looking for job and includes advice on CV writing and interview techniques, developing skills in the written and spoken word, body language, confidence building and presentation skills.

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A ground-breaking project to help get people with learning difficulties into jobs has led to three young people getting permanent jobs.

Project Search follows a model which started in Ohio and has been pioneered in this country in Norfolk. It is a partnership between City College Norwich, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Serco Norse and Remploy. It sees people with learning difficulties and disabilities doing supported work placements in three different areas at the N&N and Norse.

Last year the scheme was visited by Kevin Brennan, minister for the third sector, who hailed it as 'pioneering work'. Eight people took part in the first round of Project search and three have recently started permanent jobs. Sam Evans, 20, and Ben Holloway, 22, are working in administrative roles at the N&N. Jamie Okoro, 23, is working in the secretariat at City College Norwich.

Mr Okoro, who has learning difficulties, said: 'I am pleased I have found a job, I would like to be able to do this for a long time.

'I type stuff on the computer, sometimes they get me to do copying or filing, and they are showing me how to do emails.'

Danusia Latosinski, foundation studies programme manager, said: 'Less than 10pc of people with learning difficulties find jobs, which is shocking. Jamie really impressed them at the hospital and they would have liked to have taken him on permanently. There was a post here for him and he comes with excellent references.

'We are looking for other employers that would be interested in taking on Project Search graduates. They come with support and they have had intensive training on the job.'

To find out more about studying at the college, visit or ring 01603 773311.