Winner spotlight – College of the Year
Q&A: Celebrating Milton Keynes College – VTCT Excellence Awards College of the Year 2023
Winning the first VTCT Excellence Awards College of the Year is an outstanding accomplishment. This year’s winners, Milton Keynes College, showed an unwavering commitment to their students and demonstrated the immense support and opportunity they provide. Their dynamic approach to work experience and fostering robust industry partnerships exemplifies their dedication to hands-on learning. And, ultimately, ensuring their learners are fully equipped to progress into their careers. In this Q&A, Milton Keynes College delve deeper into the initiatives that helped secure them their winner’s title, how they enrich learner’s professional growth and what lies ahead for them in the future.
Winning the VTCT Excellence Awards College of the Year is a remarkable achievement. How do you feel about receiving this recognition?
To be recognised by our awarding body for all that we do for our students and the courses we offer is an amazing accomplishment. I am so proud of the staff who inspire and support the students and our students who always support external events and are ambassadors for us.
Which key initiatives or programs do you believe contributed to this success?
We have strong employer engagement across the provision and always look for innovative ways to increase and encourage student participation, such as entering competitions. Our students all complete work experience within their chosen field. One exciting example of this is our partnership with Silverstone, where students complete training within the college and then out at Silverstone catering on alternative weeks, so they really are learning on the job. This is something we are looking to build with other courses. We are partners with Tom Chapman and the Lions Barber Collective, so all of our students receive his training in mental health and the prevention of suicide. We also work with the Burnt Chef, who offer training in mental health for catering students. Additionally, Thames Valley Police provide the CUT IT OUT training to teach students how to recognise signs of domestic abuse and support customers. If a stylist or therapist should find themselves in this situation, they have the tools needed to support their clients and to keep themselves mentally healthy.
Can you share some stories or examples of how your college has positively impacted students’ lives and contributed to their personal and professional growth?
We have provided support to our students in securing employment opportunities in various industries upon their completion of Level 3 courses. These opportunities have included placements at Silverstone and at some of the spas we collaborate with. Additionally, we have seen our catering students successfully complete apprenticeships with the Exclusive Hotels Group following their Level 3 qualifications. Some of our students have also ventured into careers at local hair salons or embarked on entrepreneurial journeys by establishing their own businesses. Furthermore, we have students who have undergone training at the college and are currently employed by us. We are proud to have former students who have pursued teacher training with the college, inspired by their dedicated tutors and with a vision to educate the next generation. Our previous success in securing a grant from VTCT has played a crucial role in providing financial assistance to our students. This has helped us extend support, as needed, by providing kits or organising trips for students who may have faced challenges in procuring the necessary equipment. We are proud to have the only college students that attend the British Grand Prix, and they are responsible for cooking and serving food within outlets at Silverstone. This year, the college actively participated in a “College in the Community” day, where every department within the college contributed to supporting the community. Activities ranged from hair and barbering students engaging with the local YMCA to beauty and hair students offering mini treatments at Milton Keynes Hospital. Our catering students also played a significant role by assisting food banks and soup kitchens, even preparing and serving roast dinners for local residents. Various departments also participated in litter picking. The entire College community came together, and it was a day filled with a profound sense of accomplishment.
Industry partnerships and placements can be vital in preparing students for successful careers. How does your college collaborate with industry partners to offer valuable opportunities to your students?
We invite employers in to work and plan with the curriculum team when we are planning for the next academic year. This informs us of what industries are looking for and what we can do to support students to be ready for employment and work experience. We have employers that come into college at various times throughout the year and they will deliver sessions or talks which help prepare students for their next steps. All of our students complete work experience within their chosen field. We work with local spas and our students will complete work experience there. It’s worked so well that this year, all of our level 3 beauty students gained employment within the area of work experience. We have multiple industry partnerships, including Silverstone and, more recently, Clarins. Our employer engagement and partnerships really do support our students and us in getting them ready for their next steps.
Lastly, what is the vision and future direction for your college following this recognition as the VTCT Excellence Awards College of the Year?
We want to continue to go above and beyond to provide the very best experience for our students. As well as this, we are committed to keep inspiring our learners and staff by providing support and innovative delivery models.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We would like to thank VTCT for their support, advice and guidance and for helping us to provide the best experience to our students and staff. We’d also like to thank VTCT for the recognition of College of the Year.