students with mayor and mayoress

Derwen College are a regular exhibitor at our Kidz to Adultz events. Students have recently held their nerve to showcase vocational and creative skills during a week-long series of competitions.

Last month saw students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) demonstrate their talents in catering, table-laying, housekeeping, art, functional skills, IT and design and horticulture. The competitions were part of the college’s new Skills Live @Derwen event which saw students from across the UK invited to take part.

Skills Live @Derwen is a new initiative at the national college, based in Gobowen, which offers students vocational learning, work placements and independent living skills. The competitions were open to 16-25 year olds who are currently in education in mainstream or specialist colleges or schools, and working at up to Level 1. The college was pleased to welcome students from Natspec members Landmarks Specialist College, near Sheffield James Watt College, Birmingham, and St Rose’s and St Martins College, Gloucestershire, to showcase their skills alongside students from Derwen College.

james and isabel holding their certificates

Competitions were held in industry-standard conditions, and were judged by industry experts. Judges included Neil Bevan of branding, graphic design and marketing business Hunter Bevan; author and Wilfred Owen Festival co-ordinator Jan Hedger; library manager Siobhan Shaw; Dave Cank of Severndale Nurseries; and artist Liz Neal.

Taking part in the competitions is a great way for students to demonstrate their skills and readiness for work and independence. The week ended with awards presentations where winners were presented with beautiful glass trophies created by Oswestry’s Designs in Mind.

student looking at her computer screen

Clare Howard, Chief Executive of Natspec – an organisation which supports the specialist college sector – visited the college for the launch of the competitions. She said:

“Competitions are an effective method of stretching and challenging students – they help to measure and recognise achievement and show off the work-related skills of our learners. They drive confidence and self esteem, which are needed in the workplace, and the best competitions are based on industry standards to ensure that students are work-ready. Natspec is pleased to support the work of Derwen College and all other colleges who are using their relationships with employers to develop competitions which support students in the vocational curriculum and onto employment when they leave college.”

woman making the bed

Derwen College ‘industry champion’ and competition judge Neil Bevan said:

“These competitions really showcase the skills the students from Derwen and other Colleges have in many areas that relate directly to employment opportunities. The students demonstrate skill and mastery in many different tasks from bed making to badge making – showing their creative skills and also a high degree of attention to detail. These are all skills that can be transferred directly to the workplace, if employers will give them the opportunity to show what they are capable of. The students are also great to talk to and it’s obvious that they gain a great deal from the competitions and from interacting with people from outside the College environment.”

liz and jim stood next to artwork

Derwen College Principal Meryl Green said that the college was proud to be launching Skills Live competitions. She said:

“Derwen Skills Live is an exciting new step in our competition journey and part of our continued efforts to find innovative ways to improve opportunities for students. At Derwen, we are privileged to have the facilities and industry connections to run competitions to showcase the skills demonstrated by students following vocational pathways. Derwen Skills Live brings together students from a variety of schools and colleges to compete in a professional way and demonstrate learning and employability skills. We look forward to seeing Skills Live grow even further to become a national annual event.”

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