College receives national praise for careers service

Bishop Auckland College has received a national accolade for its careers service, which has been singled out for praise by a team of assessors.

AoC Award 2

The college was the only further education provider in the country to be named a finalist for the Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award for Innovation in Careers and Enterprise.

It has been highly commended by judges, having met the standard for outstanding and innovative careers leadership and practice.

Assessors singled out the enthusiasm and passion of staff, positive student feedback on advice/guidance and work placement experiences, supporting university applications and raising aspirations for students with learning disabilities.

Creating bespoke timetables to enable students to have part-time jobs and educating parents and carers on career opportunities were also praised.

The AoC said: “Reaching Beacon Finalist stage is a significant mark of success for the college and within the sector. Achieving Highly Commended…is a great testament to the team at the college and many congratulations.”

Last year the college launched its Student Progression Service, operating from a central hub at its main Woodhouse Lane campus. From there a highly qualified team implements a four-stage plan for every student, including those with education, health and care plans and special educational needs and disabilities.

The personalised mentoring process starts with informal chats to identify suitable progression opportunities and is followed by sessions focusing on the development of key employability skills including preparation of CVs, assistance with completion of application forms and interview practice.

Students are given help to source and arrange work placements with employers and progression coaches also work with employers to identify good ‘matches’ – providing advocacy for suitable candidates for upcoming vacancies. Meanwhile, those planning to go on to study degrees are assisted with their personal statement and applications to universities.

The support does not end when a student completes their course; their progress is then monitored to ensure their new programme of study or job is matching their expectations and is sustainable, and further support is provided where needed.

The impact of the new team has been significant. Every student benefits from frequent careers and employability guidance sessions as part of their course, which are also available on demand. In addition, more than 250 members of the public also accessed the student progression service - with 75 per cent going on to enrol at the college.

Work placements were completed by 98 per cent of full-time students and more than 91 per cent of qualifying students in 2021-22 went on to achieve their employment or education choice, known as a ‘positive destination’. This was an increase of nearly five percentage points on the previous academic year.


Student Progression Manager Jennifer Phillips (pictured, right, above with the student progression team) said: “Receiving this award is a huge achievement and shows the impressive distance travelled in 18 months. It was particularly pleasing that the team’s nurturing student-centred approach, aimed at achieving positive destinations, was recognised.

“We work with students from day one to understand their dreams and goals and then throughout their course to ensure they achieve them. The development of the dedicated glass hub at the centre of the college immediately led to students feeling able to just drop in to ask for careers guidance, in addition to the regular sessions planned into their timetables.

“The award is very timely as we celebrate National Careers Week #NCW2023 with a series of events including our Careers Fair on Wednesday (March 8), workshops and expert guest speakers.”

The emphasis on high quality careers guidance is not a new initiative for Bishop Auckland College; it was one of the few FE providers in the region to join the initial pilot of the Gatsby Benchmarks scheme, which provided a clear framework for defining world class careers provision in education, back in 2015.

Other activity includes attending careers events in both primary and secondary schools, arranging visits and taster days for students to universities, organising employer site visits and industry expert guest speakers, and securing funding for international work placements.

Meanwhile, an Enterprise Advisor works closely with the college, helping students to learn about emerging technologies and careers that will change the world as we strive to achieve net zero.

Case studies featuring students who have secured their dream jobs with the support of the college’s Student Progression Service can be found at: