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Bridgwater & Taunton College receives prestigious Beacon Award for exceptional support for students

Bridgwater & Taunton College (BTC) is proud to announce its recent accolade as a Beacon Awards winner in the category RCU Support for Students.

The AoC Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK further education colleges. The aim of the awards programme is to demonstrate and promote the far-reaching impact of colleges on their students and the communities they serve.

BTC was recognised for its unwavering commitment to supporting students through innovative and inclusive educational pathways.

Recognising the glaring disparity in employment opportunities for individuals with learning disabilities, the college embarked on a journey of inclusion and empowerment, addressing the stark employment gap for individuals with learning disabilities in the UK.

The college’s journey began with the Project Search Supported Internship at Musgrove Park Hospital which yielded outstanding outcomes for participants. Aaron, a student on the Supported Internship has undergone an inspiring journey from social isolation and learning difficulties to securing a sustainable paid role at the hospital, serving as a shining example of the programme’s efficiency and impact.

Following this success, in collaboration with Somerset Council, local employers and supported employment partners, BTC has developed a curriculum that guides students from education to supported internships and onto sustainable paid employment. The programme has been developed further with additional employers creating opportunities and pathways such as the Hinkley Point C Supported Traineeship and the Avon and Somerset Police Pathway to Employment, which have significantly contributed to student success and employment readiness.

Andy Berry, Principal and CEO of Bridgwater & Taunton College, said: “Our vision is to transform lives through innovative learning and partnerships. This award is a testament to work the team who have created a dynamic and inclusive ecosystem for students within our Supported Employment Programmes.

“I could not be prouder, they have been unwavering in their support of our students, providing them with opportunities they could only have dreamt of, bringing out the best in them to ensure they are able to thrive in the workplace.

“We could not have achieved these outcomes without our employer partners who have provided students with fantastic opportunities where they can make a contribution to the workplace and have meaningful careers.”

Lorna Whitford, Head of the Foundation Learning department, added: “From the outset, our approach focuses on destinations, integrating work readiness into our study programmes.

“The positive destinations from our Supported Employment programmes have risen from 75% in 2021/2022 to 100% for 2022/2023, a clear indication of our impactful strategies and collaborative efforts.

“I am really proud of the work the team have put in, this work demonstrates the part that everyone can play in creating meaningful opportunities and outcomes for everyone in our community. It would be wonderful to see initiatives such as this rolled out nationally.”

Looking ahead, BTC is committed to continuous development, with initiatives such as establishing a college shop for practical experience, leading the Digital for All project for technology integration in the workplace for SEND students, and developing a SEMH-specific supported internship programme.

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