Visit to Chesterfield College

cheserfield college

On Monday I got to spend a very interesting day with Ben Owen (Head of Student Services) and Amy Woolley (Guidance and Admissions Manager) from Chesterfield College. They showed me round the College and we talked about the way in which they have reworked their careers provision in the College.

What was most impressive about the provision that they have developed was the fact that careers and guidance are conceived as an integral part of every student’s journey into, through and out of the College. Ben and Amy have been actively working with schools and careers providers in the area to ensure that pre-entry information and guidance is available. Once a student applies to a college they receive an admissions interview undertaken by a trained guidance practitioner to help them to decide whether they are a good fit for the course that they are applying for.

The linking of guidance with admissions usually raises all sorts of concerns about impartiality. How can you give guidance at the same time as being essentially part of the recruitment process? Amy and Ben were clear that, for them, this was not an issue for two reasons. Firstly the staff who are undertaking the guidance are professionals and understand their appropriate professional role. Secondly the College has no interest in recruiting students who are a poor fit for the courses that they are seeking to study on. Consequently, every student begins their course with an opportunity to think about how the course fits into their wider life goals.

Once they are on course the College uses a mixture of group work and one to one support to support students progression and to help them to achieve post-College outcomes. Perhaps the most interesting element here is the way in which this in-course guidance function has been combined into a single team with the pre-course guidance function. This provides the College with a larger pool of career experts who are naturally focused holistically. Ben spoke passionately about the dangers of having the recruitment and admissions functions divorced from delivery. In Chesterfield College this can’t happen as pre-entry and on course careers support are part of the same thing.

We discussed the poor evidence base that exists in relation to careers work in Colleges. Schools have always been the focus of most educational research with universities a close second. The FE and vocational education sector has always struggled for attention. This is as true in relation in careers work as in any other aspect of the educational process. My visit to Chesterfield College suggests that this is a shame as there is much good and interesting practice that deserves closer attention.

If anyone has any ideas on how we could fund a new study of careers work in FE I’d be very interested to talk further.



  1. Hello Tristram

    You may want to speak to Katrina Woodward at the D2N2 LEP – Katrina is head of skills there and is passionate about all of this, and has a college background.

    I am working closely with the LEP on the Construction Sector Skills Plan which is being compiled by the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce on D2N2’s behalf – – they have prioritised Construction as a key sector and contained within that (Draft) plan is the importance of employer engagement with schools, colleges and Uni’s and we have been talking about what we are calling the “D2N2 Construction CV” – enabling every young person to get fair and equitable opportunities to undertake some curriculum work, expand on initiatives like the Ambassador networks etc all related to this I think. This all links up to our work in promoting the sector and even things like the IAG conference in September that you have kindly agreed to speak at – lots to go at here I think.

    Katrina Woodward

    Skills Development Coordinator

    D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership

    8 Experian Way, ng2 Business Park

    Nottingham NG2 1EP

    DDI: 0115 957 8753

    T: 0115 957 8757 x3162

    M: 07990 002757 (new number)

    Tristram you may also be interested in the D2N2 Tender for Employability out now.

    Best regards

    Lots to talk about when we meet in July!

    Meg Hankinson

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