HOW A MINISTRY OF DEFENCE “CRISIS” SIMULATION IS HELPING TO DEVELOP EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS AND PROGRESS
Imagine this. A fast moving international crisis the other side of the world has created a perilous situation with UK nationals trapped and unable to leave. News footage shows the humanitarian situation is getting worse by the hour. Whilst this kind of situation is regrettably only too real, the scenario is a fictitious one devised by the Ministry of Defence to help people develop team working and employability skills. The members of the teams are students at Croydon College on a pre-Access course. They have to take on the roles of Prime Minister and United Nations officials, then build an action plan and deliver a press conference. A tough proposition for anyone.
This particular exercise is part of the Ministry of Defence’s award-winning outreach programme which is run by MOD civil servant Andy Gillman MBE. Croydon College has incorporated into their pre-Access to Social Science course (validated by OCN London) which gives learners opportunities and experiences they can use in job interviews, or to help them progress to higher level courses. The College has been a participant in the programme since it started in 2001 and is the only pre-Access course that the MOD supports in the UK. With certificates for the winning team and commendation ones for others, the course provides opportunities to learn teamwork, negotiating skills and presentation skills. The high point of the whole exercise is attendance at the annual MOD Whitehall awards.
Many of the students were lacking in confidence initially and for some English was not their first language. One in particular is Hebraymy Gomes, who comes from a small island off the cost of West Africa called Sao Tome and Principe. He began by studying English on an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course at Croydon College, then progressed directly to the Level 2 pre-Access course and finally to the Access to Social Work Diploma. He is now studying at Croydon University for a degree in Social Work. On top of that he was awarded a MOD Employability Award for his outstanding performance on the crisis exercise.
Kathleen Hawke, Access Academic Leader at Croydon College, says: “It’s a very good progression journey we offer our learners. They easily grasp the OCN London process of submitting assignments and time management, so when they complete a Level 3 Access to HE Diploma course they are very well prepared for university. And of course you don’t have to progress to the Access course if you don’t want to as the Level 1 and 2 Skills for Professions courses give students experience that helps their employability as well.”
The practical parts of the courses are particularly useful. As well as the MOD exercise there are others where learners work in teams to raise funds for charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and another project with the local council raising awareness of hate crime.
“Working on these projects means that students/learners can show evidence of working together, speaking and listening,” says Kathleen. “All this makes learning more fun, practical and second nature. When I was at school the teacher just stood at the top of the classroom and talked to you. This is much more interactive now and creates a far better learning environment.”
Croydon College’s OCN London pre-Access Level 1 programme has been running very successfully now for two years, providing a smooth transition for learners. Kathleen explains how it works.
“Our students learn to understand the OCN process of submitting assignments and time management so if they complete a Level 3 Access course they are very well prepared for university, “ says Kathleen. “And of course you don’t have to do the Access course if you don’t want to. Completing Level 1 and 2 gives students experience that hugely aids their employability.
For example they learn to role play interviews and we give them that vital answer to one of the toughest job interview questions – providing examples to back up what they can do. When I was at school the teacher just stood at the top of the classroom and talked to you. This is much more interactive now and creates a far better learning environment.”
Kathleen has nothing but praise for the way OCN London operates. “I could ring them six times in one day and they’re always very courteous and helpful. They know who I am. No one is just a number on a spreadsheet. You feel valued.”