Staff Bulletin

Your round-up of news from across the group - April 2014

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To the April edition of the Activate Learning staff bulletin, designed to keep team members up to date with news from across the group.

One of our group values is connectedness – and this bulletin is just one of the ways of sharing news, achievements and developments from across the Activate Learning community. Each bulletin includes some news highlights from parts of the group.

If you have an article you'd like to share, please send it to

Centre to meet region’s STEM needs

A bid to create a centre of excellence for skills and training in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) has won government backing.

Activate Learning has been awarded a £1m grant to create a £3m Technology and Innovation Centre at Blackbird Leys.

The project will create new buildings and refurbish existing facilities at Blackbird Leys to provide an engineering centre complete with learning zones, workshops and modern design and fabrication spaces. The facilities have been designed to meet the skills and training needs of local STEM employers, identified as a priority by the Local Enterprise Partnership in Oxfordshire.

The centre will also support training for construction trades by providing improved facilities for emerging green technologies.

A planning application will be submitted later this month, with a view to starting work in the summer and the centre being open by September 2015.

Take a look at UTC Oxfordshire

As reported in the last edition, designs for the new UTC at Didcot’s Great Western Park have gone on show.
You can take a walk through to see the designs for yourself here.
A planning application has now been submitted, with the UTC due to open in September 2015 subject to final approval from the Department for Education.

UTC Reading students get Microsoft qualified

Four UTC Reading students are among the youngest in the UK to become Microsoft Technology Associates (MTA).

Sixth form student Rhys Puddephatt and Year 10 students George Osborne, Oliver Wissett and Samkeliso Kimbinyi have become MTAs in seven areas including software development, Windows development, online security and C# programming.

The MTA programme is a professional qualification from Microsoft that is recognised worldwide. Individuals can build their knowledge and skills in specific areas of programming and can work towards upgrading from Microsoft Technology Associate to a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer in the specialism.

To gain each accreditation, students sit an online exam to test their knowledge and skills. Students who choose to work towards becoming an MTA do so outside of their normal hours - up to 10 hours per exam - learning from online resources and taking practice exams.

Activate Enterprise - Success at Freeman's Awards

An Activate Enterprise apprentice has been named Freeman Apprentice of the Year at an Oxford awards ceremony.

Adam Carroll, aged 28 from Watlington, is completing a motor vehicle apprenticeship at The Classic Car Project Shop in Weston-on-The-Green.

He was named overall winner at the Freeman Apprentice Awards – which are run by an historic craft guild organisation set up to promote and protect the role of apprenticeships.

Activate Enterprise had four of the eight category winners at the awards. In addition to Adam, the following also took away prizes:

  • Calum Cook, building trades (wood) – John Cook Builders
  • Joe Robbins, furniture making – Benchmark Furniture
  • Ellian Edwards, engineering – Diploma in Mechanical Engineering

Four other apprentices were directly nominated by their employer, Oxford City Council.

City of Oxford College

BBL hosts WorldSkills competitors

The Blackbird Leys campus of City of Oxford College was buzzing last week as the college hosted a special one-week training event ahead of the prestigious WorldSkills Competition 2015 to be held in Brazil.
Some of the country’s most talented young cabinet makers and joiners filled the workshops. For two days they received top-class training and guidance from two WorldSkills UK training managers and our very own Adam Bushnell, WorldSkills bronze medallist for joinery in 2011. This training was followed by 2–3 days of intense competition where competitors had to complete a project from scratch against the clock.
The aim of the week was to prepare the competitors for the next big qualifying stage – WorldSkills UK squad selection, to be held in Northern Ireland in May. The squad will then continue training for 12 months until a single team member from each skill will be selected to represent the UK in the 2015 WorldSkills competition be held in Brazil.

Awards for engineering apprentices

Three engineering apprentices from City of Oxford College have been recognised for their achievements at a prestigious awards event.
The Engineering Awards 2014, organised by Oxeta Ltd and the Worshipful Company of Founders, were held at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy on March 20.
Robert Filer, who is in the final year of his apprenticeship with the Science Technology and Facilities Council (STFC), won the overall ‘grand award’. Judges commented that his award nomination was ‘exemplary’.
Colleagues Maxim Schastny and Harry Moore, also serving their apprenticeships at STFC, were awarded the ‘tablet award’ and were presented with Samsung Galaxy 8” tablet computers to support their learning.
All apprentices are studying with City of Oxford College, in partnership with Activate Enterprise.
Oxeta is a partnership of employers, private training providers and further education colleges who have come together to promote training and skills in the engineering sector. The Worshipful Company of Founders is one of London’s oldest livery companies set up to ensure high standards of quality and workmanship.

Reading College

Ready, steady, cook! Brian Turner visits Reading College

The Kitchen at Reading College welcomed Clydesdale Bank and 50 business leaders for a delicious three course meal cooked by students under the supervision of professional chef Brian Turner.
Brian, best known for his appearances on Ready, Steady Cook, and the students cooked a delicious starter of scallops, English lamb fillet for main course and a very well received raspberry and white chocolate trifle for dessert.
Once tea and coffee had been served, Brian joined guests to talk about his career and the day working with our students. He said: “They've done a brilliant job and we've had a great time today.”

College commissions regional skills survey

A skills survey commissioned by Reading College in partnership with Hays Recruitment and networking forum, The Twenties Club, has revealed that attitude is the top attribute when it comes to recruitment.
The Thames Valley Skills, Education and Recruitment Survey found nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents place attitude above qualifications and experience as the most important attribute when looking for prospective employees.

The survey of nearly 100 companies asked organisations questions on the importance of skills, education and recruitment and how they embed them in their business, as well as key questions around skills and connecting investment and employment.
The report’s findings were discussed at a round table event at Reading’s Blade building last month, and have now been published in an official report.
Find out more here.

Banbury and Bicester College

Award is a great package for design student

A graphic design student from Banbury and Bicester College has won national acclaim with an award for innovative packaging.
Jonty Jackson, aged 26, beat off competition from more than 145 entries to take bronze at the Starpack Industry Awards, held to recognise innovation in packaging design and technology.
Jonty’s designs responded to a brief for fishcake packaging set by one of the award sponsors - the Norwegian Seafood Council. Jonty’s bolsa wood crate with maritime illustrations impressed the judges.
The project was completed as part of his work for the Higher National Diploma (HND) in Graphic Design.

Kickstarting careers in motorsport

Students preparing for a career in the motorsport industry got the inside track as they met with leading race teams and employers.
Banbury and Bicester College’s Motorsport Engineering centre, in Bicester, hosted the careers fair to help connect students with job opportunities.
Among those visiting the campus on 27 March were F1 teams Caterham, Marussia and Force India, as well as those involved in race car fabrication and engineering.
The event was officially opened by town mayor, Melanie Magee.