Bristol teenager becomes first to complete UWE's new employability award

Issue date: 01 July 2016

Aimee MacDonald-Channing receiving her Embark certificate

A milestone has been reached in a new award scheme aimed at helping teenagers stand out from the crowd when they apply for university places and jobs.

A Bristol sixth-former has become the first student to complete the Embark employability skills award, which has been trialled in the 2015-16 academic year ahead of its introduction across the region from September.

Run by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) for students in state sixth forms and colleges, the Embark award sees teenagers highlighting their extra-curricular endeavours to give them the competitive edge when it comes to earning a place on a degree course or landing a job or apprenticeship.

It has been created to identify and record skills 16 to 18 year olds have developed through participation in activities away from their academic studies in the classroom. To achieve the award, students must complete 25 hours of activities in at least three of the following categories: volunteering, employability, enterprise, teamwork and leadership, global awareness, and education and careers.

Aimee MacDonald-Channing, a post-16 student with the Cabot Learning Federation based at Bristol Brunel Academy, has received a certificate after becoming the first person to complete the award.

The 18-year-old has just finished A-levels in Financial Studies, Sociology, English Language and English Literature. She plans to take a degree in educational studies at Cardiff Metropolitan University with a view to pursuing on a career working with children with autism.

To help achieve Embark accreditation, she worked as a careers adviser at her academy for a year. She also carried out a week-long work experience placement at Air Balloon Hill Primary School's holiday club, helping supervise children aged between three and 10 years old.

She said: “With Embark, I filled in details of the activities I had taken part in, what I had learned and my reflections. It helped me a lot because those details could also be used for my personal statement. Writing a personal statement can be difficult but when you have diary logs entered through Embark it makes it easier to weave entries together to give you a basis for your document.

“Taking part in Embark is definitely a good thing. It helps, especially if you are applying for jobs or putting together your CV, because you are reflecting on what you have done and that helps you answer questions.”

The award has been trialled at 10 institutions since September, with more than 200 students signing up to take part. Teenagers are able to enter details of activities and skills online via and can typically complete the scheme within a year.

Elaine Brown, Embark Employability Skills Award Manager, said: “More and more parents are looking at schools, colleges and universities and thinking, quite understandably, will this lead to a career for my child? UWE Bristol is going into schools and helping students develop their employability skills. We are recognising the significance of those skills and doing something to help the community.

“It's about helping students distinguish themselves at the university entry stage, giving them a chance to highlight what they have achieved on top of the entry requirements and stand out in a competitive marketplace.

“What a lot of students struggle with is identifying the skills they have got. They also seem very keen to be recognised for the activities they have done.”

UWE Bristol is understood to be the first university in the region to introduce an award of this type for schools. It follows the success of the UWE Bristol Futures Award, an employability award designed to help UWE students learn new skills, gain confidence and improve their graduate job prospects.

Katie Jenkins, Director of Future Students at UWE Bristol, said, “UWE Bristol is firmly committed to raising the aspirations and attainment of young people in the region and therefore working with employers to develop the Embark employability award has been a key initiative to support delivery of this.

“We hope the award will not only encourage learners to reflect on the skills and experiences they gain through various activities both within an academic setting and beyond but will also be recognised and endorsed by employers; helping young people achieve their future ambitions into the workplace or onto further study.

“Following the pilot of Embark, we intend to continue to work with our colleagues in schools and colleges and employers to launch the award and encourage learners to complete the award so they can benefit from the recognition and confidence it gives them.”

To find out more, visit the Embark exhibit at the South West Skills Show taking place at the UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre on Tuesday (July 5).

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