What happens when your students don’t secure an apprenticeship? South East Regional College (SERC) are determined to make sure that students can still have the opportunity to gain work experience and develop additional skills preparing them for the world of work.

SERC Wood – SERC Student Company

What was the company aim?

SERC Wood was established in March 2013 to help the students develop their business skills and apply their joinery training for their qualification, in order to prepare them for the world of work.

It was initiated through a group of four third year students who were working on completion of Level 3 Diploma in Carpentry and Joinery. These students had completed two years on the 'Training for Success' programme but were unsuccessful in attaining an apprenticeship.

Their tutor was keen for the students to develop their business skills, in order for them to apply their joinery training for their qualification and prepare them for the world of work. This provided an opportunity for the students to gain experience in running an actual company. 

Their products were made out of recycled wood which has been used for practical training purposes in the Carpentry and Joinery department. In the operational aspect of the company, the students had to work as a team in the production design, manufacture and quality control.

What were the outcomes of the project?

The students started designing wooden planters and window boxes to prepare for the Trade Fair in Downpatrick, where they wanted to showcase their products.  They also had a raffle for a window box.  The skills they were able to display were:

  • communication skills – They had to approach people to ask would they like to buy tickets for the raffle.
  • people skills – People coming up to ask them about their products. They had to be able to talk to them and answer questions.
  • team working skills – They had to work as a team to design the products and ensure that everyone was carrying out their allocated task.
  • listening skills – Listening to what the customer wants and being able to respond in an effective manner.
  • organisation skills – Ensuring they had all preparations for Trade Fair completed and knowing who was doing what at the right time and ensuring the stall was eye-catching to attract people to come over and talk to them.
  • presentation skills – The students had to be well dressed and well groomed.

The Trade Fair had proved to be a learning experience for the students as they had to show confidence in their product and had to gain sales. They received seven orders and a good interest was shown by SERC staff members given the students encouragement to participate in further events.

The SERC Commercial Mentor carried out a customer care training session with the students before the Trade Fair to ensure that they could meet and greet customers with a friendly manner and ensure that they always had a satisfied customer when deal was complete.

The students also had the opportunity to prepare a short business plan to give them the experience of what information would be required if they were thinking seriously of going ahead with "Starting Their Own Business" in the future. 

Student-led conference

The Conference for the Advancement of Science and Technology (CAST), and Conference for the Advancement of Professional Studies (CAPS) encourage all full-time students who have undertaken industrial or vocational placements or projects to share findings from this experience with peers and staff.

At the end of May 2016, students of manufacturing and electronic engineering, science, performing arts, computing and beauty therapy presented at the annual conferences.

The main aims of the student participation are to:

  • provide an opportunity to share best practice in industrial and vocational projects across schools 
  • develop student higher level skills and employability skills 
  • encourage the use of live projects to extend student research skills 
  • prepare students for presentations at external competitions 

Either in teams or individually, the students are asked to provide a ten minute presentation of the project outlining aims, methodology, research outcomes and findings.

The student’s role is to present the project, take part in the discussion with the panel, listen to the remaining project presentations from their group and then give feedback.

The development of transferable skills through vocationally relevant subjects in 'The Glass Umbrella Theatre Company' and 'My Radio Project' was concisely evaluated, clearly demonstrating how these curricular show SERC are excellence driven and help students ‘Get the Edge’.

South East Regional College are a Further Education college based in Northern Ireland and offer part-time and full-time courses. You can find out more information about their projects and about them on their website.