Meeting employer needs with a skills-focused curriculum

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A skills-focused curriculum and effective partnerships with a wide range of local employers help hair and beauty learners at Coleg Cambria achieve the qualifications and skills they need for employment.

Number and age range of learners:  
In 2014-2015 664 learners studied hair and beauty at Coleg Cambria.  This represents 6.4% of the college’s full time learners.  Fifty per cent of these learners are 16-18 years old.  Forty two per cent of hair and beauty learners live in deciles one to three, and 11% receive support for their additional learning needs.
Date of inspection:  November 2015

Information about provider

Coleg Cambria’s hair and beauty department delivers a wide range of full time courses from entry level to level three, with courses in hairdressing, beauty therapy, spa therapy, nail services and theatrical and media makeup.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The college’s strong commitment to meeting the needs of all learners ensures that learners at all levels, regardless of their background, achieve their hair and beauty qualifications and gain the range of skills they need to progress into employment or higher levels of learning.  The curriculum is carefully developed around the needs of the sector and employer priorities, both locally and nationally.  Effective partnerships with a wide range of employers provide a wide range of learning opportunities for all learners and staff.  As a result, hair and beauty learners are highly skilled and meet employer needs.

The college’s vision for excellence aims to ensure the success of all learners by ‘embedding a supportive culture of innovation and creativity, challenging everyone to develop the skills they need to build successful futures’.  The hair and beauty team use digital technology particularly effectively to engage and challenge learners.  Teachers use digital resources exceptionally well to promote learning, support assessment and monitor progress.  Learners use digital learning communities to record and reflect on their learning and create high quality digital portfolios to showcase their skills.  The college has invested in a range of software, which enables the hair and beauty team to monitor the progress of all learners, and to implement quickly any support needed to keep learners on track to achieve their potential.  Learners learn how to set their own effective learning targets and develop independent learning habits.  Teachers also closely monitor the progress of learners from at risk groups, using college support and additional learning needs services well to ensure that all learners achieve. 

The hair and beauty curriculum embeds a range of higher level communication and thinking skills and learners apply these successfully and confidently in their vocational context.  Learners develop their ability to use probing questions when consulting with clients to elicit what clients require and learn how to give advice, applying their vocational knowledge to suggest styles.  Learners also develop strong retailing skills, and apply their numeracy skills particularly effectively via monthly targets and analysis of their productivity and sales performance.  Learners also benefit greatly from entering regional and national skills competitions.  These learners develop wider valuable skills, including confidence, resilience and self-belief.

Highly effective partnerships, developed with a range of employers and national companies, inform curriculum design.  Labour market intelligence is used purposefully to inform curriculum planning and employers help shape the curriculum to ensure that learners’ occupational skills meet industry needs.  This has a positive impact on outcomes as nearly all hairdressing and beauty therapy learners develop high quality professional skills in their practical work.  The close links partners have forged with the college further enrich learning experiences via work experience opportunities, visiting speakers, skills coaching and practical demonstrations.  The partnerships established with leading professional brands enable staff to keep up to date with industry developments and to enhance their commercial skills alongside industry professionals.

What impact has this work had on the quality of provision and learners’ standards?

The skills-focused curriculum, together with the robust tracking and support for all learners to achieve, has had a demonstrable improvement in the success rates.  Hair and beauty long course success rates at Coleg Cambria are excellent at 89%, nine percentage points above the national comparator.  There has been a three year upward trend, and a 13 percentage point increase in the last two years, placing the college at the top of the first quartile of all colleges in Wales for Hair and Beauty long courses.  Nearly all learners successfully achieve their Essential Skills Wales qualifications in application of number, IT and communication.  Learners from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds and learners with additional learning needs successfully achieve well above the national comparator for learner outcomes.  In regional and national skills competitions, Coleg Cambria learners regularly achieve the highest level of awards.