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Student-run shops boost employability skills

Two new campus shops at City of Oxford College and Banbury and Bicester College opened last week, providing students with the chance to learn valuable employment skills.
The shops will be run by learners with special educational needs (SEN) and will give them the opportunity to enhance their employability skills in a supportive environment whilst gaining an academic qualification.
The shop gives its learners an opportunity to develop confidence, social skills and teamwork in a supportive and busy working environment.
The students complete daily retail tasks alongside more specialist jobs such as cashing up, banking and ordering stock. This is complemented by English and maths lessons.
The shops are both in the centre of the college campuses and stock a range of useful items such as stationery, art equipment, maths and English supplies; plus snacks and soft drinks.
Lifeskills faculty director, Michelle Parks said: “Our first SEN full time learning company started in 2013 in Reading. We have now redeveloped both our learning companies in Oxford and Banbury. This will enable us to grow and engage further with local and national employers to collaborate on designing new programmes. Our learning companies provide all of the necessary training to enable SEN learners to progress into supported internships and paid work.”


The Banbury shop was opened by Activate Learning CEO Sally Dicketts who said “These students deserve first rate facilities and these are first rate facilities.”
Hannah Thomas, Lifeskills faculty manager for Banbury and Bicester College said: “One of the things we would like to look in to is if local businesses would like to rent a space from us so we can start selling their products for them.”
The City of Oxford College shop was opened by Janet Johnson, the strategic lead for vulnerable learners at Oxfordshire County Council who said: “It was a delight to see the students and the steps that Activate Learning are taking to improve work skills and practical experience.”


Janet also highlighted that the achievement rates of students with SEND who attend Oxfordshire FE colleges is above the national rate for students with similar needs. She also said that supported internships within the county have been very successful with high completion rates and positive employment outcomes.
The profits from the shops will be used to buy supported employment support for the learners when they leave Activate Learning.