An eight-week ‘live’ project, challenging digital Career College students to create apps for a homelessness charity has reached an exciting climax.
The project saw 16 -18 year old students from Harrow, Barking & Dagenham and BMET Career Colleges presenting their ideas to a panel of judges at Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) offices in London, having spent the last two months working in teams to develop the apps.
The students also had to demonstrate exactly how they would launch their applications. Judges included representatives from homelessness charity The Roberts Centre, AWS and the Career Colleges Trust.
The students had been tasked to develop digital applications to support the launch of three new books over a two month period. The books are aimed at children between the ages of four and eight and help to explain homelessness, debt and family break-up in a way that children can understand.
In a very tight contest, a team from BMET College triumphed as overall winners, as well as picking up the award for Best Presentation. A team from Barking & Dagenham College scooped the prize for Best Solution, with this college also winning an award for Best Reflection.
In addition to developing the creative plan for the application, students had to cost the project, working to a ‘budget’ of £60k. They had attended an initial brief at AWS’s offices in March and had to hold regular meetings, mirroring a real-life industry project.
Digital Lead for the Career Colleges Trust, Julia Von Klonowski, says:
“This project was part of an ongoing plan with AWS to increase young people’s awareness of the digital industry and the roles available. It will assist with the national skills gap in technology.
“All the students did a fantastic job and I was hugely proud of them all. Taking part in a live project with one of the world’s biggest digital companies has been an amazing opportunity for them.
“This project is about linking education, business and community – benefiting the children and families helped by The Roberts Centre. It has given our students first-hand experience of how a multinational company works and also given them insight to the huge number of career opportunities available within the growing digital sector.
“I am extremely grateful to AWS for getting involved in such an exciting project, which has been a win-win for both the young people and the digital industry. I thank the tutors and students themselves who have worked so hard to produce some really outstanding work. Well done to them all, particularly to the winning teams who should be very proud of their achievements.”
  Chris Hayman, Head of UK & IR, AWS Public Sector says:
“We are excited to be part of this project and to help inspire the next generation of digital technology experts.
“Through our work with the Career Colleges Trust, we have the opportunity to introduce more young people to the latest and most innovative cloud technologies. These technologies are critical for today’s workforce, and we look forward to seeing how the students plan to put these new skills into action. 
Carole Damper MBE, CEO of The Roberts Centre was one of the judges:
“I thought today was mind blowing. I saw more enthusiasm, more talent and more commitment than I could ever have dreamt possible.  For the charity, doors have opened; we’re going to think about ways of how we can get the messages across and get information across to children and families in a way we would never have dreamed of before these young people have opened doors for us. 
“For the young people, well my goodness, the world’s their oyster.  I think this is a great opportunity for young people to stand up, achieve a task and work together as a team.  An experience like this only happens to a very few people, so it can only be a good thing for them.”
Every student taking part received a certificate and a t-shirt, which each college also being given a ‘Robert Bear.’ Members of the overall winning team were each presented with an Alexa as a reward for their success.
BDC student Edward Flack, 18, from Wickford Essex, was part of the team awarded prize for Best Solution. He explained:
“I was quite nervous getting up on stage and being up there but I got a lot from it. I got good presentation experience from it and I learnt how to develop an app and how to get an app onto the App Store.
“We developed an app that has an e-book and a questionnaire that children could do with their parents and that parents could use to work out how their children are feeling and how they might react in certain situations.
“The app is called ‘Rob bear makes someone happy’ and it is now free to download.”
The Trust will be running a follow up session with all the colleges, helping to reinforce the skills that have been learnt and to plan next year’s project.
About the Career Colleges Trust: Career Colleges have been established by the Career Colleges Trust to offer a rigorous, employer-led educational route for 14-19 year olds. They enable young people to pursue a more technical or vocational pathway – whilst gaining academic qualifications in core subjects.
Career Colleges are being developed through existing channels as part of an FE college or learning provider. They specialise in subjects relevant to the local labour market – where exceptional job prospects exist.  Employers are key in both the development and delivery of the curriculum, ensuring that young people are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed.
 Former education secretary, Lord Baker, launched the Career Colleges concept in October 2013. Twelve Career Colleges are currently open around the country, with more to follow in this year and beyond.
About The Roberts Centre: The Roberts Centre provides services across the city of Portsmouth, Havant and Gosport.
This year The Roberts Centre is marking 30 years of providing support for homeless children and families. The Roberts Centre has a reputation for developing innovative responses to families who are struggling to improve their family’s difficult circumstances whether from homelessness or family breakdown. Having no home is the tip of the iceberg and they help families tackle the underlying and often complex issues which surround homelessness, in practice giving people the skills to manage their money, home and children. Issues such as debt, parenting difficulties, co-parenting, managing money, lifestyle changes, mental health and learning difficulties, low educational attainment and aspiration are all key areas in which they seek to actively make a difference and achieve a positive outcome. There is a particular emphasis on meeting the needs of the children who are often the casualties of their family’s plight.

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