Thirty students at DN Colleges Group have been developing their work and employability skills with a series of Turing Scheme funded placements on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
Drawn from Doncaster College and North Lindsey College, in Scunthorpe, the group was made up of sports and public services, animal care and access to higher education learners who undertook work experience with local schools and hospitals in Castries as well as learning about conservation efforts with the St Lucia National Trust at Pigeon Island National Park.
DN Colleges Group is a major education provider in South Yorkshire, Greater Lincolnshire and the Humber Region, incorporating both colleges, and Turing Scheme work placements form an integral aspect of students’ vocational programmes.
Tammy Bowman, who was on an animal care placement, said: “I can’t even pick the most memorable moments because every day was amazing! But I think my favourite part would have been the week we carried out the marine conservation work. It just blew my mind being able to join a conservation programme and learn how much of an impact this work has for the island and preserving the land, ecosystem, and tropical marine species.
Shaping future career plans
“The locals in St Lucia are probably some of the sweetest and most genuine people you could come across, everyone had a different story and such a bright outlook on life.
“I’m definitely going back and already have plans to take on conservation programmes over there to help the National Trust. I really took advantage of everyday and it’s 100% carved out my career plans to go in the St Lucia direction in conservation.”
Also on the trip was Jack Pell, who is studying Sport and Physical Activity.
“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “We did quite a bit of coaching in St Lucia. I already do some coaching at home, but the experience was so different there. The people were so nice, grateful, and welcoming of the coaching we did with them.
“It was my highlight of the trip, we learnt so many new skills and I have learnt to be more appreciative.”
Jack was one of several students who took part in fundraising for the charities the group would be working with ahead of the trip – singlehandedly raising more than £1,000 from a total of £2,800.
Giving back to island community
“We wanted the students to appreciate that St Lucia isn’t all about glamorous holidays,” said Linda Sykes, International Co-ordinator at DN Colleges. “It’s still a developing country and we wanted them to have that understanding and empathy. We left it entirely up to them to come up with ways to raise money. We wanted them to appreciate that they could give something back to the island.”
As well as the money raised, several of DN Colleges Group’s UK partners also donated goods, in particular sports equipment, to organisations in St Lucia.
Liam Marsh, International Placement Supervisor, said: “The experience can be quite literally life-changing for students who have their eyes opened to the wider world and further opportunities as well as being equipped with valuable and real work experience.
“The change in students after a mobility is marked, the increase in confidence visible. We support our students throughout their entire international experience, including hosting information sessions, language and culture training and providing accompanying persons for all our mobilities.
“Many of our participants have never been abroad before, so it is a fantastic opportunity for them to work away from home, integrate with different cultures, gain new skills and a have a unique highlight on their CV.
Raising aspirations of learners
“We work closely with our partners, Caribbean Elective, to reflect the career development aims of individual participants, meaning the itineraries can provide each student with enhanced career prospects.
“A key local challenge is raising the aspirations of learners from our communities and The Turing Scheme has really helped us to achieve that.”
Co-founder of Caribbean Elective, Harry Spear, said: “These projects not only represent a life changing opportunity for students from DN Colleges group, but they also give those students a very special opportunity to make a real difference in developing communities in the Caribbean.
“The confidence they build and the moments they’ll share with local people will hopefully stay with them long into the future. It’s a credit to the Turing Scheme that projects this ambitious can take place.”
Ten further DN Colleges engineering students undertook a vocational placement in the United States funded by the Turing Scheme, while nine students on higher education courses also went to St Lucia.
Find out more about FE/VET opportunities with the Turing Scheme, visit our dedicated webpage.