Platform for work experience opportunities and industry placements

The Digital Guild Case Study:
System for collaboration between colleges, students, and employers

“We’re really looking forward to using the Digital Guild to help manage our industry placements at BCA. We’ve got strong processes but we’ve been missing the technology to help streamline. The Digital Guild platform will really make a difference in helping us provide an outstanding service to our students.”

Project Overview

Services Provided

Skill badges, learner management, group management, college management, staff member management, placement requests and approvals queues, document and report builder, CSV imports and exports to integrate with other databases, map visualisation for employers and work experience opportunities, eLearning integration

A little bit about the Digital Guild

The Digital Guild was designed as a countrywide database for work experience opportunities, by a college for colleges. The project was led by East Sussex College Group, which has campuses in Eastbourne, Lewes, Newhaven, and Hastings and provides high quality education and training for over half of East Sussex’s young people.

The Digital Guild platform, which started to come to life in 2017, was formed as a result of the work of a cross-functional team from East Sussex College Group, Switchplane, and Friendly Digital, funded by Ufi Charitable Trust. The goal of the project was to address the huge challenges posed by the impending T-Level industry placements, with the potential to change the work placement process on a national scale.

These T-Level courses, starting in 2020, include industry placements for 45 to 60 days. The implementation of these courses brings about many challenges for students, staff and employers, including:

  • Finding opportunities: With no easy way to search placement opportunities or track contacts at companies who have been willing to host students in the past, students are left to ‘scramble around’ for leads - it often comes down to who you know.
  • Demand: Finding employers to host students is challenging, and employers risk becoming fatigued by multiple requests for help.
  • Employability gap: CBI research showed that 69% of businesses think secondary schools are not effective at preparing young people for work. Employers want students with strong employability skills, but these are often unrecognised by formal qualifications.
  • Workload: Learning providers' workloads will skyrocket in regards to additional work placement coordination and monitoring, especially if they decide to offer all fifteen T-Level routes.

Switchplane worked with these organisations to build a solution to address these issues.

The Solution

After a number of design, build, and test phases, a minimum viable solution was completed in May 2018, with a pilot scheme undertaken with placement students, the ESCG work experience management team, and Berkshire College of Agriculture.

Following research on employability gaps and employer feedback, an 'employability passport' was produced containing sixteen employability skills, which were turned into digital badges. Through the Digital Guild platform, students can compile evidence for the skills, have this evidence accredited by tutors, and share their badge portfolio anywhere online - including with employers seeking particular skills for their work experience placements.

Using the Digital Guild platform, students are able to:

  • Work towards key technical and employability skills, with access to over 700 hours of eLearning, allowing them to develop their skills independently
  • Submit evidence of their learning to the school or college to earn their skills badge
  • Search for specific opportunities or browse what is available by sector
  • Apply or register interest in placement opportunities
  • Complete a work plan and diary whilst on their placement

Colleges can:

  • Match students to placements
  • Manage a diary of employers willing to offer placements
  • Assess student achievement and progress

Employers are able to:

  • Stipulate what skills they require from students along with other key information about the placement they are offering
  • Leave feedback about the students performance

The Digital Guild project was named as one of the Edtech 50 projects. This award, endorsed by Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education, recognises products and projects demonstrating effective and innovative use of Edtech in the UK. The Digital Guild, in partnership with Switchplane, also won the Innovation category at the Eastbourne Business Awards 2018.

View an overview of what the platform offers here.

“Ufi is proud to support The Digital Guild and their innovative approach to using digital tech to help employers get the skills they need and young people into work.”

Skill badges

Administrators are able to create and set criteria for particular badges. Learners are able to upload evidence towards their completion of these badges and submit it for review. This evidence will then enter a queue for a staff member. A staff member can view the evidence, confirm whether or not a student’s evidence is sufficient, and award them the badge if appropriate. Learners can then share a public profile demonstrating the skills they have completed.

Learner, group, college, and staff member management

There are different levels of access control on the website, depending on where you fit into the education system. Learners can add and edit particular information, submit evidence and placement applications for review, and create a profile page to share with employers. Learners can be allocated to groups, meaning that staff members can have oversight of their particular students’ progress and statuses on the platform. Staff members have access to placement requests and approval queues for work they need to process. At a higher level, there are college administrators who can oversee learner groups and staff members at a wider level, and above that, there are ‘super admins’ who can add new college groups and college-level administrators and provide support where needed.

“We need to ensure we give our young people the best opportunities to find work experience and help local businesses find new talent. I’m really excited about the potential that the Digital Guild platform has to help connect young people with great work experience opportunities.”

Placement request and approval queues

Students are able to submit suggestions of placement requests to work placement administrators for their college to review, check Health and Safety requirements, and approve. These staff members are able to approve or reject requests, leave notes, or ask a student for more information. There are similar approval queues available for the claiming of badges.

Report builder

Administrators are able to build their own commonly used documents and reports. The document builder allows administrators to create their own questions and forms to then compile into a document, which can then be a requirement for a learner or employer to complete at various stages of the placement process. As there is a lot of information stored in the platform, the report builder allows administrators to create reports using data sets of their choosing, which can help with any number of reasons within their institution, from reporting on student and employer placement numbers, to Health and Safety and employer insurance statuses.

CSV imports and exports

In order for Digital Guild to work well alongside commonly-used institutional software such as ProMonitor, it’s possible class lists to be imported into the Digital Guild at the start of the academic year, thereby saving a lot of manual re-input of details. As mentioned in the previous section, the report builder functionality gives access to all of the data stored in the platform, so CSV exports can allow this data to be examined and processed in a flexible manner.

Opportunity maps

Using college and student postcodes, Switchplane has built a map enabling students to locate work experience placements, employers, and jobs near to them. Students can see the address details and main contact information, allowing them to approach the right people when setting up their placements. These location points are also sortable by industry sector.

ELearning integration

As students need to complete a certain amount of eLearning as part of their studies, the Digital Guild platform has incorporated resources from the Blended Learning Consortium as part of the offering. Only colleges who have the correct level of paid access to this eLearning database will have this provider’s course content available to them. It makes the Digital Guild platform an important resource, as all work placement related learning can be carried out in one place; progress and eLearning completion can also be tracked against a learner.

“We’re delighted to be using the Digital Guild platform with our learners and believe it will open up a vast new range of opportunities to help young people into work. We’re especially excited at the innovative use of digital badges as a way of allowing employers to specify the exact skills they’re looking for and see real-world evidence of those skills.”

Watch Kev Jones, who was Innovation Lead for the Digital Guild project at ESCG, talk about his experience of working with Switchplane.
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