Despite the global pandemic, Barnsley College’s employer engagement initiative, Talent United, has been busier than ever. Here we find out more about how the popular initiative is helping its ‘star’ students become work ready

Created in 2015, Talent United aims to bridge the gap between education and employment by providing Barnsley College students with employer-led opportunities.

This is achieved by creating partnerships with businesses and individuals who may be able to provide presentations and workshops, work placements or workplace tours. In return, partners enjoy exclusive benefits and discounts, including events and networking sessions, free and discounted training courses and promotional opportunities.

The College’s team has been in regular contact with its local business partners, gathering them together for its first ever online speed networking session and recruiting new employers into the community.

Sarah Sonne, community development and volunteer coordinator from The Refugee Council, said: “For our Barnsley Refugee Advice Project, we decided to become a Talent United partner as we were involved with delivering awareness-raising workshops to students and staff at Barnsley College.

“Being a partner has enabled us to offer opportunities to our client groups – for example, a visit for our women’s group to host a craft stall at the Christmas My Markets event organised by the College’s Enterprise team. In addition, the networking events with other Talent United partners have been a great way to mix with other charities, businesses and organisations.”

Angela Proud, of local business Proud Bookkeeping, added: “I became a partner of Talent United last year. I initially signed up for just the networking events, but I soon recognised that we could get much more involved and give something back by offering a work placement. So, in October, I took on Owen, a 17-year-old student at the College, and I gave him the opportunity to learn about my business and industry, and gain some valuable, practical experience. Owen has been an absolute star, picking things up quickly and having a positive impact on my workload. He’s even come away with Quickbooks Certification – something that wasn’t initially planned but that he can use in his career going forward.”

Samantha Gill, of Samantha Gill Nails, told us: “The main reason I joined Talent United is to help students become work-ready. The beauty industry can be a daunting place to be thrown straight into after leaving College and substantially differs from the comfort of your learning environment. I want to offer support to students to help them feel more confident when going into the industry, whether that is by offering work placements, e-support or doing talks in their class. It’s something I feel very passionate about and I want to instil some of that passion to the students and show them what they can achieve.”

Local Florist, Carole Wickham of Wickham and Taylor, explained: “Throughout December I undertook quite a few wreath making workshops with students from all areas and learning abilities. The best week I had was with the students from the Learning for Living and Work department – I got so much out of it and I hope they did, too. I love being part of the Talent United family and I hope to continue to work closely with them in the future.”

Jess Widdowson, Enterprise Team Leader at Barnsley College, said: “It’s a real pleasure overseeing the Talent United programme – it’s completely free to become a partner and there are no expectations. Partners can contribute as much or as little as they like.”

To find out more about Talent United or to become a partner, email