A one-off celebration recognising the contribution FE colleges and universities have made towards the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was held in East London last Thursday.
The Podium Awards, held at Forman’s Fish Island and hosted by Channel 4 presenter Rick Edwards, was attended by more than 350 guests and recognised the sporting, educational and creative projects of more than 27 institutions from across the UK.
Gareth Smith, head of Podium said: “The enormous range of skills and approaches demonstrated, combined with the consistently high quality of the projects that were submitted for the Podium Awards, was absolutely astounding.
“The competition was fierce and we were delighted to see such a vast selection of ideas and activities which will genuinely impact on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and their legacy.”
The women’s boxing programme delivered at Bradford College won the “Award for Outstanding Sporting Project”, beating Southampton University and the host borough colleges’ ‘Inter College Festival of Sport’.
The boxing scheme at Bradford College, which allows women of all abilities to be trained by professional coaches, has helped inspire greater female participation in the sport.
Paul Porter, boxing development officer at the Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy, told FE Week: “It’s an exciting sport and schemes like ours allow them to have access to good coaching and good facilities.
“All we’re really doing is meeting the demand, and our results at the moment are proving that we’ve got the right formula.”
The 230 projects nominated all serve as a tremendous example of how the power of the Games is being used to inspire people to make a real and lasting difference
Elsewhere the “Bridging the Gap” project, led by North Hertfordshire College (NHC), won gold in the “Award for Inspirational Skills Project” category.
The scheme, which has engaged 92 different further education colleges, is supplying the organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with thousands of young qualified stewards or security staff.
To date, the FE sector has funded 9,551 young people to undertake security qualifications, with further training being offered to students by Skills for Security, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and LOCOG.
Fintan Donohue, chief executive and principal of NHC, said: “These students have had to undertake the training in their own time, and the excellent colleges that have made it possible have given their facilities and efforts freely to create an exceptional earning opportunity for students both now and even after the Olympics have ended.
“The nomination for the Skills award will give a great boost to all of the student ambassadors, project teams and the colleges that have worked so hard to deliver a great outcome.”
A further 11,412 students have, or are, taking a stewarding qualification which has led to work at recognised events such as Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix, the Ryder Cup, Premiership football matches, rock festivals, carnivals, and the Royal Wedding.
Uzi Khan, a student at NHC said: “The Bridging the Gap project has opened the door to my career.
“I’ve worked as a steward at Rhythms of the World and as soon as I got my Door Supervisors qualification I found a job with a local security firm.
“The next step for me is to hopefully work at the Olympics and in the future I’d like to start my own local security business.”
The “Olympic Park Film Project”, developed by Havering College, was awarded a silver medal in the same category.
The initiative gave students the chance to undertake two commercial-style film projects, commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority, which were later premiered at a city hall event hosted by the chair of the London Assembly.
A spokesperson for Havering College said: “For the students it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe and record on film the creation of the Olympic Park, sporting facilities and athletes’ village which will evolve to become new homes.
“One group worked with BBC Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins who was recruited as the presenter for the horticultural film on the development of the Olympic Park.
“Some of the students plan to continue on their Higher Education journey and as a result of the film have received unconditional offers for Film related degree courses at prestigious universities.”
The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Academy, led by Newham College, was also recognised as a runner up in the “Award for Inspirational Skills Project” category.
The project places learners on a six month course, combining a level 2 diploma in hospitality services with six weeks practical work experience.
The enormous range of skills and approaches demonstrated, combined with the consistently high quality of the projects that were submitted for the Podium Awards, was absolutely astounding.
The college says it is designed to provide job opportunities for people from areas with high unemployment rates, and to date has helped nine people secure a job.
Luigi Lipparelli, head of catering at Newham College said: “College staff feel proud to have received a nomination because it shows that we can be the most successful college in east London.
“It recognises that our staff have worked hard to improve the lives of local people and support an aim of the London Olympics legacy.
“It shows that we are flexible and innovative in working with employers to develop courses shaped by their needs.”
Other Podium Award winners included Weymouth College, who won gold in the “British Council Award for Innovative International Collaboration” with their Sailing Camps, Business and Education
programme, as well as SkillsActive, for their pre-employment programme ‘Personal Best’.
“Legacy Champions” a scheme led by nine FE colleges situated in the Olympic host boroughs, including Greenwich Community College, Hackney College and Newham College, were runners up in the “Award for Invaluable Volunteering Project” category.
The programme, developed in partnership with EDF Energy, asks each college to recruit 10 students who then identify and support a local community project in their borough.
A spokesperson for Greenwich Community College told FE Week: “(Our) project this year is a community art project capturing what Greenwich in 2012 means to the local community.
“Our students ran a survey with their peers and the local community asking them which images capture our borough and have worked with a local artist, Shallman Quashie, to produce a piece of artwork that will be displayed at the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre from mid-May.”
The “Legacy Champions” from all of the host borough colleges then gather for a joint volunteer project, which for the last few years has included a clean-up of the Thames or the Island Gardens in Greenwich.
A spokesperson for Hackney College said: “Hackney Community College has been committed to the opportunities of the Games for many years, and has worked closely with Podium to make sure that that we have shared our experiences with other colleges and universities.
“We are incredibly proud of our staff and students’ enthusiasm for the opportunities of the 2012 Games – being nominated for these awards is the icing on the cake.”
Other shortlisted projects included the “Sport Gambia” project, which was organised by South Nottingham College and awarded a silver medal in the “British Council Award for Innovative International Collaboration” category.
Ten students studying BTEC Sport Development and Fitness at the college raised £550 each in order to travel to Gambia in March.
The students then visited five schools, one of which was for deaf and blind children, in order to put on sport and physical activity sessions for nearly 400 primary and secondary school students.
Diane Garfield, community and performance sport manager said: “This was an amazing opportunity for College students to learn more about other countries and cultures whilst delivering sport and physical activity to local people.
“The students had an immeasurable, life-changing experience seeing such extreme poverty, poor school conditions and how the children learn.”
Other notable nominations included the “Flames” project, developed by Loughborough College in partnership with the British Heart Foundation.
The scheme, which was shortlisted for the “Get Set Award for Inspiring Outstanding Learning through the London 2012 Games”, has helped motivate more children to be active by developing a training model for young leaders.
Anna Chalkley, the project manager, said: “All of the feedback we receive from college tutors is unanimous in saying that most significant impact of Flames has been on the effect on the student’s learning.
“One of the main benefits was their experience of working with and delivering to primary school children, something which cannot be recreated in the classroom with their peers and this has proved to be a definite personal gain for them.”
The programme, which has helped 400 FE and HE institutions to date, culminates in the “flames festival”, a mini-Olympics organised and ran by the young leaders.
The awards ceremony was an outstanding example of how colleges can help learners both during and after a national event such as the Olympic Games.
Paul Deighton, CEO of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: “Colleges and universities have played an integral role in supporting London 2012.
“I congratulate all of the Podium Awards winning projects on their exceptional work.
“The 230 projects nominated all serve as a tremendous example of how the power of the Games is being used to inspire people to make a real and lasting difference.”