In this Profile Piece, Dorota shares the collaboration experience between Westminster Kingsway College and the Student-Led Project On & Up Women in Finance. Find out about the amazing workshops they ran this academic year below!

Can you briefly describe the activities that your students were involved in?

Absolutely, we started working with Alejandra from the Women in Finance society in 2020. It was actually through the Student-Led Projects Partners' Newsletter that we found out that something like that was happening and we reached out.

When we first got in touch, the students explained very clearly that what they do is a series of three workshops, it can be for approximately 30 to 50 students, and can be adapted to our needs in terms of the timetabling, etc. It fit very well within our plans for the year 12 A level students, so we decided to build this into the enrichment activities that we deliver at the College.

And so the first time we ran this was in March 2021, and because of COVID, all the sessions took place online via zoom. It worked really well. We did have a few students that did not show up on the days of the sessions, but in general the attendance was really good. I would say at 70 to 80%, and we had 30 students involved in the programme that year.

Then, because it was really positive feedback that we received, via the On & Up Women in Finance colleagues, but also from the discussions that we had with students here, we decided that we were definitely going to run it in 2022. So again, we have been in touch with Alejandra and the team from around November, and we ran the sessions in March. This time they were face-to-face, here at the College, in our library. Attendance was better than we experienced in the virtual setting.

The sessions went really well, they were very appreciated by our students…, we had around 25 students subscribed this time and the majority of them attended. We are really hoping to do this next year again!

The program consists of three consecutive sessions. Overall, they focus on equipping young women and empowering them to discover what it is they would like to do, and to find tools to help them research different opportunities, become more self-confident, and figure out their next steps. Because we target year 12 students, it's sort of getting to know what they would like to do after finishing college, next steps, university apprenticeships, etc.

Sessions also included some very interesting insights about general university life, what to think about before making that decision, and how to manage the practical aspect of the transition and of being a student, finding a part-time job, accommodation etc.

So it's quite a broad spectrum and because it's delivered by student ambassadors, it's really a first-hand experience which our students are really interested in.

What impact did these sessions have on the students and/or your College?

In terms of the participants and the individual benefit for them, it certainly helps students to clarify and understand the pathways for progression, and also really understand the responsibility of taking the next step. So it certainly impacts on their sense of responsibility and clarity, so an understanding of what options they have.

In terms of the College, it really fits very well with the activities that we deliver in terms of employability skills and progression activities in general. So on the college level, it really supports the provision that we hope to be able to offer to students.

Why did your College decide to host one of our Student-Led Projects?

One of our priorities, within the careers and employability team at the College, is to do targeted activities that would support young women get into fields like business and finance. So firstly, it was the title of the activity itself, “Women in Finance”, that just sounded like a fantastic opportunity to get our students involved in. So that female empowerment was something that first drew us in, and also just the possibility to partner with a Russell Group University and be able to engage our students with some student ambassadors.

So I would say it was two sides, one was this great opportunity to engage with UCL and also the female empowerment element of it.

What advice would you give to another organisation considering whether to host one of our Student-Led Projects?

I would really encourage any school to do it.

At least I found from my personal experience, just the level of interaction that we get when we organise activities led by students… because, as a careers and employability team, we run a menu of different activities led by employers and some senior stakeholders of the College; but in terms of university student-led activities, the level of engagement, the quality of questions asked, and our student’s engagement is really high. So in order to kind of almost energize students and keep them more involved in the project, I think that having student ambassadors is really great. They're also really innovative, they're fast, they're really a pleasure to work with!

Finally, I just wanted to add that, why I would recommend to do student-led projects, is because the wonderful group of young women that I worked with were incredibly helpful. Not only in the delivery of that one specific project that we made an agreement on, but also when I reached out to the society to support additional activities that we were running for students, they reached out to their networks, they really got some wonderful ambassadors on board who supported something, that was very related, but that was beyond the scope of the programme, and helped us enormously.

So I think once you have that link and relationship, many other opportunities can appear.

A huge thanks to the colleagues at UCL for supporting us!

If your school or organisation is interested in partnering with one of our Student-Led Projects? Find out more information here!