AN OXFORDSHIRE college has seen an eight per cent jump in enrolments since dramatically changing the college day to reflect a working environment.

Last year, Abingdon and Witney College changed timetabling so students would be in college 9am to 5pm three days a week, and could spend one day in paid or voluntary work, and another on independent study.

After working with 250 Abingdon pupils, the college has decided to roll it out to all 500 students on Btec extended dploma courses across its Abingdon, Witney and Common Leys Farm campuses.

Assistant principal Fiona Morey said: “We were very keen to reduce that gap from young people moving from education into employment and to ensure we were meeting the needs of employers in recruiting young people.”

Each pupil is allocated a performance manager, who helps the youngsters get work experience, voluntary work and employment, along with working on key skills such as project planning, attendance and how to build a good CV.

Ms Morey said: “For some students it’s been an eye opener working 9am to 5pm.

“Young people are anxious about finding jobs and finding careers.

“The response has been hugely positive – our applications for courses have been up.

“We would put that down to word of mouth from current students and parents being anxious about progression for sons and daughters and recognising these extra things will make a difference between getting that university place, getting that job or not.”

Skills Minister John Hayes praised the programme.

He said: “Anecdotal evidence tells us what employers are asking for.

“This college is providing it – others should too.”

Tom Higgs, 19, from Abingdon, is studying a BTEC in art and design, and working part-time at Waitrose.

He said: “It’s quite nice – you do three days with your actual lecturer and then you’ve got the two days where you can do your own stuff at home and actually earn money in other jobs.

“I now have experience in the workplace and I know what it’s like to have a job and earn money.”

Jamie Bell, 18, from Abingdon, is doing a BTEC in media, combined with a job at his local Co-op.

He said: “I have found it much easier to deal with than the secondary school system of working in school every day.

“It means there are more days to concentrate on the work I need to do and also I have an opportunity to have experience in a working environment – and get paid.”

Amie Hedges, 18, started on the business studies programme after a year at sixth form doing A-Levels.

She said: “I find it so much easier and more of what I can cope with on work level. I like the way it’s set up. It’s more organised than sixth form.”