Progression in an SME: the Case of Chichester Community Development Trust


This is one of several resources showing different opportunities open to T Level students when they finish their T Level course.


The employer

Chichester Community Development Trust is a charity set up in 2009 to take on ownership of land and buildings previously owned by a National Health Service psychiatric hospital and manage them for community use. So far it has started four community projects, housed several new businesses, and opened up a variety of spaces for community use. Through a separate trading arm, it also helps other voluntary and community groups to establish projects and operations in the heart of their own communities. It is run by a team of ten employees, a board of trustees and a management group.

The Trust invests in young people through youth programmes that provide opportunities for social, emotional and creative development. Following an approach by local provider Chichester College Group, the Trust agreed to host industry placements for 12 students on Business Administration and Digital T Levels. The students started their placements in 2023, spending one or two days a week in various roles within the Trust.


Opportunities for students

From the start of their placements in the Trust, students are encouraged to think about what job roles they might want in their early careers.

As a small charity with a small team, the Trust has limited job opportunities to offer. Even so, one of its placement students is doing paid work on finance and book-keeping for the Trust one day a week. This student is keen to look for an apprenticeship when she finishes the T Level, and the Trust is using its networks in the community to reach out to local organisations where suitable apprenticeship vacancies could be found.

Students are also steered towards other courses the Trust offers through its youth provision, to help them in their search for a job and further training.


Benefits to the employer

“We’ve really noticed a difference in the students … And they’ve done valuable work for us”

Clare de Bathe is the Trust’s CEO. She sees how the students have grown and developed through their placement experience.


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“We’ve really noticed a difference. The students weren’t very confident when they came in at first, and some struggled with anxiety. That started to change when they got involved with the work we do. They started to feel they were part of our team and saw they had room to grow.

“Our line managers are very supportive, and the students gave a lot of support to each other as a peer-to-peer group.

“Their technical skills developed as well. Some of the students formed a project group to reduce the carbon footprint of our website. They passed their learning on to us. It’s good for us to have more of a youth voice on the website.”

Elizabeth Storton, Business Development Coordinator at the Trust, agrees.

“Having 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds coming in gives you such fresh eyes on what you’re achieving as a business or a charity. We run a lot of youth programmes and having their input is great.”

Elizabeth also sees that industry placements are a genuine two-way street.

“It’s been great watching them grow in confidence and start to take on new skills. They’ve absolutely flown. It’s also been great helping them to understand what a work environment requires.

“And they’ve provided valuable work for us. The finance students have helped with invoices and occasionally run some research for different projects coming up. The marketing students have focused on our residents’ app and new websites for youth programmes and social media campaigns.”


Key lessons about the placements

“It’s having that honest conversation throughout the process”

Chichester College Group consists of seven further education colleges and two other providers in West Sussex, Brighton and Hove. It offers students a wide range of T Level courses covering most skill areas.

Contact with the college was transactional at first, and the Trust did much of the early work of planning placements on its own. Since the college appointed a member of staff as single point of contact, the Trust has benefited from better access to T Level specialists, which has enabled them to offer enhanced placements. There are also more regular meetings and email contacts to discuss the placements and resolve issues or snags.

“It’s having that kind of honest conversation throughout the process,” says the Trust’s Business Development Coordinator Elizabeth Storton, “so that students really get what they need.”


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