Argent College is located in the Standard Works, in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. Prior to Ruskin Mill Trust acquiring the Standard Works, the building had been left empty for nearly 20 years.
The old jewellery factory has been transformed into a college, the highly commended Hive Café and Bakery, a heritage centre, community spaces and an urban rooftop micro farm. The Jewellery Quarter has played an important part in the manufacturing and economic success of Birmingham since the 1800’s and Argent College is building on those historic connections and community relationships to provide students with cultural and vocational experiences that enrich their college life.
Bangles, watches, necklaces and more have been created in the Jewellery Quarter for centuries and this continues with the signature craft of Jewellery Making at Argent College. Using traditional methods, students work on individual pieces, learning about the qualities of the different types of metals, the traditional tools used and creating beautiful pieces either for themselves or to give to others. In addition to Jewellery Making, students can participate in a wide and varied selection of crafts including Textiles, Candle Making, Leatherwork, and Woodwork. Students can also access crafts at the Glasshouse College site.
Connecting to the Land
Even in the city centre, access to land and gardening for students is an important part of the Ruskin Mill Trust method. The large flat roof at Argent College has provided an ideal space for the urban micro farm where students work year round outdoors in the raised beds, or in the polytunnel, to produce fruit and vegetables for use in their homes, the canteen, or living skills kitchen or in the café and bakery. The garden is managed using biodynamic methods and students learn about the importance of soil health, composting, and the varieties of plants that can be grown on the micro farm. The urban micro farm also has several bee hives, that the students can learn to tend. The bees help to pollinate the crops and produce beeswax for the candle making and honey.
Individual Student Development
Each student receives an individual timetable which is created by their EHCM and designed to meet their needs and interests. Interwoven with the land and craft activities are performing arts, therapies, catering and work experience. The Hive Café and Bakery and the Heritage Centre provide an ideal space for students to undertake work experience in a supportive environment and still interact with the community. Literacy and numeracy are embedded into the practical activities to provide contextual learning opportunities. Learning is supported by literacy and numeracy tutors who work alongside craft and land tutors.
Argent College currently only offers day placements. Students learn essential skills in the new Independent Living Suite, which includes a kitchen and dining area and social space. Here students can work with staff to plan menus, learn about budgeting and nutrition, assist with the shopping and prepare healthy meals for themselves and those they invite to join them.
Argent College offers a range of therapies which students can access either on a 1:1 basis or in small groups. Therapies include Speech and Language, counselling, Eurythmy, Massage, and Art. Some of the therapies may be delivered at one of the nearby Trust sites; Glasshouse College or Sunfield Specialist School and Children’s Home. Therapists and counsellors work closely with teaching and support staff to ensure a holistic and integrated approach to meeting students’ individual needs.
Through Practical Skills Therapeutic Education, students develop their self confidence and self awareness. As they develop these skills and engage in meaningful work in the land and craft, students also develop employability skills and increase their capacity for self generated conscious action. Argent College students have a wide range of work experience opportunities in the city, working in the Hive Café and Bakery in a variety of roles, or assisting with the Heritage Centre and related activities including guided tours.