ETF supports Exeter College to forge integral local business partnerships ahead of T Level delivery

Blog by Cerian Ayres, the ETF’s National Head of Technical Education.

With over 190 Industry Insight placements having been completed between June 2019 and February 2020, knowledge and confidence to implement and teach T Levels successfully is increasing among participants.

These placements are one part of the Education and Training Foundation’s T Level Professional Development offer that aims to provide teachers and trainers with immersive, industrial updating experiences. Opportunities to develop subject specialist knowledge, skills, and understanding of specific industry sectors and local labour market intelligence, support practice development as well as enabling observation and professional discussion with colleagues throughout the host company.

As well as the obvious benefits of ensuring that professional updating is industry relevant and, consequently, that knowledge transfer and professional exchange take place, many of the staff placements have also opened up opportunities for T Level providers to work collaboratively with businesses in their local area, so that there is a strategic and locality-based approach to improving the quality of technical teaching and training, whilst serving the professional development needs of individuals, businesses and communities.

One such example of this is the Industry Insight placements undertaken by colleagues from Exeter College at several businesses which are based at Exeter Science Park – workspace and office facilities for innovative science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical (STEMM) companies – in collaboration with the Heart of the South West (HoTSW) LEP.

Exeter Science Park and HoTSW LEP have identified that T Levels not only provide fantastic opportunities for learners, but they also have the potential to deliver high-value jobs, enhanced productivity and sustainable economic growth for the local area. By placing T Level providers like Exeter College at the heart of their learning community, these partnerships are able to drive innovation and create a world-class workforce for the future.

Programme Leader and Access to HE Course Manager at Exeter College, Chris Temple-Murray, completed a placement at NEXUS OS to gain experience of working in a digital environment, to be able to share recent examples from the workplace with his students, so that they would be better prepared for completing their industry placements. In doing so, Chris also gained an insight into how T Levels could benefit local businesses:

“My time at NEXUS OS helped me to narrow down the skill set that local businesses are looking for – something that will refine my classroom delivery.”

The placement also confirmed to Chris that businesses would be looking for evidence of ‘soft skills’ such as communication, time management and collaboration with colleagues from the young people on industry placements, rather than requiring specific technical knowledge and skills at the outset.

The importance of this high-quality professional development was echoed by Adam Clement, a Programme Leader at Exeter College who completed an Industry Insight placement with local web-development agency, Sound in Theory. Adam was keen to find out which specific programming languages, techniques and workflows were used in current industry practice. The learning outcomes, including the importance of teamwork and the necessity to be agile and responsive, “will be embedded into a dynamic curriculum that will allow for learning to be delivered akin to a workplace environment”, giving learners a realistic idea of what will be expected of them.

For Programme Leader Oscar O’Brien, his placement demonstrated clearly how students will be “substantially enriched” by this high-quality learning experience. Not only did he have the opportunity to work at the Met Office’s high-performance computer complex, which opened in 2017 and houses a £97million supercomputer – one of the most powerful in the world, it has enabled Exeter College to “put together a very professional and up-to-date programme that accurately reflects both the practices of the software development industry and underlying rationale which drives the development of these such that they can become lifelong learners.”

These are just some of the great examples of how beneficial these staff placements in industry have been; providing high quality professional learning and development for teachers, trainers, business support staff and managers. The immediate and sustainable impact on classroom teaching and learning is already having a positive impact and providing a clear line of sight to work.

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