TLPD Industry Insight placement: James Parslow-Williams

James is an Electrical Installations Lecturer at City College Norwich. As part of the preparations for delivering the Design, Surveying and Planning T Level from September 2020, James completed an Industry Insight placement at Ingleton Wood, Norwich. The placements are part of the T Level Professional Development support offer providing opportunities for professional updating for teachers that are industry relevant and that facilitates knowledge transfer and professional exchange.

What were your key objectives for going on a staff placement in industry?

The goal of this experience was to update and increase the knowledge needed to increase my credibility and confidence with my students in my classes through the sharing of recent examples from the workplace. This would result in the students having a much better time preparing themselves to take on their industry placements, which is an essential and core element of the T Level curriculum.

In addition to the above, I wanted to refresh my skills using AutoDesk, a skill that I had possessed before coming into education. This was so that I can pass on my knowledge to the students. I also wanted to ‘test’ my classroom knowledge on its effectiveness within the workplace. Lastly, to gain the experience working in a multidisciplinary team, especially when working to deadlines and timescales for production. A side effect of working in this environment was that it would allow me to update myself with current practices and to pass on what I have learned with colleagues and students ahead of T Level delivery and student industry placements.

Tell us about your experience and the highlights from the placement

I found the whole experience from the first minute to the last to be very fulfilling; the knowledge and experience I received was second-to-none and it was a pleasure to work in an environment that has high expectations of its staff. I will be instilling these high expectations within the students who are undertaking their T Levels as a norm within their educational settings. Having carried out a similar role over 15 years ago and before I came into education, it was a great reflective experience to see how the industry has progressed and matured. One of the highlights was to apply my design knowledge to a project that allowed the team to fulfil a design project and to allow it to go to the client on time.

What did you value the most about engaging with Ingleton Wood?

Since I started education in 2009, the result is that I have been away from industry and to immerse myself within Ingleton Wood, albeit for three days, allowed me to concrete my teaching and to reaffirm the need for the students to develop their knowledge. This exposure reinforced the need for the student to develop not only their core knowledge, but also to hone their transferrable skills. It is these softer skills that are essential as a vehicle and mechanism for the application of their discipline. The ability to work in a multidisciplinary team is essential in a business such as Ingleton Wood, which requires the students to have the skills to be able to be diplomatic, patient and to have the confidence to ask questions and to take criticism.

What has been the impact on you, your colleagues and organisation?

I have been able to update my skills and knowledge and I have benefitted from a reminder about the challenges and ‘soft’ skills that are required to work effectively within a multidisciplinary team. I have developed more up-to-date skills with regards to the use of technology (AutoDesk) and this has made me more confident in my classroom teaching. I now feel better prepared to deliver the T Level curriculum.

I have learned that we will need to implement more activities within the classroom that explore the required skill development, so that students have the chance to practice them in a classroom environment where they can experiment and receive developmental feedback. I have built up links at Ingleton Wood and we are already discussing visits to the college from some of their staff and for students to visits their company for placements.

How will this positively impact on future T Level learners?

The learners will have their delivery carried out by a lecturer who has had very recent industry exposure and will continue to do so outside of the FE environment. It is this latest understanding that will allow the students to leave the college using the latest terminologies, soft skills and techniques that will show the employers why they want that student to work with them. My target would be to enable the student to be ‘work ready’ and to become highly employable, an asset for the company that they can recognise from meeting the student.