through teacher placements in industry
In this article we consider the benefits of placements in industry for teachers . If you’re a technical teacher involved in the preparation or delivery of T Levels, you may be eligible for Industry Insights placements through the Education and Training Foundation. Click here for details.
With apologies to Jane Austin:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a teacher in possession of a programme of technical education, must be in want of an industry placement."
Or is it? Certainly, the arguments for the effectiveness of this type of professional development are familiar and compelling: teachers need up-to-date knowledge and skills to enable them to contextualise their lessons and bring the curriculum to life. But beyond this immediate impact, there can be significant benefits in the longer term.
The SET for Teaching Success Programme was set up in 2017 to recruit, train, mentor and support new teachers of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET), with a focus on technical education. The industrial and academic placements that form part of its wider professional development offer have always been popular and participants are enthusiastic about immediate effects upon their practice. Teachers are enabled to use new technologies, increase their specialist knowledge and bring their skills up-to-date.
A first experience of industry
For some, it has been their first experience of industry altogether. Bradley Collier from Blackburn College participated in a placement with Network Rail:
“I did two night shifts on the railway line. I got a lot out of working with that team and I talk about it with learners whenever it crops up. It still remains the only industry experience I have ever had. I want to do more, and I need to do more.”
Other new teachers on the Programme have come straight from industry. Rob Hodges from Wiltshire College, already had 16 years of experience in joinery before becoming a teacher, but he still found participating in a placement to be extremely beneficial. Rob says:
“I have to admit, I was sceptical about whether it would all be things that I have seen and done before but I was pleasantly surprised: I am excited to say that they had four machines that I had never used or seen in action before. The placement was a great opportunity to understand these machines better so in future lessons I can discuss the way they help to speed up manufacturing and answer any questions my students have about them.”
These are two examples of immediate impact, but teachers who have participated in these placements report that they are still using – and benefitting from – the experience many months and even years later. Majd Khahor of Derby College completed a 5-day placement in the construction industry in 2019 and was quick to recognise its benefits at the time:
“I had the opportunity to witness first-hand some of the latest methods in the industry for the construction and quality control of steel frames and concrete floors. I also had the opportunity to learn a lot about the external and civil engineering works carried out on the site. Most importantly, I now have a better understanding of the set of skills and behaviours that are required in the industry at present and in the future.”
Years later, Majd is still using his professional learning:
“One of the projects was to do with the construction of a floor for Amazon robots to move on, and I saw the use of some techniques which I was completely unaware of. I’ve used the whole experience a lot in my teaching, and it still comes up today. I’m able to give real life examples about project management and the robots are, of course, a very engaging subject for young people. I’ve used some of the ideas in my maths teaching too, in arithmetic progressions.”
As well as delivering long-term impacts on practice, industrial and academic placements can bring meaningful employer engagement, sometimes resulting in lasting partnerships that yield student placements or curriculum development. Ruth Peckett of Kirklees College participated in a placement at the University of Bradford:
“I had such a supportive team who really took me under their wing and wanted to know how we taught as a college, what practical activities we do for forensics and what gaps are there to be bridged. We’ve been able to form a lasting partnership and connection with the University that includes sending some students there for work experience.”
Lucy Leighton of Bridgwater and Taunton College completed a placement at a nursing simulation centre that has resulted in huge changes in curriculum development and delivery:
“It’s had a big impact on practice because we’ve used it to develop our own simulation centre, most of it is already in place now. It was really good to know what equipment to order for it - it’s a lot of money, so we needed to get it right. We’re already using it with T Level students. Delivering T Levels is a real challenge, but we can now use simulation equipment to do role plays and scenario-based learning for our T Level learners – getting them to communicate properly is so important. We set scenarios up with our mannequins and get the learners to practice communicating in a safe environment. They can improve their communication skills before they get unleashed in a work environment.”
Enabling the organisational benefits of CPD
These examples demonstrate the longevity of this type of professional development – staff placements in industry work, and not just in terms of a short-term boost to subject teaching. Industrial and academic placements can have a longer-lasting impact upon teachers, learners, and programmes of study.
It’s essential that managers and leaders encourage the FE workforce to participate in CPD, build capacity to support and prioritise it, and find ways to work creatively and flexibly with employer partners to enable staff to gain or retain current industrial and occupational insight.
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