Staff from South Eastern Regional College are part of a European team for an Erasmus+ project looking at the skills VET teachers will need in the future to respond to the changing demands of industry and the economy. Pictured in Lahti, Finland in November are (Back l – r) Phil Storrier, Glasgow Kelvin College; John Clarke, Glasgow Kelvin College; Craig Donald, Salpaus Further Education College and (front) Paula Philpott, SERC; Veerle Visch, Albeda College; Elaine McKeown, SERC; Sannakaisa Raatikainen, Salpaus Further Education College.

@nsvett1 - Staff from @S_ERC’s Learning Academy, Owen Parkes and Stefanie Campbell, led by Paula Philpot along with Project Manager, Elaine McKeown from the College’s International team, travelled to Salpaus College, Lahti, Finland in late 2019 to meet European partners for a new Erasmus+ project which is looking at skills required by Vocational Education and Training (VET) teachers.

The project, New Skills for VET Teachers (NSVETT) brings together a wealth of knowledge and experience from colleges and universities from Finland, The Netherlands, Scotland and of course, South Eastern Regional College,  from Northern Ireland – to look at the skills VET teachers will need in the future to respond to the changing demands of industry and the economy.

The project’s first workshop focused on identifying the challenges that educationalists will face and partners shared best practice on ideas on how to overcome these challenges.

Elaine McKeown said, “The profession of vocational education is in continuous transformation as we begin to understand what is required to equip teaching staff with skills fit for the 21st century.  The skill set and role of VET teachers is being outpaced by developments of working life across industry.  Employers need “work ready” students that are equipped with technical as well as those all-important transversal skills. Education has a responsibility to respond by providing opportunities for students to collaborate, develop critical-thinking skills and effective communication skills. These are the skills that will help students to flourish in an increasingly complex and uncertain world. Therefore, the teaching and learning model for education needs to focus on developing lifelong learning skills rather than simply gaining a qualification or frontloading skills that may become redundant over time. Just as industry and the economy is evolving, so too must education.  

She added, “A job role no longer remains constant throughout the employee’s entire career and will evolve and change as the economic landscape changes.  Employees must therefore take ownership of, and responsibility for, their own continuous professional development as their careers unfold. Equally, employers must approach professional development at a strategic level to facilitate their staff’s lifelong learning needs. This can be achieved by working with vocational education providers who can be flexible and quickly adapt to industry need.

“VET educators work very closely with companies and other professional organisations to identify skills gaps and have the capacity to respond quickly to changing needs by developing bespoke training programmes.

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“Creating effective teaching and learning models for the future is more a question of developing innovative approaches to improve existing teaching models, so they become more efficient, effective and most importantly fit with the needs of all stakeholders: VET teachers, corporate staff, College management and employers. We believe that there are three critical aspects to be considered when developing a professional development strategy: personalisation, modularisation and digitalisation. 

She concluded “However, before any change to staff development processes are implemented, due regard must be paid to the impact of these changes on staff wellbeing. Change in working life is often cited as a key source of stress and anxiety, so organisations must meet their duty of care to their employees and ensure that support for mental wellbeing is in place and effective at times of change. Staff development strategies and wellbeing strategies should run simultaneously and be cross-referenced, where appropriate.”

A key focus of the New skills for VET Teachers project is to share knowledge of the education challenges and phenomena across Europe. So far, the Project team have written five articles related to this theme and plan to publish a further ten articles in which they will share findings from the future planned workshops.

 

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