From education to employment

Colleges, if you want international doors to open for you – make sure you’re delivering the right package!

Major international projects are beyond the reach of most colleges unless they look to collaborate with the wider TVET sector.

Colleges in the UK have a well-deserved reputation for providing the very best in high quality, relevant courses and qualifications, and yet they are not reaping the commercial benefits of this reputation overseas.  Those working in international business development within colleges find that, in the international arena, their offering may be limited to student recruitment and partnering with overseas institutes in the delivery of joint programmes leading to UK qualifications – and they are now looking for opportunities to get involved with country government TVET reform projects. Sadly, I believe that they need to prepare themselves for a lot of fruitless hard work and rejection.

This is no reflection on their commitment or ability, or on the quality of their provision.  I believe that our colleges are the best in the world; and once they get the chance to get involved with high profile projects they have a reputation for delivering above and beyond expectations. And that’s just the problem – all too often, UK colleges aren’t getting the chance, even when they are working together.  Ministers implementing major projects worth millions of pounds expect to be approached by consortia covering off all aspects of the programme from fitting out classrooms and providing state of the art equipment to curriculum development and quality assurance. To be blunt, they just don’t have the time or inclination to meet with organisations who can only offer one element, and our experience at TVET UK reflects this.  Around 85% of our projects could be described as ‘turnkey’ – providing the complete package through collaboration – while only 15% involve only colleges.

One such ‘turnkey’ project that TVET UK has  successfully helped to secure is the planning and development of 10 Integrated Technical Education Cluster across Egypt; a multi-million pound project being implemented by the Egyptian Cabinet of Ministers’ Education Development Fund. The project will provide specialist centres of excellence for engineering that offer effective and seamless training and education for students from the age of 14 through to higher education. Each cluster will consist of a technical school, technical college, advanced technical college and a new vocational training centre: all on the same site.   Awarding organisation, Pearson Edexcel, along with Pearson Custom Publications, is leading on the project and is providing training, qualifications, teaching materials and assessment.  A major part of our role was to find appropriate partners from our membership to successfully deliver the complete package from strategy to quality assessment. The team at Pearson Edexcel contracted Bradford College for quality assurance, training and support and are working with educational equipment suppliers, LJ Create, and an Egyptian agent to secure equipment supply contracts. The first cluster was launched in Cairo in September 2009, and now has more than 1,000 students enrolled on customised First, National and Higher National BTEC programmes in mechanical, electrical, automotive engineering and mechatronics.

Access to key decision makers on multimillion pound projects and gaining quick entry into new markets are not the only benefits of becoming part of a consortium. Members can gain from the experience and intelligence gathered by colleagues who have worked in a particular market before, or are sector specialists. We have a number of high profile organisations such as Babcock, Eagle Scientific, Eduteq, TQ and Pearson Edexcel looking for delivery partners. Working on a successful project with organisations like these, is the ideal to raise the profile of your college – and opens the door to further international opportunities.  So, perhaps it’s time to look outside the classroom and make some new friends!

Matthew Anderson is executive director of TVET UK, which represents vocational education and training national agencies, sector skills councils and awarding bodies, together with colleges, vocational schools, work based and private training providers and educational equipment and materials supply companies

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