From education to employment

Students at Barry College Soar to New Heights

As usual, this summer the relative merits of vocational and academic education have been the focus of debate in the wake of the recent excellent “A” level results.

Employers ““ notably the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – and some lecturers have stated that the qualification is deficient in practical training for college and six-form students; the lack of vocational study at secondary level is often more prevalent. Ruth Kelly, the Minister for Education and Skills, has stated that the Government remain committed to the “gold standard” qualifications of GCSEs and “A” Levels.

The trend towards less attention for vocational education is being bucked by Barry College, who have been pioneering a new Saturday course for pupils from years 9, 10 and 11.

We Have Ignition”¦

The Barry College International Centre for Aerospace Training (ICAT), in partnership with Career Wales, is offering children the chance to get a real feel for working in the aerospace industry. The seven week Aerospace Saturday Programme gives hands-on experience to students, who get the opportunity to design and build aircraft components and experience of working environments.

The students who have already taken part certainly seem to feel the programme is beneficial and even enjoyable. ICAT tutor, George Martin, said: “The Club has become a tremendous success. We have some parents phoning us to get their sons and daughters signed up for the 2007 Saturday Club. It is such a good experience for the students. It’s good fun; you learn real skills and get a qualification. It is a really worthwhile way to spend seven weeks.”

There is undoubtedly a case for more of these initiatives to be introduced in UK schools and colleges, not least because there is significant evidence that employers value vocational training and work experience highly. Courses such as the Aerospace Saturday Programme prepare students for the realities of working life in ways that classroom teaching cannot do, whilst also offering an alternative learning experience to purely academic courses.

Practical courses offer a range of learning options for students who are less academically disposed and often stimulate the interest of individuals who are unmotivated by classroom based lessons. Hopefully Barry College’s example can be followed by other institutions in the UK.

Dan Atkinson

Reach for the stars in the FE Blog

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