From education to employment

Raising the Bar: A double celebration of excellence in STEM teaching and training

This year’s Technical Teaching Fellowships celebration event was particularly special, as it saw the Fellows for 2022–23 joined by those for the current 2021–22 year, whose own celebration event in 2021 could not be held because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Fittingly, this double celebration of six individuals’ excellence in technical STEM teaching and training was held at the Royal Society’s beautiful, historic home in London. The Fellowship that each individual was presented with supports the sharing and dissemination of effective practice throughout the FE and Training sector in England and beyond.

Fellowship is a simple word that says so much. It signals recognition by peers, learned organisations and stakeholder organisations, it speaks of achievement, and it is a marker of effective intellectual leadership that influences and supports others.

The ETF and Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Technical Teaching Fellowships provide individuals who have demonstrated excellence in STEM teaching and training with a platform to share their effective practice, connecting with others in a meaningful way. They create opportunities to share, and in doing so, positively influence the delivery of technical STEM teaching and training across the country.

The community of Fellows

Hearing from alumni Fellows Chris Fairclough (Lakes College), Lynda Broomhead (Petroc College), and Stephen Mariadas (Exeter College and now also the Director of the Southwest Institute of Technology), about the work they have undertaken since being awarded Technical Teaching Fellowships, and their sustainable impact in terms of developing excellence in STEM teaching and training, is an inspiring experience.

The new Fellows will join an active technical community of practice that is highly regarded and that has established itself as a group of ‘go to’ individuals for FE sector colleagues and wider stakeholders whose work has a significant impact.

The Fellows acknowledge that simply being in receipt of the Fellowship opens doors, in terms not only of the funding that it attracts and the time it creates to pursue professional interests, but also speaking engagements, media opportunities and avenues into higher-level study.

Those who become Fellows by award are already Fellows in spirit and in practice; they’re out there showing the drive and leadership that holders require in institutions around the country and helping to transform lives and communities, and in doing so raising the status of our Further Education and Training sector, which is gradually being recognised as central to the Government’s ambitions of levelling-up and creating a stronger, better and greener future here in the UK.

Realising the potential of Fellowship

I look forward to seeing the work the new Fellows – Alison Ackroyd of Mid Kent College, Adam Hackney of Exeter College, Simon Parker of South Essex College – will do over the next 18 months, writing their own inspirational stories of excellence that extend the reach of our sector, whilst continuing to work to have sustainable impact.

Adam, who works as a digital programme lead, explains “The Fellowship is an opportunity for me to do more work and further my efforts locally, regionally and nationally, particularly in terms of supporting the development of others. For example, sharing how to work effectively with employers and wider partners to bring learning to life, providing real world context examples, and ensuring that industry standard practice is embedded into teaching and training.”

In practice, Adam says, he hopes to make learning experiences more accessible and inclusive for teachers and trainers, to drive engagement, and ultimately to achieve quicker and better outcomes: “For example, instead of giving someone a 1000-page instruction manual to learn and read how to do something, actually, it’s perhaps making use of a [Microsoft] HoloLens and demonstrating how to do something. And that HoloLens and the technologies in there can analyse what someone’s doing and provide them with immediate feedback so that we reduce the time for training instruction from perhaps a month to hours, giving colleagues more time and opportunity for active experimentation.”.

The experiences of Peter Jackson of Lincoln College – one of the current Fellows – underline the prestige and door-opening effect of the award. He has been able to travel across the UK and Ireland, showcasing how his work in Lincolnshire can translate more widely. “We’ve sort of turned the tables a bit because through my work with the Institute of Motor Industries (IMI) we are now showing or demonstrating to the industry sector what they need to do, rather than them coming through and saying this is what we need”, he explains. Peter earlier this month received an award from The Institute of the Motor Industry for his excellent contribution to the organisations work.

Another of the current Fellows, Rosa Wells of Solihull College, has enjoyed a similar experience of bring the work of her institution to the wider world: “It’s a real honour to be awarded a Technical Teaching Fellowship, it’s really an opportunity to give me a platform to talk about what we’re doing in Birmingham and Solihull”, she said. “Colleges really value the opportunities to access funding to help us focus on improving pedagogy, sharing best practice and working collaboratively, so it’s always been really important to myself and to the College.”

It could be you

The work that those chosen as Fellows are already engaged in is, without doubt, of extremely high value. But without the status that Fellowship gives them, they simply don’t have the kind of platform to shout about it and be heard. I know that there are many of you out there whose own ideas and dedication could benefit similarly from the platform a Technical Teaching Fellowship affords.

If you’ve been inspired by the current and past Fellows, I suggest you go a step further and envisage yourself becoming one. And then I encourage you to take the next step and apply. Applications for next year’s awards will open in April. It could be you.

By Cerian Ayres, National Head of Technical Education, Education and Training Foundation.

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