From education to employment

CPD’s critical role in ensuring skills and training keep pace with industry

John Thornhill

As LTE Group prepares to hold its 10th annual teaching and learning conference, CEO John Thornhill outlines why this colleague development opportunity has become a mainstay on the calendar

Across LTE Group we have always delivered a broad set of qualifications in a vast array of different settings to people that come from different communities. From technical curricula to apprenticeships and from prison education to online professional development, we work with people of all backgrounds, many of whom are the furthest away from employment, to help them develop the skills that will connect them with economic opportunity.

While our provision of education and training is diverse in both breadth and depth, the purpose that all our colleagues have in common is a commitment to delivering high-quality programmes of education that have a positive impact on the economic opportunities available to learners, while providing the communities we serve with a springboard to a more prosperous future.  This is why our Group champions skills and training as the key to unlocking the potential that exists in individuals and communities alike.

In a challenging economic environment in which organisations have to make tough decisions, investment in staff – CPD – is all too often one of the first things to be cut from budgets. We, however, have made a conscious decision to continue investment in our staff’s CPD as we view it as essential to ensuring that our practitioners are able to keep pace with developments in industry and can equip our learners with the skills they will need for future employment. Not only is this crucial for our teachers, trainers and learners, it is also vital in supporting employers in filling vacancies and driving economic growth.

To achieve this transformative impact, we need teachers who have both the confidence and competence to deliver high-quality education, skills and training programmes that positively change lives. And for all the focus that we rightly place on our learners, it is also vital that as a sector we follow our own advice and empower colleagues to ensure that they can stay at the forefront of best practice. It is vital that we give our teaching professionals the opportunity to hear from experts, both internally and externally, to inspire their own professional development.

Bringing consistency to our CPD

Ten years ago, it became clear to us that by giving teachers and support staff access to high-quality CPD we could improve the quality of learning that learners received. While we already provided staff with training, it was mainly delivered internally, lacked consistency across curricula and campuses and didn’t help us to realise the true power of the common purpose we all shared. We were selling ourselves short and not truly utilising the strengths and expertise that existed within the organisation to drive ourselves forward.

From identifying this opportunity for improvement, our ‘Teaching and Learning Conference’ was born, bringing together the significant expertise that existed in every corner of the organisation to share knowledge and best practice alongside key external experts. The aim was to provide our colleagues with fresh perspectives and new approaches on topics ranging from curriculum delivery to wellbeing for staff and students alike.

Our first conference was held at Gorton Monastery in East Manchester, with colleagues being bussed in from the 19 campuses we operated across the city at the time. Of course, delivering this was not without its logistical and planning challenges. But, following a keynote on resilience from John McCarthy, journalist and one of victims in the Lebanon hostage crisis, the feedback showed that the conference had been highly beneficial to our colleagues and had enabled them to focus on improving the quality of the learning experience in a way that they had not been able to previously. 

A fixture of the academic calendar

From this point on, the Teaching and Learning Conference became a permanent fixture on our academic calendar, taking place every February. And this week we will hold our 10th annual conference. Much like our Group, this event has evolved greatly since 2013. It has grown, offering not only sessions that are aligned to our core common purpose but also offer bespoke workshops tailored to the practitioners in each of our different providers.

As the conference has grown, we have recognised that, as highly skilled educational practitioners, we can all learn from what our colleagues are doing in different environments. Our ability to bring together experts from across our Group’s further education, higher education, prison education, professional development and apprenticeship provision is unique, providing us with a powerful source of diverse skillsets from which we can harness professional development opportunities for collective improvement.

Last year, we moved the conference entirely online for the first time, which allowed us to reach a massive audience of teachers/trainers from across the Group and across the country. While Manchester will always be our home, we are a national provider and it no longer felt appropriate to limit potential attendance by geography. As such, this year we are hosting the conference online again, which means that over 1,800 teachers/trainers from across the Group will get to benefit from sector-leading CPD.

For the first time we have also added sessions that will benefit our non-teaching staff. Colleagues from Finance, People and Talent, Marketing, IT and Student Support services will also be able to advance and broaden their skillset. In total, over the two days of our conference, we are running almost 50 different speakers and more than 40 separate workshops, enabling best practice around teaching and learning to be disseminated further than ever before across LTE Group. 

Investing in our practitioners to improve learner outcomes

As part of a sector that is constantly looking to utilise the power of education, skills and training to unlock new opportunities and drive growth, it is critical that we remember that this applies to ourselves just as much as it does to our learners, students and apprentices.

The work we do is vital for the communities we serve but we can only fulfil this role to a high standard if we constantly stay at the forefront of the latest industry developments and educational best practice to ensure our delivery helps communities gain the skills they require to access well-paid employment opportunities.

Delivering high-quality technical and career-focussed education and training is only possible when teachers and trainers are highly-skilled and at the forefront of what is happening in their sectors. Our conference not only recognises this but also empowers our colleagues to be the best they possibly can be. Ultimately, the beneficiaries will be the learners who we support to fulfil their potential and transform their lives.

By John Thornhill, CEO of LTE

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