From education to employment

Edge Q&A: Bridgend College

Over the past decade Edge has championed the importance and benefits of high quality technical, practical and vocational education and training, seeking a closer alignment between education and the skill needs of the UK economy. 

Edge encourages innovation in education by supporting the creation of new institutions that promote profound employer engagement and address areas of skills shortages for the UK economy. In addition Edge champions projects that will support the effective dissemination of best practice in vocational education and training and have the ability to support further development or replication. All the projects in the series have the potential to become beacons of excellence and exemplars of what can be achieved.

Name of project: 

Learning by Doing

Name of FE College: 

Bridgend College


Bridgend, South Wales



What are you doing?

The development of collaborative learning partnerships was formed with local professional services to facilitate the practical delivery of the BTEC Applied Science (Forensic Science) course, to develop learning through real life situations. The innovative practical delivery of this course actively engages with employers to provide unique training partnership opportunities for both college learners and industrial employees. The development of this innovative culture of learning better equips young people with the skills required for life and work, and broadens learners’ horizons to the variety of opportunities in the world of science.

Why is it different/innovative?

We offer our learners real life problems and challenge them to work alongside industry experts through initiatives such as the collaborative arrangement with the Hydra Suite at the local Police Headquarters. Our learners have unique access to the state of the art Scientific Support Unit (SSU) at the South Wales Police Headquarters, including fingerprint analysis and scene of crime officers. Students work as part of syndicate teams and have the opportunity to undertake role-play with a difference; they investigate real crimes and need to arrive at real solutions within given time constraints. Learners also participate in Police Press Conferences, acting as ‘real’ journalists eliciting information from a panel of experienced officers who are training to be senior investigative officers.

Another practical learning opportunity is via Police Officer training events; this involves the running of practical exercises set in high profile community locations, including scenarios dealing with simple issues such as lost property, to complex scenarios involving the possible abduction of a child. Learners provide critical feedback and suggest process improvements that support the police with their public interface.

They also work with South Wales Collision Investigation Unit. Through this unique opportunity, learners participate in simulated collision activities, utilising real life cases, which provides them with an excellent opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical real life situation.

In addition, South Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service provide our learners with a unique and very special opportunity to study alongside police experts when they undertake their courtroom skills courses. The learners are involved in cross-examination of various experts, for example, ballistic and glass experts. They also sit as magistrates to decide the verdict.

What are the qualifications and skills learners acquire?

Learners have the opportunity to develop their personal skills via active participation in the witness/suspect interview programme run at the local Police Headquarters. They assist in the training of established CID officers who are undertaking interviewing training. Learners play the roles of both suspects and witnesses that are interviewed by officers. The learners contribute to feedback sessions; both the police and the learners have commented on the benefits to all involved.

Students attend Crime Scene days organised by South Wales Police and a local HEI in order to experience first-hand the work of Crime Scene investigators. Activities include simulated crime scene investigations and exposure to the processes used by analysts within an investigation. This experience has developed and enhanced main and wider key skills especially verbal and written communication skills. It has also improved self -confidence and confirmed student commitment to a career in science.

Who are your main partners and stakeholders?

Excellent links and formal partnership arrangements have been established with several police departments, in particular the Scientific Support Unit, Police training unit/Hydra Suite, the Crown Prosecution Service, local HEI, Forensic Fire Investigation Unit and RTA collision experts.

What are your ambitions for development?

  • The introduction of a Level Two BTEC programme to widen accessibility to this innovative culture of learning.
  • To continue to foster links with employers to further enhance the practical delivery of the course and increase the workplace and employment opportunities for our learners.
  • To exploit these close employer-working relationships ensuring they play an active role in curriculum planning, thus guaranteeing that course design is responsive to the dynamic world of employment.
  • Develop student led Forensic science themed bespoke workshop sessions within the primary sector, to demonstrate development of learners’ transferable skills.
  • To increase the participation of STEM activities run by the college by extending practical learning experiences such as the Crime Week initiative in to the secondary education sector.
  • To participate in World Skills competitions.

Can you tell us about any plans you have for dissemination of the model and how you are sharing best practice?

The project has been used as an exemplar of good practice throughout the College; we have disseminated outstanding practice at staff development events. Dissemination to science staff within further and higher education establishments via Colegau Cymru events. The team are willing and eager to share good practice with other Colleges throughout England, Scotland and Wales; including the recent collaboration with Gower College, Swansea, to ensure best practice is shared and embraced.

Employer engagement – how does this tie in to local labour market?

The project engages with the major employers in the locality.

What are the further learning and career path opportunities?

The partnership development with employers and local Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) enables our College learners to progress seamlessly into the world of work or Higher Education. Examples of potential HE progression routes include Forensic Science, Biochemistry, Law, Psychology and Criminology degrees. Examples of industrial progression routes include police force, probation service, CSI and laboratory work.

What are the destinations of students following the course?

Examples of the various destinations that our learners have undertaken include Cardiff University to study a Criminology degree, Swansea University for a Law degree, University of South Wales for a Forensic Science degree, Wolverhampton University for a Forensic Science degree and Nottingham University for a Forensic Science degree. Employment gained with South Wales Police Victim Support Unit, private laboratories and the Probation Service.

What have been the greatest challenges of the project?

Establishing and maintaining the professional and industrial links to develop this real life learning, and developing further links to keep the ideas and experiences fresh and therefore truly innovative.

What do you see as the biggest achievements around the project?

Making learning truly practical and vocationally real, working with industry experts, taking the classroom to industry!

The development of practical facilities to foster this philosophy of “real-life” learning, an example of this is the transformation of one of the classrooms in to a mock courtroom, providing learners with the opportunity to both study and re-enact the complexities of trials and criminal law. This facility has augmented the learning experience of our learners and has been extremely beneficial in fostering relationships with the local police headquarters, as they utilise this facility on numerous occasions to both train staff and support witnesses.

This culture of learning contextualises the more academic skills of maths and science to develop learners’ deeper synoptic understanding of these subjects, enabling them to transfer these skills into everyday life.

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