AoC Annual Conference highlights: approaches to local planning for technical education reforms

30 November 2017 Natasha Watkinson

At this year’s AoC Annual Conference, Gatsby facilitated a breakout session detailing approaches to local planning for the implementation of the forthcoming technical education reforms. Highlighting early experiences from Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region and national-level observations from the Department of Education (DfE), ‘Planning for technical education reforms: a local approach’ outlined the ways colleges are getting ‘route ready’ before the first routes are rolled out in 2020.

AoC Annual Conference highlights: approaches to local planning for technical education reforms

The session opened with Gatsby’s Jenifer Burden introducing the key concept of occupational maps, which identify ‘clusters’ of technical occupations for each of the fifteen routes based on the knowledge, skills and behaviours common to the job roles within them.

Next, Nicola McLeod, Principal Skills Manager, Greater Manchester (GM) and Krysia Woofinden, Senior Programme Manager (Skills), Sheffield City Region (SCR), members of Gatsby’s Local Areas Programme, shared some of the insights from their early experiences of getting ‘routes ready’.

Both explained how joining Gatsby’s Local Areas programme has catalysed local engagement and allowed them to capitalise on the opportunities represented by the reforms. With a focus on building capacity and forming strategic links with existing provider and combined authority networks, groups within GM and SCR are exploring priority pathways for implementation and informing the planning of their facilities investment, and professional development requirements ahead of the release of T-Level specifications. Both regions report strong involvement from local colleges so far, with FE leaders guiding activity and contributing vital local expertise.

Whilst at different starting points, both GM and SCR have used two workstrands of Gatsby’s programme to begin the implementation planning process. Firstly, with the analysis of labour market information (LMI) data, the regions are respectively identifying potential opportunities for growth in technical and higher technical occupations for their local communities, especially within regional growth industries. This process is not only informing local priority progression pathways, but will potentially allow them to identify where collective engagement with employers around work placements will be most beneficial.

Secondly, both areas are engaged in work with their colleges to understand the staffing expertise and facilities needed to successfully deliver their chosen pathways. Mapping current staff expertise against with the occupations for particular routes will inform planning for any desired professional development, for example, upskilling in occupational knowledge and skills, and approaches to teaching.

Sue Clarke, DfE Post-16 Policy Adviser, outlined some of the national work already in place to support implementation of the reforms, which will see the first pathways being taught from September 2020. Towards the end of the session, Kevin Burke, DfE Policy Lead: T-Level Professional Readiness, underscored the importance of FE sector engaging with DfE to determine support requirements for CPD design and T-Level readiness.

Lisa O’Loughlin, Principal of The Manchester College, also highlighted that colleges in the GM area have found that early engagement with reform implementation has led to more tangible and productive conversations around specialisation.

The session concluded with an engaging panel discussion, where it was suggested that conversations with employers around the work placements necessitated by T-Levels, had so far been very positive. The panel indicated that existing Local Enterprise Partnerships will play a key role in further galvanising employer support and ensuring sufficient work placement provision under the new system.

A series of regional workshops from Gatsby, in association with the AoC, will be delivered to FE leaders from Spring 2018 to share some of the learnings from local area activity. Along with a more detailed account of GM and SCRs' routes-ready preparations, the workshops will also deliver insights from the West Midlands, the latest area to join Gatsby’s programme to stimulate reflection on how these lessons can be rolled out across other regions.

For sign-up opportunities and to keep up-to-date with the latest developments, please monitor the website and sign up for Gatsby's technical education newsletter.

For more information about Gatsby’s Local Areas programme, please contact Natasha Watkinson

AoC Annual Conference highlights: approaches to local planning for technical education reforms