As a Further Education (FE) college, Sunderland has strong links with regional employers.
However, the North East economy has some technical skills gaps so we wanted to take this further, developing a talent pool of skilled people to address the shortfall. Level 2 Health and Social Care students were a key focus for us, with many of these students not achieving Maths and English at school and needing to resit with us. We wanted to offer them some new pedagogical approaches.
At around the time we devised these objectives, our local partner, the North East LEP, told us about a new education pilot. Edge Future Learning’s community-connected approach totally aligned with our goals – we could hardly believe the timing! We pitched and were thrilled to be accepted onto the programme.
After an inspiring study visit to The Academies of Nashville, we held a visioning day at Sunderland College. Led by coaches Scott and Starr from Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL), this involved hearing directly from the community what skills, attitudes and behaviours they thought students should have by the time they graduated. Importantly, this went beyond qualifications – it was about the holistic development of lifelong skills.
The outcome was a carefully defined framework of desirable attributes – our graduate leaver profile. Including things like oracy and resilience, we now use this to ensure that we’re always providing additional value. But this was just the first step. To fully integrate these skills, attitudes and behaviours, Scott and Starr carried out a planning day with us. This got into the nuts and bolts of how we would deliver these behaviours, using approaches like project based learning, rich employer engagement and professional development.
For an FE college of our size, there is a danger that the programme could get lost when Ford NGL step back.
To minimise this risk, I took on the role of strategic lead, helping direct the project from a senior leadership perspective, supported by key aspect leads. We’ve also set up our Healthcare Skills Academy, a panel that helps secure opportunities for employers, staff and students. With support from Ford NGL and an Industry Alignment Officer at the North East LEP, we’ve created a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship with local employers.