Tami McCrone, Richard White, Kelly Kettlewell, David Sims, Chloe Rush
19 February 2019
The overall aim of this two-year study, for The Royal Academy of Engineering and the Edge Foundation, was to understand effective practice and lessons learned from approaches to curriculum design and employer engagement by University Technical Colleges (UTCs).
We used a case-study methodology supplemented with management information and a survey of UTC students’ views. In phase 1 (2017) we carried out ten UTC case studies, in phase 2 (2018) we re-visited three UTCs demonstrating profound employer engagement in Project Based Learning (PBL).
- PBL represents a different way of learning; projects are industry-relevant and most effectively developed in collaboration with employers to ensure that the outcomes achieved help students to secure positive future pathways.
- The evidence indicates that PBL and employer input, where delivered in a high-quality embedded way, deliver wide-ranging impacts for students, including work-readiness, enhanced emotional skills, high-level technical skills, and qualifications/awards.
- The main challenges UTCs faced were recruiting: a suitable range of employers (including SMEs) providing high-quality input into the curriculum; appropriate motivated students with an interest in the specialism; high-calibre staff with relevant knowledge, experience and skills.
- Advice for schools included: be proactive and target the ‘right’ employers; develop and train staff so they fully embrace the importance of employer input into PBL; promote UTCs (or the school) and their educational approach; in order to improve the evolving PBL model, consider including timetable changes; employ key staff with industry backgrounds and connections; make employer contributions clear and easy to understand; celebrate successful completion of projects.