Video transcript - planning the student journey with Thomas Telford UTC

Simon Maxfield, Vice Principal

Thomas Telford UTC was founded in 2015, following employers working together in 2012 and recognising there was a real issue in the West Midlands for the professional and technical talent pipeline to the industry.

As a University Technical College we work very closely with Wolverhampton University's School of Built Environment and Architecture. Students have the benefit here of working in our school and then possibly progressing straight to the university or going to our employers to continue their education.  Employer engagement is at the heart of our success at the UTC. From the very beginning, we were created by employers to meet a need that they'd identified in the industry.

And from the outset, we created an employer group. The employer group is key to everything we do. At those meetings we sit down and we talk not only about our wants and wishes and needs, but we talk about what the employers wants and wishes and needs are as well. That has led to us over time making some quite significant changes to our curriculum plans and our sequencing as we've come to understand what it is the employers are looking for if they're going to be able to take our students onto their next step.

And we work with employers very closely that they feed into the curriculum. So it's not uncommon for an employer to provide a site visit where we take students to go and see real practice taking place. Employers will come in and do guest lectures with our students. They mentor our students and we have real resources and nothing, nothing helps a student understand like showing them what a real one looks like. 

Fundamentally, that's led to us having a calendar of events now with employers, where there are 140 activities per year, where in one form or another, employers are in the school working with students and supporting students.

Rachel Doherty, Early Careers Advisor – St Modwen

The employer board are a mix of infrastructure, construction, developers and who support Thomas Telford, UTC. It means that we've helped them to devise the programs and really make sure that we're honing those work experience to what the students are looking for in line with the curriculum.

Joseph – T Level student

I found out about T levels through our careers advisor at my old Secondary School, who again thought it was a great pathway into the industry. After I’d applied for the college, they sort of helped me with job roles and showed me the different opportunities within construction as I didn't realise how many different opportunities and roles there were.

Simran – T Level student

At the start of the course we had an interview by employers. They interviewed us based on what we wanted to be in the future and what ideas we had about construction itself. This showed me that there are a lot more opportunities involved with construction that I was not aware of.

Rachel Doherty, Early Careers Advisor – St Modwen

The interview process for the T Levels is often the first time that these students have undertaken an interview, but as you propose, we think that's really important. It's about showing those T Level students that this placement is real life and just helps prepare them for the future.

Simon Maxfield, Vice Principal

Our induction process begins in the summer before September, where the students meet face to face with their employer. The afternoon of that day, then we take them out onto a site, so right from the off they're on a real site, understanding the real industry that they're moving into. Then for our first six weeks from day two onwards, we hit them absolutely at full pace with the work and the quality of work and the amount of work that they need to do to be able to succeed on the course.

Working with employers to plan the industry placement is crucial. We have to understand the flexibility they need to make it work for them, as well as it working in the school timetable.  So employers have a one or two day a week placement opportunity plus a block placement in the start of year 13. What's really important is we've covered a good deal of technical content before students go on placement, meaning that they can talk the language and hit the ground running from day one.

Rachel Doherty, Early Careers Advisor – St Modwen

The support that we offer to the T Level students is twofold really. So when they're on their placement and they're on site, they have a regular line manager and that makes it may differ dependent on what rotation they're on. But I'm there as pastoral care and just as a secondary sanity check for them.

Simon Maxfield, Vice Principal

And in terms of lessons learned for the timing and scheduling of industry placements, we had to sit down as an employer group and really bash out what would work for everybody. There had to be compromise across the board, including with the school and we did that before we sought to recruit our first student.

Keiran James, Contracts Manager – St Modwen

The contribution that the T Level students had have had on the site team at the Banbury Place, St Modwen has been invaluable and it's a great opportunity to be able to influence and shape the next generation in the industry.

Joseph – T Level student

Well, originally I was looking more towards the commercial side with maybe a quantity surveying course, but due to my time with the build team and looking on site at the construction, I've been swayed towards that now

Simon Maxfield, Vice Principal

Obviously it comes with a time cost for employers and we are very conscious that we need to give them recognition for that, which we do in a number of ways. On our website we promote our employers and we have four different levels of employer engagement. So at the at the very start we have friends of the UTC, then we have supporters partners and our most prestigious engagement level is patrons. And for those employers at the different levels, we recognise their contributions on social media channels. We celebrate how they're helping us. We promote them within the school. We have classrooms that are sponsored and have employer information on their walls. We have events that we invite employers to. So in the summer we have a summer showcase and all of our employers regardless of their involvement, that particular month, will be invited to come along and take a look at the work going on to see the benefits of our students.

Top tips for getting employees involved and successful get things in the diary early. They're busy. They run businesses.

Communicate effectively with them.

Demonstrate to them regularly the quality of what you're doing

Use social media to celebrate their involvement, because then you will get contacts of contacts getting in touch to become involved as well.

Andrew Bristow, Director of Built Environment

So here at the UTC, we also get our staff to ensure that they're up to date and current by working with a range of different employers. We get them in to give us CPD sessions, for instance, and we're lucky enough to have invested in the latest surveying equipment and so we have them come in and deliver a full day CPD to our staff, which then allows us to deliver that to our students.

Likewise, we have them come in and give guest lectures to our students, mentor meetings, work placements. Here at the UTC with our students, we like to celebrate all the successes that they have, so at the end of the year we will hold a big celebration event where we showcase all of our students work, whether it be from the employer project work they've done or work within the T Level programme itself as well. With that we invite all of our different employers in and they come and we'll have a look at the work along with people from the University of Wolverhampton and current students, past students as well. And that's basically to show off and showcase everything they've achieved in the year. The hope is that then we will be showing our younger students where they're coming, where they're going, where they can progress to and looking at what they can achieve in the future as well.

Laura Fletcher, Director of Careers

So here at the UTC we think it's really important that we use past students as well as alumni students and employers to get them involved in the activities that we do. So for example, students and employers are involved in employee mentoring, mock interviews, employer project to name but a few, we hope that in the future, our T Level students will also be our own alumni in promoting future T Levels.

Joseph – T Level student

So in the future I'm asking to go into an apprenticeship, hopefully with St Modwen.

Simran – T Level student

The advice I would give to someone who is applying for a T Level which just go for it, put your foot in the door. It gives you many more opportunities as it has given me. It's something really fun and unique to do.

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