In a guest blog, Alex Warner, Principal at the South Central Institute of Technology and Principal at the Milton Keynes College group, explains how IoTs and STEM Learning are collaborating to improve the STEM talent pipeline.
Awareness of Institutes of Technology (IoTs) has been building in recent months. Previously I might have asked an audience who had heard of IoTs - now I ask who has one in their region.
IoTs are collaborations between education providers and employers in a region to address uptake of STEM-based Higher Education and occupations. The key aim is to provide a supply of talent to address skills shortages. We have been building on this vision for some time and there are many instances of new and improved facilities throughout England. If you haven’t got one in your locality, the good news is that the DfE announced nine new IoTs in December, each determined in development, which improve geographical spread and are welcome additions to the wider network.
Supporting the STEM curriculum and future careers
IoTs are working with industry to support the design, development and delivery of the curriculum. In very much the same way STEM Ambassadors exist to support students with careers inspiration and aspiration, we are doing the same in IoTs - and we often work with STEM Ambassadors to continue to raise aspirations of our learners at Higher Levels. Something all IoTs are passionate and purposeful about is addressing gender, ethnic and disability imbalance in STEM. We all play a part in ensuring that STEM industries reflect the communities that we serve, and this starts with educators ensuring they provide opportunity and accessibility for all.
Dr Ajay Sharman, Regional Lead for STEM Learning, said: “STEM subjects are brought to life by over 37,000 STEM Ambassador volunteers, available across the UK, all free to access. Inspiring communicators and relatable role models, they are here to help, by connecting both face to face or online. They raise aspirations, illuminate careers and have a life-changing impact on young people.”
We all need to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of innovation, research and development in STEM fields by inspiring STEM talent. If we are to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing us as a human race, we need increased uptake. Let me say that unless we support the ongoing success of STEM Learning, their CPD, STEM Ambassadors and enrichment activities to promote the uptake of STEM-based education, we will not see continued growth in uptake at Higher Levels.
Improving digital futures
The South Central Institute of Technology (SCIoT) has an increased digital focus. We are working with the likes of Microsoft, KPMG and McAfee to improve pathways for undergraduates as you can see here.
As part of the drive to improve the uptake of computing at school and, subsequently, higher education, the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), funded by the Department for Education and supporting partners, marks a significant investment in improving the provision of computing education in England. It’s run by a consortium made up of STEM Learning, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, BCS, and The Chartered Institute for IT. The NCCE aims to transform the way computing is taught in schools across the country and also enable more young people to benefit from studying this important subject. Through this, we believe that their skills and career opportunities will be enhanced. CPD for teachers in Primary, Secondary and Further Education Colleges is at the heart of transforming the way computing is taught and encouraged in education.
Dave Gibbs, Senior Subject Specialist for Computing at STEM Learning, said: 'More than 38,000 participants have so far engaged with the NCCE through our integrated blend of CPD, resources and local support through our network of 34 schools-led Computing Hubs.”
We’ve undertaken the Computer Science Accelerator programme to improve essential computer science knowledge among teachers and their students. Classroom implementation is supported through the Teach Computing Curriculum and pedagogy CPD. At A-level, and increasingly in GCSE, the Isaac Computer Science curriculum further strengthens knowledge.
SCIoT also works very closely with the Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire Computing Hub and local Computing at School (CAS) Hub at Park House School. We share the same Thames Valley region with SCIoT Hubs in each of Bletchley, Oxford and Reading, and must continue to work together if we are to realise the ambition of greater uptake of STEM subjects.
In summary, although the IoT journey is a relatively new one, we have good alignment of purpose with STEM Learning. We all share the same ambitions, but the challenge for each of us is to explore greater and deeper collaboration to make sure we continue to inspire the next generation of STEM learners.
Educators and employers need to ensure that by coming together we are greater than the sum of our individual parts. If you haven't reached out to your regional IoT yet, what is stopping you? If you’re a teacher or early career teacher, looking to upskill in computing, or you’re a teacher looking for a second specialism and you have not spoken to the NCCE and STEM Learning - do so. If you haven't got an IoT in your region, watch this space!