Free masterclasses are being held to keep vocational lecturers up to date with workplace techniques in hi-tech industries. The New Engineering Foundation (Nef) is organising 20 sessions across the country. The foundation promotes industry expertise among lecturers with schemes that include business placements where it pays for their absences from college.
The latest initiative will see 600 lecturers given insight by industry insiders into professional techniques that can be incorporated into the curriculum. One aim is to give students the edge by making their skills instantly recognisable to employers.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the former science minister who is sponsoring the classes, said: "The competitive global economy sets a challenge to British businesses and places of learning. These master-classes will ensure that those laying the foundations for our future prosperity are ready for it."
The classses cover aerospace, precision engineering, advanced manufacturing, materials and composites, process and chemical manufacturing, microelectronics, new construction techniques, nuclear, advanced telecoms, and environmental renewables.
Nef, a registered charity, was founded in 2004 as a grant-awarding body, supporting vocational education. Sa'ad Medhat, its chief executive, is a close adviser to ministers. Its masterclasses are supported by the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA).
Markos Tiris, of the agency's national teaching and learning change programme, said: "Engineers in further education face a dual challenge - that of keeping up to date in their subject in a rapidly changing field and how to effectively impart that knowledge to their learners. QIA's work with the Nef is helping us build real links between education and industry."
Five of the masterclasses - 10 will be held this year and 10 in 2009 - will be videoed, then released on specialist channels such as Teachers TV or online.
A national training academy has been set up in Cumbria to boost skills in the nuclear industry. Cumbria is home to Sellafield. The site includes Calder Hall, the world's first commercial nuclear power station, operating from the 1950s to 2004. Sellafield is now in charge of the reprocessing of nuclear waste.
A survey of lecturers showed most did not have recent industry experience. Often this has been the result of limited resources in colleges for releasing staff on secondment and lack of availability of places provided by employers.
- For more details of masterclasses, contact the New Engineering Foundation on 0208 786 3677 www.neweng.org.uk.