Timetable restructure prepares students for work

6th April 2012 at 01:00
New system involves early starts and late finishes

Edinburgh's Jewel and Esk College is to restructure the timetable across one of its campuses next session to make it resemble the kind of shift pattern students would find in the workplace.

The new system will see one group of students starting much earlier in the morning and another finishing much later in the evening than in its traditional college timetable - 9am to 4.30pm - said principal Mandy Exley.

She hopes this will mean students leaving the college better prepared for the working conditions in their industry, and that it will increase capacity on the Midlothian campus at the same time.

Last month, Willy Roe, author of last year's Review of Post-16 Education and Vocational Training in Scotland, urged colleges to emulate the business world rather than schools (TESS, 9 March). He cited a college in Milwaukee that was open 52 weeks of the year and six days a week, where staff worked in two shifts to extend students' access.

Jewel and Esk currently does not have the space to take in more students, despite high demand in the engineering industry. Employers had also commented that college students and trainees were often "not working the sort of hours they probably would work in the industry", explained Ms Exley.

The change will apply mainly to students training for the oil and gas or nuclear industries and those on mechanical and electrical engineering programmes at apprenticeship, HNC and HND levels; it will not affect students straight out of school.

Students will not necessarily spend longer in college - although that may be an option where it is seen to benefit them - and staff will continue to work the hours specified in their contract.

The flexibility built into some staff contracts would help meet the demands of the new system, she added.

Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said he welcomed moves to increase opportunities for students to study at college, and adjusting timetables to make them more flexible could be valuable in helping students adjust to unique working environments.

But he urged colleges to consult with students so that they could balance their work and family commitments with their classroom duties.

julia.belgutay@tess.co.uk.

Original headline: Timetable restructure will prepare students for work

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