The Education and Training Foundation’s Deputy CEO, Jenny Jarvis, explains why November’s sector-wide ‘Month of Learning’ is about more than just a month-long partnership:

If this past year has taught me anything, it’s that when we join forces with like-minded individuals, we are stronger together. In doing so, it means a shared pool of knowledge, variety of skills and experience, and more resources on which to draw on, especially in times of crisis.

With this sentiment that “we are all in this together”, the future of technical and vocational training is more reliant than ever on the further education (FE) and training sector having the resources to ensure accessible delivery for all. To help adults train and gain skills needed to improve their job prospects and support the economy, we need to bring world-class learnings back into technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

Here at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), we are passionate about supporting the vision of the Government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper to give adults the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills. With the announcement that free FE courses will be offered to adults under the ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’, funded through a £2.5 billion National Skills Fund; the Prime Minister pledging “to escalate the value of practical and vocational education that can transform people’s lives”; and a further boost from the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, saying he will “champion” the FE sector, it certainly feels like there is momentum in promoting the importance of the quality of TVET training, but we know there are challenges ahead.

Leaders need access to high quality CPD, especially given the pace of change and the demand for training and mentoring. As the expert body for professional development and standards in FE and training in England, it is our role to champion and encourage FE providers to work closely with industry partners and develop and promote CPD content which develops excellence in teaching. We also need to help tackle negative perceptions associated with going down the technical education route.

This is why it feels like there is no better time to be collaborating with WorldSkills UK and the Association of Colleges (AoC) for a sector-wide ‘Month of Learning’. Aimed at raising the status of technical and vocational education and developing excellence in teaching. We are thrilled to be kicking things off with an event run by the ETF’s membership body, the Society for Education and Training (SET). The one-day online conference, held on 2 November, will feature inspiring talks from a range of high-profile keynote speakers, practical breakout sessions and live Q&A sessions, covering themes on EdTech; SEND; English; maths; health and wellbeing; T Levels; sustainability; leadership; diversity and inclusion; professional development and learner motivations.

With some of us still having to isolate, along with a shift in the culture of teaching, learning and assessment, the use of digital technology and effective blended learning strategies to deliver remote learning has brought about a marked change in the education sector. Just as practitioners have had to make temporary changes into more permanent policies, such as blended learning and the upskilling of staff, we’ve also had to react to the different needs of our community. A year on from our first ever online-only SET Conference, we have enhanced key features of this year’s event, including live subtitling across all sessions, more time for questions and answers, and a live yoga session held during the lunch break for anyone who feels the need to stretch out on a day where they otherwise would have been more active.

Following on from the SET conference, there will be many inspirational sessions run by the AoC during its two-day event on 16-17 November, held in Birmingham, including the important topic of the post-pandemic economic recovery. The event will feature speakers from education, government, and business, discussing a wide range of hot topics, including ‘Embedding mental health into the mainstream curriculum’, ‘Emerging technologies – the future of education’, and ‘The current cyber thread landscape’.

To conclude our Month of Learning, on this theme of ‘Developing excellence in teaching and training’, WorldSkills UK will run a two-day online CPD event for TVET practitioners on 24-25 November. We have worked closely with WorldSkills UK to co-develop a fantastic schedule covering live workshops, technical masterclasses, live and on-demand webinars, and professional networking. The conference will showcase global best practice and UK expertise through interactive workshops and discussions, with more than 11 hours of free professional development.

With 2022 set to be a transitional year for everyone, it is our hope that this Month of Learning will signal the beginning of a new professional development journey for many teachers, trainers, and leaders. If you are looking for a deeper understanding of the skills needed in certain industries, or you want to gain more of an insight into how leaders can create the right conditions for learners to achieve these higher technical skills, then it’s worth booking your place now.

I believe these three CPD events will do more than just satisfy the growing appetite among businesses to engage with educators and improve practice in the FE sector; they will enable attendees to draw on the expertise from an international network and see what world-class skills look like in practice. It feels like a great ‘almost’ end to the year and I am very much looking forward to us being a part of that.

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