Colleges have a huge impact on the pipeline of talent towards ‘blue technologies’

11 Jul 2021, 6:00

Some of the most innovative marine technology businesses in the world call the UK home, writes Cerian Ayres

This summer, all eyes turned to Carbis Bay in Cornwall as world leaders met for the G7 summit to address some of the great challenges of our time – climate change, world health, Britain’s exit from the European Union, and the post-Covid era.

Blue technologies refers to technologies used in marine environments. Sometimes also called the “blue economy”, it can encompass renewable energy and digital technologies based around the maritime sector, industries and ecosystem.

In the UK we have world-leading industry sectors with global reputations for developing high-quality products and innovative design solutions. Those reputations are built on people and their training and skills, supported and enabled by the further education sector.

It was therefore fitting that the G7 summit was hosted in a county with 400 miles of coastline, where no one is more than 20 miles from the sea and where the maritime sector sustains 800 businesses and 15,000 jobs.

Worth more than one billion pounds, blue technologies play a vital part in the economic development of Cornwall and the wellbeing of its coastal communities. The Cornwall Marine Network in particular plays an important role in community cohesion.

Some of the most innovative marine technology businesses in the world call Cornwall home. These include ‘workfloats’, which are floating platforms and boats used to harness wind energy that realise the potential of wave power for direct energy production and the production of hydrogen for fuel cells.  

Another example is the use of sustainable materials in super yacht manufacture at Mylor Yacht Harbour, which is now one of UK’s busiest boat yards.

Thanks to cutting-edge technology, high-quality design and manufacturing, and innovation, those businesses are thriving, making the most of the natural opportunities for global maritime business and exporting around the world.

The sector has been built by past generations, but it will be driven forward by today’s learners and their knowledge, skills and competencies as they progress to higher levels or technical study and employment.

Many of these businesses have collaborated with schools and colleges in order to secure the technical talent pipeline to meet their industries’ future skills needs.

In this talent pipeline, the impact of the teacher or trainer in ensuring positive outcomes for their learners cannot be overstated. That is why the recruitment of teachers and trainers and investment in their professional development is so important.

It is why we are delivering support such as our T Level Professional Development and Apprenticeship Workforce Development programmes.

The former, introduced in 2019, prepares colleagues for T Level delivery. It offers subject specialist support that addresses blue and green technologies for the engineering and manufacturing route.

It also features opportunities for teachers and trainers to gain insight and experience of the technologies used in industry through work placements, shadowing and employer workshops. These help create a clear line-of-sight to work and the relationships that foster learning opportunities, industry and work experience openings for learners.

We also have teacher resource improvement projects which are fostering the creation of new teaching materials for classroom and workplace teaching and training.

The Apprenticeship Workforce Development offer, launched last year, offers a similarly broad range of opportunities, from courses on technical teaching pedagogy to professional practice updating, to curriculum design and planning.

Both programmes facilitate learning from blue and green technologies not just from Cornwall of course, but from across the country – for instance, from the Humber region, home to the UK’s largest offshore wind farm.

This bringing together of education and industry improves the quality of technical teaching, develops learners’ skills, knowledge and behaviours, and inspires their career choices.

The turning of the spotlight on Cornwall reminds us that we are ready to build brighter futures and harness the sustainable technologies that will underpin them.  

Our sector has a vital role to play.

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