Teachers go back to school in Engine Shed/TeachFirst scheme

Engine Shed is taking teachers out of schools and placing them directly into the workplace for a day through T-WEX, a collaboration with TeachFirst. 

The workplace environment is evolving and changing quicker than ever before, and teachers need to be kept up to date whilst creating valuable links between industry and education. One solution to this is giving teachers first-hand work experience and together with SMEs based in the South West region, teachers seeing amazing results.

So far SETsquared Bristol member companies, OneBigCircle, YellowDog, and Gapsquare have acted as hosts for teachers. We caught up with one of the teachers taking part to get some feedback on how it’s been.

YellowDog is a company that uses complex data processes to offer a range of services including financial services, CGI, and aerospace amongst others. Gina Williams from Digitech Studio School, who was on work experience at YellowDog for a few days last week, described the experience as “awesome!” 

She explained how she was most surprised at the diversity of backgrounds and skill sets from the employees at YellowDog, a high tech company. Amazed at the skills that the YellowDog team have, Gina is more aware of how she needs to be preparing her students for an ever changing workplace – and is now “buzzing with ideas”. For example, she’s never taken part in a stand up meeting but will now be hosting weekly stand up meetings with her students in class. 

Gina, who has been teaching for 17 years, also talked about the need to prepare students for “jobs that we [teachers] don’t know exist yet.” She agrees that we need to get teachers out of the classroom and on work experience more. 

“How can I as a teacher prepare my students for the workplace when I don’t understand the workplace myself? Because it changes so much.” 

As a teacher she’s going to work on developing her students’ confidence, their self-esteem, and teaching them how to fail effectively. 

As Gina shared with us, “They can make a mistake, but they can learn from it because that’s how companies like this grow… We can prepare our students by giving them the confidence to talk to people in industry, teaching them to believe they have a right to work in whatever industry they want to work in irrespective of their skillset…The whole process has been very straight-forward and I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity.”

Lis Jolley, Principal of Digitech Studio School, said, “At the same time as our students were out on work experience, two members of staff packed their bags for their own work experience. Both members of staff came back buzzing and full of ideas about how they could translate some of the things they had seen and experienced into our school setting. 

“Meaningful links were made, and this is definitely something that I would like all the teaching staff at our studio school to experience. All teachers at Digitech are teachers of careers and employability, and this experience definitely enhanced their skills and perspective.”

Sarah Spencer, Access & Careers Lead at TeachFirst, shared, “Teacher work experience is oft cited as best practice in building links between schools and business, so it’s super that this has been trialled! Thank you to the school and companies involved.”

Engine Shed is collaborating with Teach First to ensure that teachers get this unique insight into the cutting edge businesses growing here in the South West. We’re pleased to see how the initiative is inspiring teachers, and we hope it will continue to help narrow the gap between studying and working. 

Lorraine Fairbanks, Partnerships Manager at Engine Shed, said:

This is a pilot project with TeachFirst and their Careers Leader programme. Engine Shed’s aim is to provide greater awareness of the types of jobs available to young people, and what work is like in leading edge, small businesses so they are enthused and skilled, and ready for work over the next 20 years in a way that maximises return on investment (of time) for SMEs. We are testing this hypothesis to see if the model is able to scale up, and more placements will be scheduled for September.

T-WEX is part of Engine Shed’s diverse workforce for the future project that helps to inspire students around potential future career paths. If you’re a business wanting to offer a placement then get in touch schools@engine-shed.co.uk. We are still looking for SMEs to volunteer to host a secondary school teacher for a day in July. Please get in touch asap so we can broker a teacher for you!