Barking & Dagenham College’s journey to STEM Assured
Barking & Dagenham College achieved STEM Assured status in May 2015. The college’s STEM project co-ordinator Alan Lazell explains how NEF supported the journey
Industry-aligned courses delivered in industry-standard facilities, combined with a vibrant culture of entrepreneurialism, have catapulted Barking & Dagenham College to STEM Assured status– the highest industry-backed accolade for the quality of STEM teaching and curricula.
The college, which delivers professional and technical training to 12,500 students annually (3,500 at age 16-18 and 9,000 age 19+) and is situated on six* sites at the heart of Thames Gateway, has been collaborating extensively with industry partners, staff, students and NEF as part of its STEM evolution.
“Before applying for STEM Assured, a significant step for us was undergoing NEF’s STEM in Development programme,” says STEM project co-ordinator Alan Lazell. “This was a good preparatory step: NEF helped us crystallise our thoughts, challenging us to look at areas that we hadn’t previously considered. Our thinking really accelerated.”
As a result of STEM in Development, the college developed strategic clusters of expertise aimed at meeting regional economic priorities. These include: construction and the built environment; engineering and mechatronics; automotive; digital creative technology; IT; and health and social care.
Barking & Dagenham College also made significant investment in specialised facilities, including the Siemens Mechatronics Academy which opened in February 2015. The college is the only approved UK partner to deliver the Siemens Mechatronics Systems Certification Programme (SMSCP) for trainee engineers and industry practitioners.
“NEF helped us to do a business case and feasibility study on investing in micro- electronic technologies, encouraging us to enter this field. The resulting academy not only integrates with our existing engineering courses, but also our construction and renewable energy courses, so it brings a lot of value,” Lazell adds.
As well as Siemens, the college has developed a number of other strategic partnerships with leading employers. The Green Technologies Centre, a specialist training facility with workshops and classrooms dedicated to the delivery of sustainable construction and environmental courses, which itself is an exemplar of sustainable development, is supported by heating specialist Viessmann. A joint venture with formwork and scaffolding specialist, PERI, is enhancing the college’s already significant construction training provision. In addition, a partnership with CNet Training, the global leader in training for the network infrastructure and data centre industries, has established a national training hub on the main campus.
“Working with employers locally helped us to indentify pockets of best practice. We developed our “Industry Speaks, BDC Listens” strategy for engaging more effectively with companies,” Lazell says. “As a result, our training provision is continually evolving: our curriculum planning teams constantly look at new opportunities, skills gaps, and trends.”
Barking & Dagenham College is also fostering entrepreneurialism in students. The POD (Pitch On Demand) is a hot-desking business incubation zone where students get practical support and advice to help turn an idea into a business. On-campus retail outlets are offered to student businesses, giving them space to trade and grow. Real Work For Students is part of the college’s DNA : client briefs are matched with student talent, resulting in a cost-effective business solution for the employer and valuable experience and CV evidence for the student.
NEF verified the quality of the college’s STEM provision through its STEM Assured process, an outcomes-focused framework, which covers a wide range of factors including course design, resources and strategic planning, as well as mechanisms for engaging with industry.
“We’re delighted to have achieved STEM Assured,” Lazell says, “As a college, we were already taking extensive steps to invest in and enhance STEM provision. NEF has been a catalyst in this process, helping us identify and focus on our priorities.
“Having achieved STEM Assured, our work is not over. We’re looking to further engage with employers at all levels, maximising opportunities for project work. We are already one of London’s leading apprenticeship providers and are always looking for opportunities to extend our apprenticeship provision. We’re also planning cross curricular work with local junior and primary schools to get young people excited about STEM careers from the earliest possible age.”
NEF Chief Executive Professor Sa’ad Medhat said:
“Barking & Dagenham College’s cross curricular focus and trailblazing approach to entrepreneurialism mark it out as an exemplary institution.
“The college’s agile STEM strategy and commitment to continual improvement will give its students the best possible start in the employment market and ensure that its courses remain relevant for years to come.”
Siemens Mechatronics Academy. Image reproduced with kind permission of The Edge Foundation.