SCHOOL COLUMN: James Calvert Spence College, Amble

Having taught for a great many years and speaking from experience, through developing partnerships with business professionals and outside agencies we can help make our teaching within school as grounded as possible in the real world.

Students begin to understand the relevance of all they are learning in the classroom and how it can be applied in the real world in a working environment.

Additionally, listening to business leaders and professionals speaking gives a greater understanding of the many and varied career pathways that are available within a field.

Discussing careers and opportunities within the business, with individuals actually performing successfully, encourages the students to be more aspirational and positive about their futures.

Recently we were very fortunate to welcome into our technology department Sunderland architect Ged McCormack and local Amble businessman David Smailes, of Smailes Construction, to lead an interactive day with our students creating domes out of newspapers!

Twenty-three students studying A-Level product design or Btec construction were split into two groups and assigned positions that mirrored professional roles and responsibilities in the construction industry, from project managers to designers, quality control to production.

They were challenged with the task of building one 3D dome per team, each dome requiring a different construction method, using only newspaper and following a set of construction notes and 2D drawings.

The students were encouraged to comment on the clarity or otherwise of the instructions provided and if in doubt, needed to contact their ‘designer’ with relevant queries, as in any live building project.

They were expected to set up their own quality check procedures for strut production, joint making and testing.

Throughout this process, the students began to recognise the importance of working as a team particularly in the erection phase of the process.

It is a simple exercise, but the two different construction methods demonstrated different techniques used in the construction industry.

This was a fantastic project for the school to be involved in.

Students of different skills and talents worked successfully together in their teams, adopting their assigned roles and producing their projects on time and in accordance with the design requirements.

It has been a brilliant experience and we are planning more projects this year with Smailes Construction.

We would be delighted to accept any offers from other businesses or local experts to speak with our students about their work and career choices.

It really does make a difference to our young people and can give them the incentive they need to make that first decision.

We have recently learned that two of our engineering students, Callum Gray and Matthew Stephenson, have been accepted onto the Rolls Royce apprenticeship scheme which will commence in September 2014.

Rolls Royce were impressed by their willingness to travel to Newcastle and by the quality of their work.

They had to undergo an entrance exam and interview before being selected from more than 600 candidates.

Three of our students applied and all three were invited to interview, but one was unable to attend. Only 10 per cent of students who apply are successful.

Previous JCSC students who completed the apprenticeship programme have gone on to enjoy successful careers in engineering.

Opportunities like this are available to any number of our students who have the enthusiasm and drive to apply and we are always here to give them the support they need.

However, making that decision is not easy and any involvement with local businesses can and will have an impact.

Mr S Thompson

Head of discovery faculty