Jon Adams, Executive Director, Activate Learning

The government’s industrial strategy has reaffirmed its commitment to developing the technical, engineering and construction skills our country needs to maintain a competitive edge.

The strategy comes at a time when skills shortages in the STEM sector remains a significant concern for employers. A recent analysis of the opportunities and threats posed by Brexit, produced by the Royal Academy of Engineering, highlighted the need to maintain a supply of skilled labour set against current shortcomings. The academy’s president, Professor Dame Ann Dowling, rightly stated that this is a critical time for Britain’s engineering sector and educators and businesses must work more closely together than ever before if we are to close the skills gap.

The publication of the Sainsbury’s Review, and the planned development of Institutes of Technology and Apprenticeships, are also significant markers in our collective desire to raise the reputation and quality of technical routes in education. These efforts will go some way to attracting greater numbers of young people to develop the skills and knowledge our country needs.

At Activate Learning we have been working with learners and employers to design learning programmes which develop the technical and soft skills our employer – and industry – requires.

In the technology sector, this includes work at two University Technical Colleges – UTC Reading and UTC Oxfordshire – where employer partners advise on curriculum design, mentor students, provide project-based learning challenges and additional qualifications. In the last year this has included a challenge for students to redesign the dashboard of BMW’s flagship MINI and engineer new bridge crossings in association with Network Rail.

This approach can be equally found in our further education colleges, where teaching teams are partnering with employers in construction, engineering and IT to share skills and expertise and enrich the learning experience.

At City of Oxford College, a project with Laing O’Rourke has seen students proposing alternative uses for a unit in a city centre retail and leisure development. Teams were required to develop costed proposals, complete with Computer Animated Designs of their plans, before presenting back to a panel of employer representatives. A project with Skanska, which holds the county’s highways contract, involved students designing a new road junction which took into account peak traffic flows and pedestrian needs. This relationship has led to the Skanska team delivering further workshops on efficient project management – a core component of the company’s in-house training – to our full-time learners. Meanwhile, higher education students have been getting to grips with the realities of commercial development in a project supported by Beard Construction and inspired by a £5m office scheme.

With the number of university applicants at an all-time high and the number of students leaving school with the adequate STEM skills needed in the modern workplace at a worrying low, we believe that this partnership approach can help to fill the widening gap. These opportunities allow students to gain real insight into what employers expect, as well as developing essential, transferable skills.

As the government seeks to develop new Institutes of Technology as the flagships for technical education delivery, I would argue that the further education sector already offers the skills and infrastructure needed to realise the vision. Working with employers we can make the most of the investment to inspire more young people to follow careers in STEM industries, while widening access.

The proof of this approach will be seen as increasing numbers of learners move straight from education into employment with those companies they have been working alongside during their programmes. Not only will this benefit those at the starts of their careers, but also offer the industry the talent pipeline it needs to sustain growth.

Jon Adams, Executive Director, Activate Learning

You may also be interested in these articles:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page