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Teachers get an insight into industry

UTC Reading teachers get 'industry sharp' on work experience days

The benefits of work experience are well known for young people, but what about the teachers? 

Two of UTC Reading’s teachers found out for themselves when they spent three days of the school summer holidays working at employee partner Progressive Technology Group, a high-grade engineering firm which manufactures precision parts for Formula One teams, the aerospace industry and defence organisations.

The ‘CoTeach placement days’ were part of an Activate Learning Education Trust initiative called the Industry Specialist Teaching and Knowledge Exchange Programme - a European Social Fund scheme which aims to organise greater employer involvement in the delivery of education. The programme aims to give teachers up-to-date industry knowledge relevant to the subjects they teach, so they can feed that back into the classroom and link it to the curriculum.

The placement days, which took place 19-21 July, saw the UTC’s director of engineering David Court and engineering teacher Martin Thomas enjoy a detailed tour of the company, taking in some essential elements of the engineering process, including machining, quality management processes, health and safety requirements, cost performance and materials testing.

The pair spent time on the ‘shop floor’ shadowing engineers working on 5 axis CNC milling machines, 3D metal printers, electrical discharge machining (EDM) and in the test lab, which examines the products for faults.

Included on the agenda was a tour of the Apprentice Academy – which will hopefully be the landing pad for some of UTC Reading’s students.  There the teachers picked up a better understanding of the apprentice training process and early-career progression of new engineers.

“This will be of significant benefit to me when I advise our students when they start to look for their next steps beyond college into careers,” Martin said.

Since taking part, Martin plans to pull some of his learnings into his lessons. For example, he says: “Security-cleared images of (Progressive Technology Group) machining and components, together with verbal commentary from me based on my placement experience will be used in audio-visual support for relevant BTEC units. This will give students ‘real world’ insights into cutting edge engineering being conducted locally in an employer that is accessible to students for their future careers.”

While he still has a passion for teaching, spending time at a Progressive Technology Group gave Martin a new perspective on work: “As a teacher in a UTC –  where the remit is to create students who are industry ready -  it is vital that I remain up-to-date with latest industry practice.

“This placement enabled me to stay ‘industry sharp’, refreshing my understanding of advanced machining processes and the project checks around these.

“The three days allowed relationships to be created with company staff that can be taken forward in a variety of ways to create future student benefits.”

Progressive Technologies Apprenticeship Academy Trainer and Assessor Greg Ball praised the teachers’ enthusiasm throughout their placement, saying: “It was great three days; we loved having the guys in. I think they really flourished and got a good understanding of how the modern factory works. They had plenty to take back to the classrooms.

“It’s been really beneficial for us too to build up our relationship as we’re constantly taking on apprentices. It’s good to have contacts at the UTC who know what we do so they can recommend potential suitable students who might like to take up our apprenticeship scheme.

“We’d absolutely have them in again.”

  • The Industry Specialist Teaching and Knowledge Exchange Programme is funded by the European Social Fund. The scheme which aims organise greater employer involvement in the delivery of education. Teacher placements in industry are integral to this.
  • If you are part of a small to medium STEM-based business based in Berkshire and are interested in helping shape young people – who may potentially become one of your own employees in the future - contact Jane Fitzpatrick at and find out more about our Industry Skills Exchange Programme.
  • UTC Reading is holding an open event on September 21 where you can find out all about this ‘outstanding’ university technical college. Go to to book.



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