Visit to Centre of Excellence – Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing (AMTEC)

We had a great start to our final day in Seattle, Mary Kaye Bredeson, the Executive Director for the Centre of Excellence, had not only organised a breakfast for us at AMTEC, but had made homemade sticky buns with pecan and caramel sauce!

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They were absolutely delicious and made even more delicious by the fact that Mary Kaye, was the first ever female law enforcement office in Snohomish County in 1978. Mary Kaye, we found out, is an amazing pioneer, not only in law enforcement but also in her role as Executive Director at AMTEC.  She has been leading the way in the development of aviation training becoming an excellent female role model (yet another inspirational person we met during our visit to Seattle).The AMTEC centre is one of ten centres of excellence in the state and is hosted at Everett Community College however, is a resource for all 34 state community colleges. As with all 10 state Centres of Excellence, funding relies heavily on outside support from state grants, federal grants and industry.

Workforce Development, Chief Executive Officer, Erin Monroe reinforced that “ Seattle is becoming people of engineers and people who make coffee “ and highlighted the range of activities workforce development engage in, in order to reduce  this scenario and provide greater opportunities to develop higher level skills .  She also outlined the range of initiatives to tackle unemployment rates and to increase the skills levels of NEETS in particular. Washington State appears again, to face similar scenario to Wales.  Success according to Erin, has been achieved through increased partnership working, improved career focussed education in schools, getting employers on board, working with colleges to develop training programmes and then going to the communities to deliver this training.

After a final goodbye and a very fun filled taxi trip cutesy of Andrew Cornish’s music selection, we ventured to our last visit: the Museum of Flight – a real treat to end our Seattle visit!

We not only learned about the educational programmes, the high school delivery but also we were able to fly a flight a simulated landing to Cardiff airport (oops, I did accidently land on our I CAT building!) . We also got to see some fantastic exhibits and walk on Concorde and Air Force One!

The Museum of Flight is 54 years old and hosts a range of exhibits including the Apollo 11 Rocket, first plane ever created, dark start drones, Boeing and the grey drone that saved Captain Phillips. We also learned about the Challenge learning Centre, a fantastic place to motivate young people and encourage them into aerospace and engineering.  A replica of a space ship control centre, is used to send students on space missions have sleep overs and cope with emergency scenarios, using their team work and problem solving skills. It emulates constructivist theory of education and shows how students develop skills through problems, projects and research.

Aerospace education Centre is an education hub in the museum and has programmes from 8th grade and above whereby, children develop safety skills and plan a flight! They obtain high school credits and some pilot skills as a result- a really exciting way to engage young people! Programmes developed with Boeing are also used to attract women, people of colour and young people from deprived areas into the industry.

Photo 5

Finally we spoke to Riba Gill, Vice President of Education. She informed us of the unique high school provision developed next to the Museum of Flight illustrating her 10 year struggle to get employers and investment of 56 million to secure the development. She wanted to develop a school that had a strong technical and academic rigour with really tangible engagement with the aerospace industry and has succeeded! She wanted the all-important ‘soft skills’ to be taught and embedded in every class and learning built around project based research and development. Integral to this, are the ‘high stakes’, whereby learners have to present their research and problem solving ability to industry experts. Key features of the high school are that every student has a mentor and an internship (Previously, Boeing didn’t take interns but now takes 17 annually). The internship is an in-depth seven week process which students have to apply for.

Success is evident, with 425 learners per year from age 16 progressing onto programme and a graduate rate of 98%. In comparison to UTCs in England, the success of this programme seems to rely on the involvement of industry. Industry members are instrumental in curriculum development and form a strategic board and thus have an invested interest in the schools’ success. James Reddreck, one of the most eminent aerodynamicists in the world, contributed 3 million pounds to to have the school named after him, and as a result helped provide additional partners to ensure continued investment.

Wow, as you can read, a full on, informative and fun packed day illustrating that Engineering, manufacturing and aerospace are not only excellent and rewarding career choices but also fun, interesting and engaging subject matters.

Photo 4 The industry offers far more to female learners than females anticipate and people like Mary Kaye and Riba are inspirational role models that breakdown traditional stereotypes. On reflection, in Wales, we need to ensure we improve career guidance and increase opportunities to expose students/children from a young age to the exciting opportunities that exist within the engineering industry and the vast number of career opportunities it offers. We also need to focus on employing more enthusiastic teachers and role models who can engage and inspire and be responsive to employer needs.

Photo 3 I have also seen that project based learning and the development of industry skills appears to be an effective teaching tool that we need more of, and mutually beneficial partnerships between industry and education is paramount. The magic ingredient in all the cases seems to be that one to one relationship established between liked minded people! Many of the organisations we have visited suggested it has been the meetings of minds between individuals and a ‘can do attitude’ that is instrumental in transforming the development of technical skills.

So in Wales, we need to establish good personal relationships with employers, also, be fierce, tenacious and don’t give in!  We must aim for the moon and we might well reach the stars! Seattle has!



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Coffi @ Starbucks

Does dim i guro paned dda yn y bore!  A lle gwell am ymweliad cyntaf y dydd na chwmni Starbucks.  Pan agorodd y Starbucks cyntaf ym marchnad hanesyddol Pike Place, Seattle ym 1971 ei nod oedd gwneud dau beth: rhannu coffi gwych efo ffrindiau a helpu gwneud y byd ychydig yn well.  Mae hyn yr un mor wir i’r cwmni heddiw ag yr oedd bryd hynny.


O’r egin bach hwn tyfodd cwmni byd eang sydd ar gornel bob stryd yn ein trefi (a’n colegau) heddiw.  Un siop fechan efo gweledigaeth enfawr – i fod yn fath gwahanol o gwmni. 

Nid Starbucks ydy’r cwmni enfawr cyntaf i ni ymweld ag o yr wythnos hon sy’n gweld y budd o fuddsoddi yn ei staff a datblygu sgiliau trwy bartneriaeth.  Yn gynharach yn yr wythnos, cawsom glywed sut mae Amazon yn gwobrwyo’u gweithwyr sydd wedi bod gyda nhw am fwy na dwy flynedd trwy dalu hyd at 95% o’u ffioedd dysgu ar unrhyw gwrs o’u dewis gyda darparwr allanol, heb ddim gorfodaeth o fod yn dysgu er lles y cwmni.  Y teimlad yw fod galluogi eu gweithwyr i wella eu hunain yn ddiamod o fudd i’r cwmni ac o fudd hefyd i’r gymuned.  Yn achos Starbucks, gwelsom bartneriaeth arloesol efo Prifysgol Talaith Arizona i gynnig i bob un o’i weithwyr sydd wedi gweithio yn y cwmni yn yr UDA am dros 20awr yr wythnos am 3 mis y cyfle i astudio at gwrs gradd a thalu’r costau blynyddol i gyd.  Gall gweithwyr ddewis o dros 60 o gyrsiau gradd ar lein a hynny gyda chefnogaeth tiwtoriaid, mentoriaid ac annogwyr i’w cefnogi i lwyddo. 

Fel cwmni Amazon, mae cwmni Starbucks yn cydnabod fod llwyddiant eu gweithwyr yn elwa eu cwmni yn ogystal a’r gymuned ehanghach.

Ar ol cinio, aethom ymlaen i ymweld a South Seattle College i weld eu canolfan hyfforddi yn Puget Sound.  Mae’r diwydiant morwrol yn un pwysig i Seattle sy’n cyfrannu’n drwm i’r economi ranbarthol a byd-eang.  Mae Diwydiant Morwrol Talaith Washington yn gyfrifol am fwy na 148,000 o swyddi uniongyrchol ac anunionyrchol, a’r rheiny yn swyddi sy’n talu cyflogau da a chynnig cyfleoedd gyrfa amrywiol.  Mae’r cyflog cyfartaledd, cyn buddiannau, i weithwyr yn y diwydiant morwrol oddeutu $70,800.  Mae dros 2,000 o fusnesau morwrol yn Nhalaith Washington, a’r rheiny’n ymrwymo i gynnal amgylchedd, iechyd a hyfywedd hir dymor y gymuned.  Clywsom yn gynharach yn yr wythnos gan Gyngor Datblygu Economaidd Seattle a King County mor bwysig yw cynnal y diwydiant hwn sy’n werth mwy mewn refeniw na’r diwydiant cyfathrebu a thechnoleg er fod nifer y swyddi yn llai.  Er mwyn cyflawni hyn, Washington yw un o’r ychydig daleithiau gydag Arweinydd Sector Morwrol sy’n helpu cydlynu datblygiad y diwydiant. 



Beth oedd yn drawiadol yn yr ymweliad yma oedd nad oedd dim un llun o long ar unrhyw wal er mai trwsio ac adeiladu llongau enfawr o bob lliw a llun oedd busnes y cwmni yma.  Yr oll oedd i’w weld ym mhobman oedd lluniau pobl.  Yma eto, pobl oedd yn bwysig ac mae cwmni Vigor yn adnabod gwerth y bobl sy’n gweithio yno a bod pawb yn haeddu cyfle.  Doedd dim gofyn mynediad i’r rhaglen hyfforddi gyffrous yma.  Y cyfan oedd y cwmni eisiau ei weld oedd parodrwydd i weithio ac awch i newid eu bywyd.

Mae angen gweithwyr sy’n gymwys ac wedi eu hyfforddi’n dda heddiw er mwyn llenwi swyddi yforu.  I gwrdd a’r galw hwn mae Dociau Diwydiannol Vigor wedi ffurfio partneriaeth gyda Choleg Seattle i ffurfio canolfan hyfforddi – Dosbarth yn y Dociau – i ddiwallu anghenion holl gwmniau morwrol Puget Sound.  Mae’r hyfforddwyr yn weithwyr proffesiynol o’r diwydiant sy’n addysgu’r sgiliau angenrheidiol, gyda’r nod o gryfhau’r diwydiant morwrol a gweithwyr sy’n gymwys ac yn barod i lenwi swyddi mewn diwydiant ffyniannus.

Heb os nag oni bai, dyma esiampl o bartneriaeth preifat-cyhoeddus ar ei orau.  Y diwydiant yn cymryd gwir ddoddordeb yn y gwaith o ddatblygu sgiliau ac yn gyrru’r agenda, gan eu bod yn gweld fod yn rhaid cael gwaed newydd i mewn i’r diwydiant er mwyn goroesi a pharhau’n gystadleuol.  Roedd yma gydnabyddiaeth na fedrai’r diwydiant morwrol gyflawni hyn ar ei ben ei hun a dyna pam fod y berthynas rhwng y coleg a nhw mor lwyddiannus – roedd parch o’r ddwy ochr yn amlwg.

Mae Vigor yn gweld y budd o gydweithio i ddatblygu sgiliau, ond eto er mai nhw yw y prif bartner gyda’r coleg, nid oedd yr hyfforddeion i gyd yn myndi weithio i Vigor.  Eto, roeddem yn gweld buddsoddiad yn y gymuned a’r diwydiant yn ehangach.

O longau i awyrennau wedyn, gydag ymweliad i AJAC – Pwyllgor Rhannu Prentisiaeth Awyrofod.  Mae Talaith Washington yn arwain ar awyrofod a gweithgynhyrchu uwch ac yn gartrefi fwy na 1,350[1] o gwmniau’n gysylltiedig ag awyrofod ac yn cyflogi mwy na 132,500[2] o weithwyr awyrofod gallu uwch.  Ond mae gweithlu sy’n heneiddio, technoleg newydd a galw uwch am gynnyrch yn peri her o safbwynt adeiladu gweithlu ar gyfer y 21ain ganrif a chystadlu mewn economi fyd eang.

Dros y pum mlynedd nesaf, bydd angen dros 7,000 yn fwy o weithwyr awyrofod i gwrdd a’r galw cynyddol hwn.

Ar ol y cynnwrf o fod yn y dociau, roeddem yn ol ar dir mwy gyfarwydd erbyn hyn yn trafod llwyddiannau a phrofiadau ar y ddwy ochr efo prentisiaethau.  Ac i gloi y diwrnod, cawsom gyfle i weld chwip o lori yn llawn offer er mwyn hybu prentisiaethau.  Byddai hon ychydig yn rhy fawr ar gyfer troeadau yr A470 ond roedd y cysyniad yn un oeddem ni’n ei hoffi.

Y cwestiwn mawr ydy a yw hyn yn nodweddiadol o’r rhan fwyaf o fusnesau yn y rhan yma o’r byd a beth yw’r rheswm am hyn?  Dywedodd Veronica o gwmni Vigor, fod pobl yn y rhan hwn o’r byd yn dueddol o fod efo mwy o ddiddordeb mewn datlbygu pobl, eu lles, yr amgylchedd, a’u bod yn dueddol o fod yn fwy creadigol ac arloesol.  Ond hefyd, eu bod yn hoff o roi yn ol i gymdeithas.

Mae’n debyg fod gwersi pwysig i ni i gyd yn hyn o beth.

Rhaid diolch unwaith eto heddiw i Jenna am ein tywys trwyr ddiwrnod prysur a hir mor drefnus a disymwth.  Mae trefnu cymaint o brofiadau da mewn un wythnos yn dipyn o gamp – mae’r agwedd gallu gwneud yn amlwg yn hyn hefyd!

Tim #ArloesiAB


[2] Aerospace Manufacturing Skills 2013 Annual Report developed by Washington’s Workforce Training and Coordinating Board

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Day 4 – St David’s Day in Seattle


Waking up this morning in this great city, our initial thoughts turned to the close encounter we had last night with its resident vermin. Luckily, the closeness of this now well-bonded group got us through this traumatic experience.

Sadly, Chris from the British Council has left us to go and meet Carwyn Jones (The First Minister) in Washington. He will be sorely missed but we still have Jenna who is guiding us through the week with a calm, steadying hand and organisational perfection.

We had a slightly later (well received) start to St David’s Day. A brisk walk along the waterfront for some shopping and then back to meet the group to pick up our Uber taxi to Redmond which is in the North East of Seattle. We were visiting the Digipen Institute of Technology, a private training provider that specialises in high tech training. It was great to see a huge red dragon in the foyer on this special day and the wow factor of large plasma screens, creativity, artwork and awards the company and its students have won.

We were met at Digipen by Raymond Yan, Senior Vice President. A charismatic, kind and generous man with a real passion for delivering a future for young people. A phrase we heard previously in the week of “Leadership and Execution” sprung to mind. His positive, inclusive, can-do attitude provides a set of beliefs and values that the business is built on and has led to expansion in Singapore and Bilbao. In Digipen, there are currently 1100 graduates studying a mixture of  Computer science and Art programmes. These degrees service the digital interactive industry and are focused on employment. There is a cohesive and collaborative approach to studying for the degrees with each discipline challenged to work together to replicate industrial standards and needs. It’s not surprising that their progression rate to employment is high. Exposure to this high tec and demanding industry at this level prepares students well for the real world, even though they are paying $26000 a year for the privilege. Resources are privately funded and cutting edge. Support for learners is clear and the philosophy or ‘spirit’ as Ray put it is one of challenge and support in all its various guises. Students are encouraged to strive for excellence at all levels. There is even a long standing programme of training for high school students who complete college level work at the company on a weekly basis. It seems a great place to study and has an ambience of success seeping from its walls. Having degree programmes on an industrial site seems to make the whole setup more professional and being closer to industry itself gives the programmes more purpose for learners to succeed.

In contrast to the private funding of Digipen our next stop was to the Lake Washington Institute of Technology. It was friendly and welcoming and more like the FE Colleges in Wales. The community and technical colleges in Washington State have the aim of preparing students for work. There is open access admission with some selected admissions based on previous performance. A national recognised IBEST programme moves hard to reach students further and faster, providing career contextualised training for underserved population in reading, writing and maths. This has improved completion for these students from 25% to 75%. Under legislation, all programmes have to have an advisory body consisting of a range of stakeholders from industry. This ensures that programmes meet their needs and provides students with the best chances of job security in the future. In some instances, the college use the Dacum process which helps them establish a new curriculum from initial ideas. These are initiatives that we can learn from. The College is also currently developing an initial entry test based on student self selection from their initial essay performance. This is in stark contrast to the prescriptive WEST testing in Wales.

The inclusive nature of the College and its determination to provide a “human touch” for its students reminds me of so many colleges in Wales.

Later on in the early evening we had the privilege of attending their open day. This was very similar to what we have in Wales but it is evident that the College specialise in certain disciplines; in this case good examples are dental hygienists and funeral directors! Perhaps Colleges in Wales are trying to maintain a curriculum that is too broad? Would colleges be better specialising in different fields of the curriculum depending on their specialism, forming centres of excellence?

Prior to attending the College we were not sure of the link between the college and industry. After our visit however, we were convinced of the hard work and dedication college staff had invested to ensure progression into industrial jobs for young people.

The two visits today were of stark contrast; highlighting the difference between both private and public sector education. Both were illuminating and similarities included their passion to provide young people with opportunities to establish their careers, albeit in different financial circumstances.

In terms of our group, we were back to full quota after a period of illness and it was great to see everyone learning from these experiences. Roll on Starbucks tomorrow, there seems to one of these coffee shops every 100 yards in Seattle!

Day 4 – Team #InnovateFE

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Day 3 – Career Connected Learning


It was the very early start to day three which opened our eyes to the issue of homelessness in Seattle.  With Washington state ranked in the top 10 American states for its quality of life and evidencing the highest minimum wage in the USA; our drive through the city exposed the scale of this issue and left our delegation questioning why? Seattle reported that it has been hit particularly hard by the homelessness issue and we clearly saw how tent cities are now part of everyday life. 

 We travelled to Olympia, the capital of Washington state, and met with a team of dynamic professionals.  The energy of the Association of Washington Business (AWB) and Workforce Training & Education Co-ordinating Board was contagious; what a great team!  The board describe themselves as ‘small and nimble’, explaining how this enables flexibility to independently evaluate effectiveness of their programmes. They demonstrated how ‘apples to apples’ comparisons are made using state employment security data to analyse and further develop the impact of training.  Using a net impact study every 4 to 5 years the board are able to compare those students who undertake a workforce programme against those who don’t.  The Board drills down into the data and identifies where learners progress in the labour market from college, both on exit and at later points in their careers. 

 The AWB, founded in 1904, is focused on the ‘business of business’.  They are an advocate for the ‘risk taker, entrepreneur, dreamer and taxpayer’ and certainly inspired our delegation with their vibrant enthusiasm.  Their ‘Generation Apocalypse’ plan for a workforce summit aims to raise awareness of workforce changes.  We discussed and shared strategies about succession planning; exploring how baby boomers are retiring, how generation X’s are becoming Washington states new leaders and how generation Z’s are taking on greater responsibilities as they enter the workforce.  This highlighted the need for greater connectivity between business and education; ensuring all stakeholders ‘row’ in the same direction to fill skills gaps and meet the needs of the future workforce. How well do we build Wales’ talent pipeline for years to come?

 We were curious about how Washington state use an online tool called ‘career bridge’ which enables young people engagement in a personal journey of career exploration.   We were interested to hear how Washington states multiple pathways concept assures students that there are no wrong career pathways.  Career exploration and lifelong learning approaches connect learning and provide opportunities for young people to trial out different careers. The engine to this is the use of Industry skill panels which bring the right people to the table to talk about skills.  What works best to connect young people to the world of work and what works best to result in career success is tangible and measured impressively for the states ROI.  

We were told about how Washington states vision and mission for workforce development aims to help more people find jobs that lead to economic self sufficiency. The Washington State Board for Community & Technical colleges have created centres of excellence to support this, however recruiting experienced skills professionals appears to be challenging. With their 34 colleges enrolling 6 out of every 10 full time students, career connected learning opportunities are the majority.

We met with Washington State’s Employment Security Department who declare that it has the World’s best workforce.  Forbes recently listed Washington state among the 10 best states for business. As we uncovered yesterday, it is the birthplace of some of the world’s best companies and is one of the most highly trained and educated workforces in America. With Washington’s expanding labour force, it has grown by 85,000 from 2014 to 2015, with more than 3.5 million people in the workforce today. 

 Concluding our schedule with another question – how can we create jobs in Wales that regular people can have which pay well?

We then extended our day to accept a tour around Washington State’s Legislative Building and further extended our experience to include skills participation at the community and technical college legislative reception.  It was great to end our visit to Olympia in the company of students.  On our drive back to Seattle, we were able to reflect on Washington state’s department of commerce’s reason to choose Washington: “We change the world a little every day, driven by a passion to build a brighter future”.  After a 12 hour day we arrived back in Seattle with just enough time to prepare for another busy day tomorrow.

 Day 3 – Team #InnovateFE















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Day 2: Mind the (Skills) Gap Seattle – from the cradle to a career


c5uxxd6xmaapzjiWell, what a first day in Seattle. It was great to have the company of Jenna, from British Council, USA and Chris, British Council Wales. We received a warm welcome from all we met, who were so pleased to see us, and proud to share their successes and challenges. We have learnt so much about Seattle, King County and the education system in the USA.


 Many thanks especially to Seattle College, The Office for Economic Development, Ada’s Software Development Academy, Amazon and the  Washington Round table.


 Seattle, has several claims to fame; it re-invented the coffee break (Starbucks), developed the personal computer (Microsoft), and connected the world through air travel, (Boeing).


Seattle is also home to globally recognised companies, such as Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Costco and Expedia.  These companies are used to attract other companies and as a hub for record levels of innovation and  research. King County/Seattle was Bloomberg’s – most innovative state in the USA in 2013. Seattle has developed industry clusters such as aerospace, IT, life sciences, maritime, finance and clean technology. These clusters have been key to developing emerging industries such as biomedical devices, big data/cloud and space exploration! Seattle is committed to being ‘ahead’ of the curve.


Equally, as important in attracting industry and ‘talent’, is the quality of life, especially the outdoor activities and cultural activities.


I think these are two areas which Wales could look to replicate. That is greater focus on clusters, through innovation, eg, let’s get going with the proposed lagoons! Also, do we promote Wales, well enough as a great place to play, live and work?


Seattle growth has been exponential, for a city on the periphery of the USA, again, a possible parallel with Wales. Seattle was in deep recession, a decade ago, things needed to change. Seattle had been too reliant on having the ‘luck of the two Bills’, Boeing and Gates. Political and business leaders have focussed on developing  innovation and creativity as a central feature of the DNA of the city. A hugely, positive, ‘can-do’ attitude prevails. The result – massive jobs growth and incomes way above the USA or UK averages.


One of the impressive planning tools, we saw, was the research into the future labour market needs of the local economy.  This was available to everyone via websites and reports, sponsored by business support organisations. Data was available down to specific occupational areas.


A fascinating report, examined, Washington state’s five year jobs outlook, to shine a spotlight on the jobs that will be available. They found there will be 740,000 new jobs, three times the national average. These new jobs will be jobs that will need qualifications, equivalent  to levels 3,4 and 5 in the UK. The report identified a ‘leaky pipeline’ (like Wales) which produces skills gaps, as people drop out of the system, some become Neet, thousands drop out from 16-18, while thousands more do not achieve credentials/qualifications at the appropriate level.


 The challenge – only 31% of local, high school students have qualifications at the required levels. The message from the report is that less than a third of young people are ready to progress to these jobs. Scary, too many jobs, not enough people with the skills!


Again, this is useful to contrast with the challenges in Wales, to ensure our young people have the skills required by the new industries. Basic skills and Stem seem to be a worldwide themes.


 As well, as publicly funded colleges, Seattle has a large number of Boot Camps, set up to provide short, sharp, training courses, focused on employee needs, such as software and coding.  We visited an inspiring, centre for disadvantaged women, who provided tuition free, one year, intensive courses in coding. Ada’s has great support from software companies who provide placements and job opportunities.


 Some of the more bizarre events, included, having dinner with a stuffed Cougar overlooking us. Thunder snow. The wacky culture of Amazon, which included, the opportunity to bring your dog to work, while two of the group, had to contact the USA medical services, a doctor and a dentist. They were crying on their return, not because of the pain, but because of the damage to their pocket.

Team #InnovateFE


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Hello Seattle

Hello, Seattle!

After an incredibly long day’s travelling (Seattle is eight hours behind UK time), the seven of us (eight, including Chris from British Council Wales who will be with us for the first half of the visit) finally arrived in Seattle.   

Although we have an action-packed week of visits to colleges, employers and policy-makers lined up – today (Sunday) was actually a free day to explore.  The weather was a bit cold and rainy but that didn’t deter us.  Amongst the range of sights we covered between us all were Pike Place Market (everything from fish to enormous crabs, to hats and chocolates), the ‘Space Needle’, a museum about music and pop culture, the first ever branch of Starbucks, and, on local recommendation, the Crumpet Shop, which was my personal favourite.

What we found most striking was the similarities between the issues facing Wales and the problems identified by organisations like the Association of Washington Business.  Challenges such as an ageing population; how to ensure that all parts of the health profession have sufficient staff; businesses not being able to find staff with the right skills; the need to improve employability and develop a culture of life-long learning; how to address infrastructure; all these are familiar to anyone acquainted with the economy of Wales.  Skills gaps in Seattle in ‘Global Trade and Supply Chain Management’ alone range from technical writing and management to truck drivers and dock workers.  The lack of awareness of the full range of career options available is something that is not well understood by learners or staff and this is an issue frequently raised in Wales too.

In the evening, we met Jenna from the British Council as part of a welcome dinner.  We ate in the ‘Cougar Room’, a private dining room with a stuffed cougar in a glass case, and is a room where mafia discussions are alleged to have taken place.  It certainly added something to the atmosphere! 

We talked through the objectives for our visit and the programme for the week, concentrating particularly on the first day where we’ll be visiting the Seattle College District, Ada Developer’s Academy (an intensive software development training programme for women), the Headquarters of Amazon, as well as meeting the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County.  We discussed what – if anything – employers and educators might know about Wales, what we might be able to learn about engagement with employers (large and small), curriculum design and how Seattle takes account of employer needs, the challenges of ensuring that what is taught in Further Education settings is what employers really want, and a range of other issues.  Jenna assured us that the people we’ll be meeting will have as many questions for us as we’ll have for them.  Fortunately, our delegation has a huge amount of knowledge and experience of the detail and complexity of the Further Education sector in Wales, as well as the economy more widely.  The opportunity to see and discuss how Seattle addresses challenges that Wales also faces is hugely important and we’re all really keen to learn from the week ahead but, just as importantly, to put into practice what we’ve seen and heard wherever possible, share this knowledge and influence policy development in Wales. 

The discussions over the coming week will range from strategic and technical to the more ‘mundane’ or foundational economy.  We all noticed that customer service had been of an extremely high standard everywhere we had visited, for instance, and we talked about the skills, training and attitudes needed for this.  This was an issue none of us had identified as part of the preparation for the visit to Seattle but could be applied to Wales.

As well as having some fantastic food, the evening was good fun.  The person who sat at the head of the table (in front of the stuffed cougar, and who shall, for the purposes of this blog, remain unidentified), achieved the nickname ‘Don Cougar’, in the mafia fashion.  Whether this sticks for the rest of the week remains to be seen!

No blog would be complete without some sort of pun so to end, I’m really hoping jetlag doesn’t leave me sleepless in Seattle…..

Day 1 – Team #InnovateFE


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Etifeddiaeth y prosiect DPP: Paratoi ar gyfer byd sy’n newid

O’n cwmpas gwelir newidiadau enfawr ar y gweill. Mae Prydain yn barod i adael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, mae Llywydd Etholedig yr Unol Daleithiau yn seren realiti o’r teledu ac ymddengys fod y byd yn gyffredinol yn fwyfwy cymhleth a darniog.

Yn ein sector ein hunain gyda’r newidiadau enfawr i Sgiliau Hanfodol, y Fagloriaeth a TGAU Cymraeg, beth y gellir ei wneud i gynyddu gwytnwch ar gyfer yr adegau anrhagweladwy o’n blaenau? Yn fwy nag erioed, mae angen arweinwyr doeth ac ymarferol sy’n galluogi ac yn annog eu staff i ddatblygu fel eu bod ar frig eu gêm wrth gyflwyno dysgu.

Mae llawer o ffyrdd i arweinwyr cefnogi eu staff i hogi eu galluoedd ond un o’r rhai mwyaf cost effeithiol yw drwy eu hannog i fynychu gwe-seminarau ac adnoddau mynediad sydd eisoes ar gael ac weithiau am ddim, ar-lein.

Mae prosiect DPP ColegauCymru (a ariennir bellach trwy Cymwysterau Cymru) yn dod i ben yn naturiol ym Mehefin 2017 ond mae pawb dan sylw yn canolbwyntio ar sicrhau bod ei etifeddiaeth yn byw yn hir ar ôl y dyddiad hwnnw. Mae rhai o’r adnoddau Llythrennedd Digidol a ddatblygwyd ar y prosiect eisoes ar gael am ddim ar-lein ac mae eraill ar y gweill. Yn ogystal, mae llawer o’r gwe-seminarau sydd wedi’u cynnal hyd yn hyn yn cael eu cofnodi ac ar gael – a bydd y nifer hwn yn cynyddu yn ystod y misoedd sy’n weddill o’r prosiect. Mae’r adnoddau – a fydd ar gael yn ddwyieithog – a gwe-seminarau, yn rhydd i gael mynediad drwy’r adran sgiliau ôl-16 o Moodle ColegauCymru a byddant yn parhau i fod ar gael y tu hwnt i 2017.

Felly, os ydych yn gobeithio cynyddu gwytnwch yn eich sefydliad a pharatoi eich hun neu eich staff ar gyfer y dyfodol – cofiwch ymweld â Moodle ColegauCymru yn y misoedd nesaf i weld yr ystod o adnoddau dwyieithog – a gwyliwch allan am gynhadledd prosiect DPP.




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Legacy of the CPD Project: Preparing for a changing world

All around us there are massive changes underway. Britain is poised to leave the European Union, the President Elect in the USA is an ex-reality TV host and the world in general seems to be increasingly complicated and fragmenting.

In our own sector with the huge changes to Essential Skills, the Welsh Baccalaureate and GCSEs, what can be done to increase resilience for the unpredictable times ahead? More than ever we need wise and practical leaders who enable and encourage their staff to develop so that they are at the top of their game when delivering learning.

There are many ways for leaders to support their staff to hone their abilities but one of the most cost effective is by encouraging them to attend webinars and access resources that are already available and sometimes free, online.   

The ColegauCymru CPD project (now funded by Qualifications Wales) comes to a natural end in June 2017 but everyone involved is focussed on ensuring that its legacy lives on long after that date. Some of the Digital Literacy resources developed on the project are already freely available online and others are in the pipeline. In addition many of the webinars that have been held to date were recorded and are available – and this number will increase during the remaining months of the project. The resources – which will be available bilingually – and webinars, are free to access through the Skills Post16 section of the ColegauCymru Moodle  and they will continue to be available beyond 2017.

So if you are looking to increase resilience in your organisation and prepare yourself or your staff for the future – keep visiting the ColegauCymru Moodle in the coming months to see the range of bilingual resources build – and watch out for the CPD Project dissemination conference.

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Busnes mentrus …? Sylwadau ar sicrhau ansawdd prosiect sgiliau ôl-16

Mae ymarferwyr a rheolwyr yn gyfarwydd ag egwyddorion a systemau sy’n sicrhau ansawdd effeithiol mewn sefydliadau. Rydym yn gweithio fel mater o drefn gyda chraffu QA mewnol ac allanol a gyda sefyllfa pob sefydliad ar sut y gall damcaniaethau megis ‘Cyfanswm Rheoli Ansawdd’ neu gwella proses yn cael eu cymhwyso i wahanol gyd-destunau. Gall heriau penodol wrth ddyfeisio a gweithredu strategaeth Sicrhau Ansawdd sy’n gweithio ar gyfer tîm o ymgynghorwyr cyflwyno prosiect Cymru gyfan a ariennir yn gyhoeddus ac yn craffu allanol, gyda cyrhaeddiad ac effaith genedlaethol.

Mae cynnwys a nod y prosiect o’r cychwyn cyntaf yn rhan annatod o’r ffordd y mae’r strategaeth Sicrwydd Ansawdd wedi cael ei sefydlu a’i ddatblygu ymhellach. Yn y bôn, mae’r tîm a ddyfeisiodd y rhaglen – ynghyd â strwythur modiwlaidd ac adnoddau cysylltiedig – er mwyn cefnogi ymarferwyr Addysg Bellach, Dysgu Seiliedig ar Waith a Dysgu Cymunedol i Oedolion wrth weithredu’r TGAU, Bagloriaeth Cymru a Sgiliau Hanfodol newydd. Mae sesiynau hyfforddi gyda staff y sector yn ganolog i greu tasglu o staff medrus i gymryd y rhaglen yn ei blaen a sicrhau ei gynaliadwyedd ym mhob sector.
O ddechrau’r prosiect, ein nodau SA oedd • adnabod a rheoli risg effeithlon • Cynnal safonau • Cysondeb o ran cyflenwi • Mesur effaith Ar y lefel yma o ymgysylltiad cenedlaethol, mae llunio a diweddaru Cofrestr Risg ar lefel prosiect yn hanfodol.  Mae adnabod ac adolygu risgiau sy’n gysylltiedig â rolau a chyfrifoldebau, cyllid, ansawdd a chyflawni yn eitemau agenda gwerthfawr ym mhob cyfarfod tîm. Rhaid i unrhyw brosiect o’r math ac ar y lefel hon asesu a datrys risg yn ffurfiol ac ar y cyd.
Gweithiodd y tîm, ynghyd â chydweithwyr mewn tri grŵp rhanbarthol, i greu adnoddau a chyflwyno sesiynau hyfforddi: gyda phob un ohonynt yn sicrwydd ansawdd. Cafodd adnoddau a deunyddiau newydd eu wirio am ansawdd cyn ei ddefnyddio a chrewyd sampl gynrychioliadol o sesiynau yn amodol ar werthusiad sylwedydd. Mae didueddrwydd yn her er bod y tîm estynedig wedi gwella hyn drwy ddatblygu gwell dogfennaeth a chanolbwyntio ar cynaliadwyedd yn y dyfodol.

Cyflawnwyd darpariaeth gyson drwy graffu’n rheolaidd ar adborth y cyfranogwyr (gan gasglu a’u coladu yn electronig) a’i gydberthynas â data gwerthuso arsyllwr. Fel gydag unrhyw system ar-lein, roedd problemau ond gyda gwelliannau olynol daeth golygu gwell a dadansoddiadau mwy ystyrlon, ac mae adroddiadau ar gael pan fo angen. Roedd mesur effaith gyffredinol yn her – cafodd data meintiol ei hadalw o gofnodion prosiect ac adroddiadau cynnydd a nodwyd cerrig milltir allweddol, ond weithiau roedd y dangosyddion llai diriaethol ac ansoddol a oedd y mwyaf grymus … Rydym yn canolbwyntio ar sut y gallai mynd i’r adael â rhain: mi fydd tystiolaeth tysteb o staff ar bob lefel, datganiadau pwerus mewn adborth, mewnbwn gan ymarferwyr mewn digwyddiadau yn ran fawr yn ein cynhadledd!

I gloi, mae sicrhau ansawdd y prosiect yn wahanol iawn ond eto yn debyg i systemau ac ymarferion y mae’n debyg bod gennych yn eich sefydliadau yn barod. Roedd yn amodol ar yr holl straen gyfarwydd ar amser ac adnoddau ar gael. Roedd sicrhau cofnodi llwyddiannau a’r heriau yn ganolog, ynghyd â chanolbwyntio ar etifeddiaeth y prosiect – gydag ymarferwyr sy’n wybodus, hyderus ac wedi’u grymuso gydag adnoddau i ddelio â her y cymwysterau newydd.



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A risky business…? Observations on quality assuring the Skills Post-16 project

Practitioners and managers are familiar with principles and systems of effective quality assurance in organisations.  We routinely work with internal and external QA scrutiny and with each institution’s ‘take’ on how theories such as ‘Total Quality Management’ or process improvement can be applied to various contexts.  But there are particular challenges in devising and implementing a QA strategy that works for a team of consultants delivering a publicly funded and externally scrutinised, pan-Wales project with national reach and impact.

The content and aim of the project from the outset were integral to the way that the QA strategy was established and further developed. Essentially, the team devised a programme – complete with modular structure and associated resources – to support FE, WBL and ACL practitioners in their implementation of the new GCSE, Welsh Baccalaureate and Essential Skills qualifications. Training sessions with sector staff were central to creating a task force of skilled staff to take the programme forward and ensure its sustainability in all sectors.

From the start of the project, our QA aims were to ensure

  • Effective identification and management of risk
  • Maintenance of standards
  • Consistency of delivery
  • Measurement of impact

At this level of national engagement, compiling and regularly updating a project level Risk Register proved vital.  Anticipating and reviewing risks related to roles and responsibilities, finance, quality and achieving deadlines were valued agenda items at all team meetings.  Any project of this nature and at this level must assess and resolve risk formally and collectively.

The team worked together with colleagues in three regional groups to create resources and deliver training sessions: all of which were quality assured.  New resources and materials were quality assured before use and a representative sample of sessions were subject to observer evaluation.  Impartiality was a challenge though the team enhanced this by developing better documentation and focusing more on future sustainability.

Consistent delivery was achieved by regular scrutiny of participant feedback (collected and collated electronically) and its correlation with observer evaluation data.  As with any online system, there were glitches but successive improvements meant better and more meaningful analyses and reports were available when needed.

Measurement of overall impact was a challenge – quantitative data was retrieved from project records and progress reports identified key milestones, but sometimes it was the less tangible and more qualitative indicators that were the most compelling… We focussed on how these could be captured: testimonial evidence from staff at all levels, powerful statements in feedback, inputs from practitioners at events will all feature large in our summary dissemination conference!

In conclusion, QA of the project was very different yet very similar to systems and practice you probably have in your own organisation. It was subject to all too familiar stresses on compliance caused by pressures on time and available resources. Ensuring that success was documented and challenges resolved was central, together with focussing on the project legacy – practitioners who are well-informed, confident and empowered with resources to meet the challenges of the new qualifications.

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