In the last 10 years work environments have started to mirrors spaces in the home – areas to rest and relax, spaces for quiet contemplation, large kitchen tables to bring people together and gaming zones for much-needed downtime and creativity.
Work collided with home as our behaviours and expectations of space began to change. Now work has collided with education as more and more educators see the benefit of making their students as work-ready as possible – not just in terms of learning skills but attitude and expectation too.
The rise of University Technical Colleges is the perfect example. With partner employers identifying skills’ gaps and helping to develop the curricula, UTCs have provided a more vocational alternative to standard, secondary school education and deliver real work experience, challenge and employment opportunities in a learning context.
The Visions Learning Trust is the perfect example. Located in Burnley, this engineering and technical UTC is centred on communal spaces that lend themselves to large-scale projects in a workshop environment. Turbines and other engineering equipment can be brought into the space, giving students the opportunity to experience engineering jobs first hand. Supporting spaces such as classrooms and innovation hubs have been furnished with appropriate chairs, tables and finishes to reflect the very businesses that graduating students could join.
The managing director of The Visions Learning Trust, Martin Callagher, said: “We knew from the outset that the Visions Learning Trust UTC must not feel like a school. We needed to break the mould of traditional learning and use different spaces to prepare students for the world of work.”
Other vocational colleges have embraced this workplace reality too – West Cheshire College in Ellesmere Port has created real-life work environments for it students with a crèche, restaurant and beauty department amongst other. Sara Mogel was the principal when the college opened, she said: “One of the most important challenges we met was to create an environment that reflected the realities of work and helped those that did not instinctively flourish in traditional academic environments.
“We knew that if we were going to deliver learning in a different way we’d need a very different building and differing furnishings and equipment too. It’s not all about the aesthetics, although that does help to create a visually stimulating environment, it’s also about how the furniture supports the learning needs of our students. The furniture gives the students cues about the learning style in each space and what is expected of them in return, not to mention making them familiar with the workplace long before they are in real employment.”
Northgate Special Educational Needs School has done something similar too. The former derelict school has been transformed into a new wellbeing and enterprise centre, which opens to its doors and facilities to local businesses and residents too. This boosts the school’s revenue, sees the space and facilities used to maximum effect and gives students more opportunity to engage with the community.
In an increasingly competitive world there is no room for poor performance – whether that’s from your students, teachers, facilities or the spaces you occupy. Your learning environments should support the needs of your students in every way – they must empower, inspire, motivate and support. Anything less is a missed opportunity.
To find out more about the education revolution, download our whitepaper When Education and the Workplace Collide, which is full of guidance and advice: