CONEL’s Strategic Advisor for Engineering Development, Barry Connelly, said: “Our engineering facilities and courses are among the best in the country. Our engineering lecturing staff are all qualified, experienced and industry-trained,. During my time here, we have received several industry achievement awards and endorsements and as a result, our students are well on their way to achieving their career aspirations.
We deliver high quality engineering training programs to a number of Blue Chip companies who we clearly regard as our training partners. We are a centre of excellence for delivering Rail Engineering training and one of our partners is Transport for London (TfL), who have 79 apprentices with us on a number of courses.
TfL’s Teaching, Learning & Assessment Manager, Carley Blythe, said: “Our partnership started when we went out to tender for the contract to deliver our educational needs, in which CONEL was successful in winning.”
“Through regular meetings with the curriculum management, students who attended the Tottenham Centre have successfully achieved the knowledge units that CONEL committed to deliver. We have received confirmation of their good work and through further discussions and centre site visits, we are now sending our apprentices to the Enfield Centre where they will be able to relate their learning even more specifically to the Rail Industry using the infrastructure and equipment at Enfield.
“Staff at both sites are collaborating well to maintain a productive working relationship which continues to develop. We have gained additional opportunities to share good practice between our own delivery staff and those employed by the college.
“Our relationship is a relatively new one and we are keen to explore how we can work with the college in the future to further develop the partnership and continuously benefit our learners. Our current experience is that the college aims to be responsive to our needs and are working on ways to offer further potential benefits.”
Another key employer partnership is with CBRE, an industry leader in building services management. CBRE’s UK Technical Services Operations Lead, Karl Curtis, said: “CONEL have been committed to working with us on our new apprenticeship programme, showing a huge amount of passion and flexibility in developing a “Best in Class” programme for our future technicians.
“Our partnership developed through engagement sessions and support in developing a new apprenticeship programme. Learners have benefited from this by developing strong foundation skills in engineering during their apprenticeship.
“As an employer we have gained apprentices with core skills that will be ready to move into the workplace and support the business.
“Our 31 London and surrounding county-based Engineering apprentices currently attend CONEL’s Enfield Centre. Our plan is to continue a year-on-year apprentice intake to support our business.”
We caught up with apprentices Catherine Burrin and Pedro Duarte to get their take on Engineering at CONEL.
Catherine is a Thales railway engineering apprentice. She said: “I went to university, studied History and graduated, but didn’t really want to be sat at a desk which is where that career path was going to take me. I took a bit of a chance on a one-year Marine Engineering course and as soon as I started it, I really enjoyed it.”
“After that course I worked abroad for 6 months and when I returned to England, I took the first job I could get. This was as an engineer in a bowling alley, which could only take my engineering career so far.
“This is when I started applying for apprenticeships, I knew someone who worked at Thales, applied and they got me onto my apprenticeship.
“I’m currently halfway through my Level 3 course, but I aim to progress onto a Level 4 HNC, which they offer here at CONEL. I have an hour-long commute, but what we are getting here makes the journey worth it; I am getting what I need for my career.
“There is a lot of support if you need it here, and there are no stupid questions. Especially the practical side of things, a lot of us have never done this before but the tutors are always there to help us 1-to-1 when needed.”
Pedro, who is an apprentice at CBRE, is completing his Level 3 Building Facilities Maintenance course at our Enfield Centre. He is loving his block release course and is excited by the possibilities of his future career.
He said: “Working in theatre before, I wasn’t enjoying it, so I looked to do something more practical. When looking into engineering I found CBRE who paired me up with CONEL to deliver my apprenticeship.
“I like CONEL because the workshop is huge. Right now, we are on the maintenance unit working with hydraulic rams, air conditioning units and using lathes to manufacture various components. I love improving my skills and using engineering machines that I have never used before.
“CONEL gives you opportunities. My theory tutor is really patient, especially with someone like me who likes to take his time and get it right first time. He will often sit down with me and explain things through to me. This is the same with the tutors in the workshop. They all have a lot of industry knowledge to pass onto us and help develop our careers.”
NSAR (National Skills Academy for Rail) which works with the UK Rail industry, skill sector bodies and Government to ensure the quality of training standards, have said that the overall performance and growth in apprenticeship numbers achieved by CONEL’s Enfield Centre academy is really impressive. This illustrates clearly what can happen when an FE college works hard to create efficient and effective partnerships with employers.
Barry Connelly said: “It’s vitally important to us as a college to develop and maintain our reputation within the industry as a valued training partner that adds real value to companies’ profitability. We believe a successful college/employer partnership must include a number of things, such as:
Engineering apprenticeships have seen a revival in popularity and respect within the country. CONEL have engaged with and committed to the needs of employers, adapting to their requirements and standards to change the landscape through partnership and collaboration.”
As the Coronavirus outbreak has spread, many industries have been badly affected, but we are delighted that we’ve been able to help our apprentices to continue to work and learn. As Barry explains: “We have been successfully delivering remote tuition to our learners since the college closed its doors on 20 March. We have been in touch with our partners to inform them of this and they have all confirmed they are happy with these new arrangements.
“Many of our partners have subsequently contacted me to say how pleased they were with the quality of our teaching delivery (keeping their learners on-track where possible) and thanked CONEL for doing a great job.”