26 May 2022
Computing partnership with schools, universities and industry
Some of the most valuable experiences students can get from their time at school can be outside of school buildings: work experience is an opportunity for students to visit and work with local businesses to hopefully inspire higher career aspirations.
The Gatsby Benchmarks are one of many ways that schools are judged, which create incentives for all students to have:
1. A stable careers programme
2. Learning from career and labour market information
3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
5. Encounters with employers and employees
6. Experiences of workplaces
7. Encounters with further and higher education
8. Personal guidance
In an attempt to address benchmark 5-7 my school has reintroduced work experience for Y10 students after COVID prevented placements for the last few years.
Some students asked if they could have a CS related placement so I reached out to my local university Computer Science department to see if there was anything they could recommend.
The Computer Science department at the University of York have been brilliant and suggested that they could host a group of students for a week to tie in with their 50 year celebrations this year. They maintain very strong industry and research links, with close ties to local employers including ETAS - a world leader in providing embedded systems for the automotive industry - who also kindly agreed to host the students for a day.
Students started the week with a tour of the CS department facilities (whilst I was blown away by the scale and scope of the teaching labs, my students seemed even more impressed by the vending machines!) followed by a mixture of mini lectures (e.g. Can a bacterium compute?) and practical challenges (e.g. creating a traffic control system using an arduino).
A day out at the stunning ETAS York office was mind blowing. Students learned that a modern car can contain over 100 Electronic Control Units (ECUs): each one requiring software to work reliably and predictably every time, often communicating with each other over many different networks at much higher speeds than the standard home / school network setup.
Students worked together to code solutions on a Raspberry Pi to read and share sensor values over a network to mimic the way embedded control systems detect and deal with invalid readings on a car in a safety critical system.
Lunch time involved playing Project Cars on a PlayStation which was hooked up to the same diagnostics kit that ETAS had showcased earlier in the day so students could see a live visualisation of the vast quantity of data generated by a modern car.
I came away completely inspired by the two days that I was privileged to be able to observe. As a teacher I now feel more able to answer careers-related-questions and I have some exceptionally helpful contacts to ask for advice when my students' curiosity surpasses my own expertise. My tired bank of industry anecdotes has been topped up and I know that my students will come back after their placement with even more focus, determination and motivation to thrive at more than just their academic qualifications.
This post is partly designed as a thank you to all the staff at ETAS and the University of York for arranging such an inspiring and life changing placement, but also to encourage other Computing teachers to reach out to local employers and universities.
If you're reading this as a tech employer, could you contact your local school to offer any advice or support? If you work in higher education could you share details of the schools outreach events in your area? The CAS Community is the perfect place to build connections to promote diversity, raise aspiration and boost recruitment in the Computing industry.