Ros Parker is principal of PROCAT (Prospect College of Advanced Technology). PROCAT is a specialist college which has been established to meet the workforce development needs of businesses which operate in sectors which are critical to the UK economy. This includes advanced apprenticeships to secure a pipeline of new talent, higher and degree apprenticeships to support advanced engineering capability and bespoke training solutions to develop the expertise and skills of the existing workforce.
“…we have introduced a new approach to inclusive learning through the very latest virtual reality technology in plumbing, electrical and air conditioning … Our female groups love this as it creates a safe environment for them to explore and grow in confidence…”
Harnessing life-changing educational opportunities
Having left school with no qualifications my journey into employment alone seemed unlikely as for a career in education – this seemed to be an unlikely aspiration to achieve. However, as a single mum I was relentless in my determination to create a better start for my two-high spirited adventure loving daughters.
I studied with the Open University well into the night and eventually gained the confidence to attend an adult education class in my community. It took every scrap of courage to get me through the door on that first day and my self-esteem was on the floor. But … then the world began to open up – within a year I was teaching and working towards a raft of qualifications.
Soon I was in a management role and working towards a degree. It was when I was studying towards my M.Sc. that I centred my life and work into harnessing life-changing educational opportunities that made a difference to the world of work. I led and managed trailblazing initiatives that transformed learning, sustained education in the community and put skills at the heart of my work.
I came to PROCAT as a passionate advocate of the STEM agenda and believed I could make a difference in the provision of apprenticeships that open up new possibilities for young people and adults alike. I love what I do and it’s a privilege to be working in a sector where we can narrow the skills gaps and meet employer need.
Challenging and rewarding in equal measure
A day in my life at PROCAT is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Team PROCAT is amazing and everyone works together to achieve the same outcome. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Steve meticulously cleaning the site, Melvyn preparing food for hungry apprentices, Dawn leading teams and embedding English and maths or Angela focussing on employer engagement – the same thing drives us all. We care and we want to make a positive difference in preparing people for work in construction, engineering and transport.
Every day I walk the floor, I chat to teams and students to see how things are working. I’ll help prepare workshops, classrooms and resources for events then other times I am presenting to employers, meeting with parents, writing strategy to keep us ahead of the curve and delivering staff development sessions. As a principal of a small college you need to be able to turn your hand to anything from operational to strategic and having worked my way up through the ranks I embrace that.
More about PROCAT
PROCAT specialises in higher level apprenticeship provision to advance young people, maximise their potential and the meet the changing needs of employers for higher level skills. PROCAT was established in 1967 and was based on an employer-led model. It became the first college to incorporate since the 1990s. We are now technically a further education college but with a difference we are a STEM specialist.
Last year my goal was to make rapid improvements in the English and maths results and this year it is to increase the participation of girls and women in STEM. My first break through is the appointment of two new instructor technicians in engineering. We have increased participation of girls and women by 45% in the last three years but we have a long way to go.
I have lots of ideas but I could do with learning from others where they have been successful. I am so inspired by the young women that launch into careers in engineering and construction with us and they achieve great results – in fact they are outperforming their male counterparts.
Passionate about the digital agenda and inclusive learning
I am absolutely passionate about the digital agenda and what this opens up to old and young, male and female alike. In my spare time, I am a radio engineer, producer and presenter where the use of digital technology widens access to a whole new world for people and reduces isolation.
Harnessing virtual and augmented reality technology for inclusive learning
At PROCAT we have introduced a new approach to inclusive learning through the very latest virtual reality technology in plumbing, electrical and air conditioning. It’s transformed outcomes for students and accelerated their achievements. Our female groups love this as it creates a safe environment for them to explore and grow in confidence.
Digital inclusion has always been an important part of my work and it’s an area I am always trying to maximise. Our equipment at PROCAT is often sponsored by employers and provides the latest digital technology. For me, this is a real equaliser in the gender debate and breaks down stereotyping.
We are now advancing into augmented reality, which is an exciting area especially for girls and women entering into rail engineering, where we will be developing this first. It really is a great enabler and I am hoping the more we promote this learning technology the more it will expose the exciting career options open to women in construction and engineering.
Supporting the Womanthology Diversity Thought Leaders’ event at The Shard on 20th November
No one person has all the answers and right now I would welcome all the help, advice and support I can get in reducing the gender gap in construction and engineering. I really want to learn from others so I can introduce some innovation into the recruitment of girls and women in STEM careers.
I would love to see some high-profile female STEM ambassadors coming forward to support new initiatives – that would be just great in breaking down barriers in participation.
On the horizon for PROCAT
Next in PROCAT we are focussing on putting forward our application to become an institute of technology – we believe we have much to offer in advanced skills provision to support the STEM agenda and provide much needed skills that employers are crying out for. We are also very focussed on developing our exciting new offer in rail and construction infrastructure at the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA). Lots going on and exciting times for PROCAT.