Karen Connole

WorldSkills Ambassador Profile: Karen Connole

15 December 2022

Quality education is a key cornerstone in RNN Group’s (Rotherham College, North Notts College and Dearne Valley College) vision. Through our strategic vision, we are constantly looking to improve and develop the student experience, with the aim of providing excellence throughout.

These values are not only unified across our organisation, but also in the partners that we work with. Our collaborative work with WorldSkills UK is a prime example of how we ensure that our partners mirror our values.

Through their work, WorldSkills UK collaborate with educational institutions, governments, and employers to raise standards in technical education across the UK. In joining WorldSkills UK’s highly coveted Centre of Excellence Programme, RNN Group dedicated five tutors to become WorldSkills Ambassadors, who look to raise the standard of students and College staff through implementing excellence in the classrooms and learning environments.

In this feature, we take a deep dive into the work that our third WorldSkills Ambassador, Media Make-up Tutor, Karen Connole has done in her first year in the role.

Can you talk us through the role of a WorldSkills Ambassador?

Our role as Ambassadors is to work with students and staff to help them in their development, and through this raise the standards of learning across our Colleges.

Every student’s learning is processed through a curriculum, which ensures that certain levels of competence in key knowledge, skills and behavioural areas are attained. As WorldSkills Ambassadors we look to embed excellence throughout the curriculum to further develop the students and help them reach new levels of knowledge and practice.

How does the work that you are doing as a WorldSkills Ambassador add quality to education?

On a practical level, we add quality and excellence to the curriculum through first furthering our own knowledge within our industry and then passing it on to the students. Our WorldSkills Coach, Frazer Minskip has worked closely with us to develop our skills in concepts such as Lean, which enables an effective way of working, and how to instil excellence through IQA (Internal Quality Assurance) tests, where our staff, learning materials and testing procedures are regularly assessed.

We have also developed Pressure Testing skills, which allow us to simulate the pressures of working environments, thus preparing students for their careers in the industry.

Outside of the classroom, our role as Ambassadors continues as we look to work collaboratively with staff from different curriculum areas and campuses. So many of the Ambassadors and other curriculum staff have been educators for long periods of time, so when we get together and share our experiences and knowledge, we learn what is best practice.

It almost seems mad to say, but I can learn so much about how to improve my lessons in Media Make-up, from talking about other skills and trades, such as motor vehicle body repairs.

How have the students developed thanks to the collaboration between RNN Group and WorldSkills?

The students have done amazingly well. They have taken on board our ideas and shown their resilience during a worldwide pandemic.

As a part of our drive towards excellence, we have implemented video assessing, where the students video their practical work and then review and reflect on their task or skill. The students then build on this through completing a reflection log where, with the assistance of their tutor, they assess their work and generate an action plan, with the aim of improving the work moving forward.

Using both Video Assessing and Pressure Testing, the students’ skill level has soared and so has their passion for their work as they look to improve ahead of each task.

Going into the industry, the students will reap the rewards of these pressure tests, as the tests replicate the highly competitive and challenging work within the Media Make-up industry. For the pressure tests, we took advice from current industry experts, with the goal of replicating interview and performance standards within the industry.

The aim of this is that the students know what is expected of them in their industry and that they have the confidence and organisation to excel in pressurised situations.

What are your biggest takeaways from your first year as a WorldSkills Ambassador?

I have absolutely loved being a part of this programme! I believe that this programme can help learners so much and for me, that is the most important thing.

Our job as Ambassadors now is to continue the work we have done and work collaboratively with more curriculum staff to help develop excellence in all our learners.

We know how far we can take this programme and through it, we will equip our students with the confidence and independence to get where they want to be in life and in their careers.