Meet Head of Engineering, Letisha Smith
“I’m a qualified Engineer and teaching Engineering is something I feel quite passionate about. Businesses need it, there’s such a shortage, and young people have no idea what Engineering is about.”
Letisha studied Materials Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University. Her first job was in technical marketing but she decided to go back to university and study for a PhD. Afterwards she joined a castings company, who made all sorts of items out of cast irons, and then moved to Castings Technology International, now based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park where she ended up running the skills centre. Always with an eye on teaching, Letisha decided to do a PGCE and got a job in a school with specialist Engineering status, but found that Engineering was being increasingly marginalised in the school curriculum, so she decided to move to the UTC.
Letisha explains why she likes the UTC: “I think UTCs are a brilliant concept because they combine academic and technical qualifications with employer engagement. What I really like about UTC Sheffield is that I’m given freedom to pursue ideas and make continuous improvements – which is a lot like being in an Engineering business. We’re here to educate students to be the best that they can be and help them to get into the work place.”
Since becoming Curriculum Director, Letisha has been focusing on securing even more employer engagement for the students: “We aim to make every piece of controlled assessment linked to a business in some way, with some real-life scenario or context to the learning. We’ve also been working on links with employers for apprenticeships. Now we’ve got employers ringing us up asking us for apprentices. We have a steady flow of companies coming into the UTC, bringing apprentices in to meet with the students, doing mock interviews with the students or taking students on work experience.”
Letisha continues, “Lavender is a good example of our employer activities. Lavender is an industry leader in NDT or Non-Destructive Testing. They send their trainers in to train our students, so our students are gaining industry-standard training. Lavender has also put an award together for students who’ve done exceptionally well in the inspection and testing unit of the qualification, which they give out at our big awards ceremony for Year 11 and Year 13 students.
“We also have a very good relationship with Rolls-Royce. Every year around March time they contact me and give me an apprenticeship team of five or six apprentices who come out and support the UTC for that year. They came out last September and did a day’s event with Year 10 to launch the Engineering Design qualification, which is four units of learning over two years, all based around a Rolls-Royce design problem about a pump. They sent out a whole team of engineers, they split the students into working groups and each group had a couple of Rolls-Royce engineers working with them all day, supporting and guiding them. Soon the Y10 students will be going to the Rolls-Royce factory at Derby to find out about the heritage of Rolls-Royce engines and the early career options within Rolls-Royce.”
Letisha is confident that the UTC approach is having a significant impact on student destinations: “We are already seeing our students progress into excellent opportunities – both local and national. For example, students have gone on to the Mercedes High Speed Power Train Formula 1 team, the Boeing factory at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, the RAF, the BP Maritime Academy, Toyota at Derby, global engineering company Arup, not to mention a wide range of university courses at Cambridge, Middlesex, Newcastle, Sheffield, both the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, to name but a few. The UTC is now doing what it was originally set up to do – developing the next generation of talented engineers.”