Meet Head of Computing at UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, Colin Smith

With years of experience in the computing industry, Colin Smith discovered a love for teaching when training software developers to extend their skills.

“I applied for a PGCE course in Sheffield Hallam University and when it came to the first teaching placement, I absolutely loved it. I’ve never looked back since.”

Colin originally studied computing at university then went into software development, progressing to senior developer and development manager. In 2007, he set up his own business providing development, search engine optimisation and marketing. Over the years, he learnt about many different roles in the digital technology sector and acquired a set of highly regarded professional qualifications from the likes of Adobe, Cisco and Microsoft.

All this experience and knowledge he can now bring to bear at the UTC, as he explains, “Within IT there are often silos, you’re a developer, or an analyst, or a hardware engineer, but because of the different situations in which I’ve worked I’ve done all those things. That means I can give our students a broader based perspective about the opportunities that are available and what skills they’ll need.”

Colin moved to the UTC from teaching Computer Science at another school in order to be able to teach students a more relevant, industry-focused curriculum: “At the UTC, we deliver technical as well as academic qualifications working with industry employers, but above all we focus on where students want to go. We have students who want to be software engineers, systems analysts and project managers. We teach them the skills they’ll need to become an industry professional. Communication skills, working as part of a team, having a good grounding in technical knowledge but also having experience of applying that technical knowledge. We don’t just teach theory of networking, for example, we actually put computers together.”

One of the big differences in how the UTC works is the focus on team work, exactly as staff work in industry, as Colin explains: “Every student in all year groups is part of a project team. It’s how they collaborate in lessons, they work in project teams and they elect a project manager for a specific task. When they present to employers, they often present as a project team as well. Plus, all the enrichments are team-based. In cyber security, for example, it needs a lot of different skill sets so they swap people round to get the right fit of skills to what’s needed. It’s all driven by their interests and what their strengths are. Just because a student is good with the tools of cyber security and hacking, doesn’t mean they have a good grasp of the fundamentals of computer science, whereas another student has, so they collaborate together.”

Colin is proud of the way the computing students are flourishing at the UTC, making the most of the added opportunities: “The students arrive thinking maybe it’s another school or college, but they get access to all the specialist equipment and all the enrichment activities like robotics and cyber security – they really love it.”

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