The apprentice keeping MK schools connected

Posted 14th April 2020

If your kids are having lessons at home from teachers doing their best to keep education going, there’s a very good chance you might have Sam Watts to thank for it.

Sam is a twenty-two year old apprentice at Milton Keynes College working for Cranfield-based tech company, Partnership Education. As with all apprentices, he is learning on the job thanks to the expert know-how of his colleagues in the company which dovetails with the technical training he receives at college.

Sam’s job usually entails going into schools to help them make the most of networking and cloud technologies. He’s the Go-To-Guy for when teachers aren’t quite sure how to use their software. Now working from home, he’s been deluged with calls for help, not just from teachers but from parents and students, trying to get to grips with their newly-enforced distance learning.

“The take-up has been incredible in the past few days,” Sam says. “Lots of teachers are trying really hard to make sure they can keep their lessons going and for many of them who’ve never used these kinds of technologies before it’s a huge learning curve. My job is to be on the end of the phone to talk them through it and to make sure they feel confident with the software and not afraid of it. I’ve got a lot of admiration for them because many of them have never tried to do anything like this before. Now I’m hearing from parents too and it just feels brilliant to be able to help everyone stay connected while they’re stuck at home.”

One of Sam’s biggest challenges is to help everything run smoothly even when the teachers and pupils involved are using vastly different devices and have very variable internet connections.

“If it gets really tricky I can take over their computers remotely and do some of the more technical things for them, just as if I was sitting next to them,” he says.

Sam’s boss at Partnership Education is Matt Perrett. He says, “Sam is a tremendous ambassador for the business and he’s doing an amazing job helping to keep education going in the area. He doesn’t only have to be good at the technical side of the business but he has to win the confidence of the teachers and parents so that they feel like he’s part of the team. He’s having to do an awful lot of thinking on his feet.”

The Apprenticeship Engagement Manager for Digital Industries at Milton Keynes College is Julie-Ann Hammond.  She says, “Sam’s a brilliant apprentice and it’s really wonderful to know that he’s doing something so worthwhile for so many children in the city. By helping to facilitate the use of this technology I think he may be changing the way schools work forever.  Once they discover just how useful it can be there will be no going back.  Things will never be the same again and Sam has to take a lot of credit for that.”

Matt says he’s delighted with the support Partnership Education is getting from the College. He says, “We’ve worked with a number of apprenticeship providers and Milton Keynes College is definitely the most supportive.  We’ve also been very impressed by how his teaching has been tailored to be as relevant as possible to the skills and practices we need.”