Alana Horden, SET Operations Manager, and Naomi Dixon, Memberships Coordinator, speak to SET's Online Editor, Julia Faulks, to explain more about the Practitioner Advisory Group (PAG). Please note, the window to apply to be a member of the PAG is now closed.
Find out what a typical PAG meeting is like and what commitments you are expected to fulfil as part of the role.
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Julia Faulks: Today I’ve got SET Operations Manager Alana Horden and Memberships Coordinator, Naomi Dixon, here to talk to me about the Practitioner Advisory Group (PAG).
Can you start by telling me what the PAG is?
Alana Horden: The PAG is a group of around 40 of our SET members who represent the membership body at large. They come from different areas of the sector and different industries within Further Education (FE) and they help us steer SET’s direction, they help us understand our strategy better and our priorities and work really closely with us to give us a sense of what the broader membership and the sector want from SET. They are an absolutely invaluable group and they really help us to ensure we are moving in the right direction.
Do you need to be a SET member for a certain amount of time? Are there any restrictions to applying?
Naomi: No – anyone who is a SET member can apply to join, and a term is three years. Because there are people from all across the sector and we really want to get a broad impression of what people in the sector need, we have a really diverse set of members at the moment, so there are people from schools, colleges, independent training providers, and there are educational consultants, as well as people from the ministry of defence and offender learning.
What commitments do you need to fulfil to become a member of the PAG?
Alana: The PAG runs a meeting three times a year in London, so you need to be available for that and we will send out info and reports in advance of those meetings. You can also apply to be on various steering groups, so there is a lot more interaction with us in that way.
What are the benefits to SET members when it comes to becoming a PAG member?
Naomi: I think there are a lot of benefits because for those people who are really engaged with what we do, for those people who enjoy reflecting on the Professional Standards and are committed to their professional development, or because they want to connect with other people from the sector. If they are really in tune with what they do and they want to feed back into our strategy and our board and really steer us, it’s a great opportunity to do that. We’ve had multiple PAG members who have told us that it’s one of the best forms of CPD that they do, even though it’s not meant to be for that.
I think because the sector is quite segregated and some people can feel isolated, especially if they are the only trainer or teacher in their organisation, it’s a way for them to meet a whole range of people across the sector and feel connected as part of this wider area of FE and be able to get involved in a range of exciting things that we haven’t seen before in the sector. Recently we have had the first SET Conference, which is the conference for the FE sector, and they’ve had a huge say in the speakers we’ve had, the streams that we choose, where that event is held, and lots of us joined us there on the day as well. They’ve helped us design a mentoring service for people who want support in their professional development, and they’ve also had a huge impact with feeding back on our Local Network Groups (we now have over 10 of those across the country and we have lots of practitioners coming together to support each other’s development, primarily because of the feedback that we have got from the PAG).
Alana: There is also the option for the PAG members to contribute a lot of content – we look at these guys as voices of the sector and the industry as well, so there is a lot of opportunity for members of the PAG to contribute blogs, podcasts, webinars, so it’s a really good visibility vehicle as well.
Can you talk me through a typical PAG meeting – or is there not really a typical one?
Alana: There is 'sort of' a vague format! It starts usually with updates from the SET team – so looking at where we are against our strategy and operational plan in terms of what we are trying to achieve within that quarter or that year. Then a lot of involves workshops with us, so we often get experts in from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), whether it’s someone from digital technology or technical education, to hold a workshop on those smaller sectors. A lot of it is about us working with them to understand their feedback on what we are doing to help shape what our routes forward will look like. It is very interactive, it’s a lot of fun, the food is really good! It’s a really engaging, active day, and is genuinely a pleasure to be at.
If someone is interested in applying, what is the application process like?
Naomi: It’s a very simple process – if they go onto the website and visit the governance pages there is a simple online form they fill out with their name and membership number, along with their experience in the sector and what they think they can bring to the PAG. Those answers can be fairly concise – we just want to hear that you are enthusiastic and you want to feedback and where in the sector you come from.
Alana: We are still accepting applicants for the PAG – until the 11 April 2019 (please note this window has now passed) – so it would be great to see some fresh faces on their to help us move SET in the right direction, so join up!