Ken's association with Thanet College (now East Kent College) started in 1995 with the idea to run a course for young engineers locally in the area. In discussion with other employers, Ken identified that many new employees lacked a basic work ethic - getting in to work on time, general timekeeping, producing to a target, general reliability being some of the areas of concern.
Ken met with College managers and other employers committed to the idea and a programme known as Thanet Engineering Training Initiative (TETI) was born. Trainees on the programme were paid a weekly training allowance, slightly better than unemployment benefit and enjoyed some additional activities outside the curriculum as rewards for progress through the course.
In return for these benefits the trainees committed to gaining a NVQ Level 2 in Engineering, in just 20 weeks, as well as attending different companies each week for work experience. The trainees clocked in and out as if at work, and were disciplined for poor performance or timekeeping. The work experience also offered the employers the chance to see the trainees and judge their ability to fit their organization, as the employers were committed to offering successful trainees an interview and a possible job at the end of the programme.
In a time of increasing political correctness, TETI remained as one of the few college courses that could be failed. Because of the high standards required there was a high attrition rate on courses, which was against the norm at a time when colleges were being judged on their retention and achievement. The attrition rate was far made up for by the extremely high success rate, not only in the NVQ but also the success at getting the trainees into employment.
During the 5 years that TETI ran in this way over 90% of trainees achieved the coveted TETI certificate and went on into employment with local engineering companies. The TETI certificate was a symbol of excellence for the trainees and possession of one was accompanied with the unqualified endorsement by both the College staff and the businessmen involved with the steering group. As funding for the programme dwindled it was finally absorbed into mainstream College Engineering provision, but, many of the standards remain and localemployers still ask for learners from the TETI programme when seeking to recruit
Throughout this programme, Ken maintained a close involvement. His business commitments meant that he could not head the committee of employers but he rarely missed a meeting and gave freely of his and his company's time and resources to guide the training and encourage the trainees.
The programme proved visionary. College managers at the time always said that if the programme had been run in any other part of the country, with a large industrial base, it would have been overwhelmed. Managers from the programme were invited to many different colleges throughout England to explain the scheme, and on more than one occasion delivered workshops at national conferences on Engineering in Colleges. After many years the Learning Skills Council have introduced a national scheme called Programme Led Apprenticeships which has many of the aspects of the TETI programme at its heart. Kens vision for engineering training had a profound impact on the local community
Ken Wills has remained in close association with the College, despite his many business commitments abroad. In recognition of this he was invited to become an Industry Professor for Business, Construction and Engineering in 2007. This is a double-edged accolade, as not only does it recognize recipients as being eminent in their field, but also expects them to help to guide the College through the provision of appropriate training suitable for local needs, to talk to groups of trainees and encourage them into their chosen profession and to meet with staff to discuss continual professional development.
It is not surprising that Ken Wills is the only Industry Professor that is considered suitably eminent in three separate fields, where normally representation is in one.
For more information about Ken, click here or call me on +44 1843 822 444.