Building a successful international skills partnership

The Isle of Wight College and KSD TVET College in Mthatha, South Africa, embarked on our international skills partnership back in August 2016 after being awarded a Skills for Employability Preparatory Grant Award. Just over a year in, we’re already seeing amazing impact, such as the introduction of new programmes of study, students who are more globally aware and stronger community relationships.


To ease ourselves into the partnership and get used to each other’s ways of working, we set up an introductory project for business students from both colleges.

Students at the Isle of Wight College working towards their Level 3 Diploma in Business completed an assessed marketing assignment that involved developing a product and creating a market research questionnaire. Business students in Mthatha also designed a market research questionnaire for their British peers, promoting local craft products. The students then met via skype to exchange their ideas.

This introduction to international collaboration was the perfect way to begin implementing our international strategy to make our students more aware of the wider world. Business students from both colleges had the opportunity to learn about new cultures and were introduced to new potential markets. They also got the opportunity to meet and collaborate with their peers virtually.


Since visiting the Isle of Wight College, where they met students and apprentices, and learnt about work-based learning in the UK, our partners from KSD TVET College are working towards introducing new programmes of study to align their curriculum more closely with what they experienced in the UK. A one-day digital marketing course has been introduced for students. The college is also in the process of converting their library into a learning resource centre, using a model similar to what we have in the Isle of Wight.


Outside of the college environment, both partners are strengthening community relationships by disseminating our activities and successes.

KSD TVET College is informing communities in South Africa about the work of the partnership through visits, meetings and a virtual project platform. They are engaging with a range of organisations, including schools, churches, businesses (as part of work-integrated learning and work-based exposure programmes), district and local municipalities and traditional leaders.

At the Isle of Wight College, we’ve shared elements of our partnership with the Association of Colleges (AOC) and Ofsted through displays around our college. These displays are also helping us share our work with the wider community during open evenings. We’ve also created a dedicated flyer to promote our partnership activities to the local business community at events organised by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.


We see our international partnership as a key way of preparing students for life and work in the wider world, whether that be international trade, careers involving contact with different cultures, or just a greater understanding of living in a globalised world. Both partners are planning to build on this relationship in the future by expanding the curriculum areas involved and investigating more opportunities for sharing good practice.

Top tips for a successful international partnership:

  • ensure all partners are fully committed to making the partnership work and have allocated enough time and resource to implement planned activities and achieve the desired impact
  • be flexible – objectives can change and unexpected outcomes can be achieved as partners become more familiar with each other and the working dynamic changes over time
  • start small – don’t be too ambitious in the early stages of the partnership
  • seek full support from senior leadership and try to ensure continuity of personnel to maintain a strong level of trust amongst partners.