Met Office College

Met Office College

4 November 2013

Developing skills in forecasting, science and technology has been part of our mission from the beginning and the Met Office College has provided meteorological tuition for more than 70 years. Today's students are as likely to be distance learning from an offshore oil rig as sitting in a classroom.

The Met Office College is widely regarded as a world leader in meteorological training. This is, in part, thanks to the calibre of its trainers and other staff - but also because it is highly responsive to the needs of the customers it serves.

A new course for air traffic control personnel is a case in point. The Met Office College already offers a well-established two-week classroom course for this sector but after consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority - it has now launched a new course, a one-week alternative, specifically for personnel using semi-automated weather reporting equipment, which meets another type of users' needs.

The College has also developed new courses for the utilities and energy markets. For example, there is a growing demand for training from professionals in the renewable energy sector who want to better understand and interpret meteorological information so they can optimise operations and site safety.

Who learns with the Met Office College?

Met Office staff

Every forecaster starts their career at the Met Office by taking an initial forecasting course. Running twice a year, the course is consistently at full capacity to meet demand. The College also offers a full programme of Continuing Professional Development courses for forecasting staff.

Air Traffic Services

The Met Office is contracted by the Civil Aviation Authority to train all airfield observers. The training enables them to make weather reports that ensure the safety of aircraft.

Commercial customers

Traditionally the College has served road, rail and aviation customers, training staff in basic weather to help them better understand and interpret the forecast information they receive. This also helps them have greater confidence in their weather related decision-making. The College is now also delivering courses for the utilities sectors, specifically energy and water companies.

Government staff

The Met Office works with the UK's Ministry of Defence to train members of the Army and the RAF. The College also offers a variety of courses to a wide range of other government departments, such as the Environment Agency, helping staff understand meteorology, climate and key Met Office products.

Masters students at the University of Reading

Two years ago, the College launched a two-week module for the University of Reading's Masters in Meteorology. Students learn about forecasting and get an idea of what working at the Met Office might involve.

Meteorological services in other countries

Students come from across the globe to study with the Met Office College. Some of the courses are aimed exclusively at overseas customers, such as the new Foundation Meteorological Technician Course for weather observers. The new Severe Weather Event - Effective Planning modular course has been developed for staff in meteorological services as well as key responders and decision makers. The course aims to build on national resilience, response and communication before, during and after severe weather.

Going online

Traditionally, the Met Office College has offered exclusively classroom-based courses - but that's beginning to change. In September last year the College launched an e-learning site - Met Office College Online - opening up a whole new dimension of learning.

"This 'blended learning' offers the best of both worlds: posting resources online can free-up some classroom time that can be better used interacting with the trainer."

With e-learning comes the ability to reach many more people, including international students. The College's online courses also enable industry users to learn at their own pace from their own home or workplace which can complement or provide an alternative to classroom learning. For example, the College has recently launched an e-learning course specifically for a niche segment of the road industry.

Teaching and reaching more people

As part of our commitment to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Voluntary Cooperation Programme (VCP), the Met Office, through UK VCP, recently ran a 20-week online management course called Essentials of Management.

This course features reading materials and exercises on a different topic each week and the students, from meteorological services in developing countries, take part in discussion forums and submit assignments for feedback.

Twenty students recently graduated from the latest course, and the feedback has been highly positive. Running courses like this online enables participants to benefit from the course while also being able to continue with many of their regular duties.

The College is also developing distance learning courses for Met Office staff based at outstations around the UK and overseas - such as the Falkland and Ascension Islands. The beauty of these courses is that they enable all staff, whether they are at outstations or not, to undertake self-paced learning when it suits.

Getting the right blend

Met Office College - teaching The College sees the e-learning platform as a way to enhance its classroom courses. As Aileen Semple, Head of the Met Office College, explains, "This 'blended learning' offers the best of both worlds: posting resources online can free-up some classroom time that can be better used interacting with the trainer."

It can also be used to deliver follow-ups to classroom-based courses. For example, the College provides an initial classroom course for the offshore oil and gas market, but participants are now required to take a refresher e-learning course every two years to maintain their certificate.

The Met Office College is actively investing in the future, and has recently recruited an e-learning specialist to develop this side of the business. As Aileen explains, "As well as developing further courses, plans include introducing web conferencing, which would enable real-time online discussions, study groups and webinars."

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