In Focus: Polly Hickling from Solent University

Polly Hickling is a course leader for the Media Technology Programme at Solent University. We caught up with her for our In Focus series, which highlights the work of inspirational women from across the sector.

Hi Polly, great to catch up! Could you tell us more about your role

I am Course Leader for the Media Technology Programme at Solent University. I run several courses covering the techy side of media such as live sound, audio engineering, acoustics, broadcast engineering and television technical operations. 

What does a day in your working life look like?

I now work part time since having my two girls but I still cram a lot into my working week. Day to day I do a mixture of lecturing and staff and resources. My teaching is usually to either small groups specialising in broadcast or larger groups studying more generic subjects such as media files and formats. My course leader admin consists of things like timetabling, reviewing course statistics; my favourite part is course design. 

This is the standard stuff but the best bits are extra curricular, doing events with our students, taking them to festivals and putting on shows with the local theatres using our outside broadcasting truck.  We also have a great relationship with our alumni and because of this I organise a lot of industry visits, placements and work experience opportunities, which can be anything from a year at Dolby to a summer at Wimbledon. 

How did you begin your career and what inspired you to look at jobs within the broadcast technology sector?

I secured an internship at Solent in 2009, where I had just finished studying Media Tech, it turned out I loved teaching and I loved the degree I did, so 10 years later I’m still here and I’m now running the course! With 9 years of my own graduates in industry and 25 years of Media Technology graduates out there, we have an amazing network of alumni that support and mould our course design and delivery, which allows us to have very high graduate employment rates into the industry. 

What are the main challenges facing the sector over the coming year?

Higher education has seen a dip in applications in recent years with many universities  teaching broadcast and audio engineering courses seeing particularly low application numbers. This is partly due to the current demographic but has also been impacted by structural changes within the sector. This has meant a shortfall in the output of graduates against the number of available jobs, particularly when it comes to people that understand both networking and broadcast. New apprenticeship schemes are trying to help with this and hopefully with a bit more public awareness of what our graduates do “behind the scenes” we can get more people onto broadcast and audio engineering courses and fill the skills gap in the industry! 

What are your main challenges over the coming year?

This year we will be celebrating 25 years of the Media Tech programme and launching our updated programme after a curriculum review process. As part of this I will be trying to spread awareness of the job roles available in this sector to local schools and colleges so that those with an interest in maths, physics, electronics and computing as well as TV, Film and Audio might consider a career in broadcast and audio engineering when they start to think about University applications. 

Thanks for sharing, Polly!

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