The EPC Contextual Learning Tools is a result of the research conducted to address the recommendations of the Perkins Review of Engineering Skills and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Universe of Engineering Report about engineering student’s placements in companies, by the Engineering Education, Employability and Skills (EEES) sub committee – Working Group 1: Placements and Accreditation (led by Professor Mike Sutcliffe).
The Perkins recommendation was based on the recognition that student placements in companies increase graduate employability, improve students’ degree performance, and act as excellent recruitment tools for employers. In particular:
- All universities should supervise and give academic credit for placement activity so that students can see it contributes towards their degree achievement.
- All of the professional engineering institutions should work with universities and industry to offer accreditation for degrees of this type. (With many students studying four year MEng degrees, there is little appetite to extend this to five with a placement year. The Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Chemical Engineers already accredit ‘Integrated MEng’ degrees which include a year in industry).
The Universe of Engineering Report’s recommendation was that “the professional engineering institutions should work with the higher education (and further education) sectors to ensure that industrially experienced engineers are used to provide contextualised learning. In HE this improvement should be driven through the course accreditation process”.
More recently, the Wakeham Review of STEM Degree Provision and Graduate Employability had highlighted that employers and HE providers should work more closely together in order to improve graduate employment outcomes. In particular, they should consider addressing the following areas:
- Improving the opportunities for students to take up work experience and to maintain its quality
- Embedding the development of soft skills into degree courses and improving work readiness
- Better matching degree courses to employer demand for skills
- Improving STEM careers advice and awareness of job opportunities for graduates and students, as well as even earlier in the education pipeline
Two toolkits were developed to address specific issues of students, universities and employers. The final result is part of the close work that the EPC has being doing with the NCUB on its “engineering workwith” hub of information for employers, and follows the outcomes of a survey conducted by the EPC during September/October 2015 on Contextual Learning in UK HE Engineering.