Theme: Knowledge exchange, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Ben Ricketts (NMITE), Prof Beverley Gibbs (NMITE) and Harriet Dearden (NMITE)

Keywords: Challenge-based Learning, Timber Technology, Levelling-up, Skills, Future of Work

Abstract: NMITE is a greenfield engineering-specialist HEI in Herefordshire which welcomed its first students in September 2021. Partnership is key to our growth, from both necessity and choice. Our MEng Integrated Engineering is infused with partners who facilitate a challenge-based learning pedagogy, and our Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (opening September 2022) works in national partnership to deliver a curriculum developed by ‚Äď and for – the timber engineering industry. Alongside a rich educational offer, NMITE‚Äôs greenfield status brings with it the responsibility to contribute to civic and economic growth. We are a named partner in Western Power Distribution‚Äôs Social Contract as we pursue shared goals for regional development and reduced economic inequality. Key to our goals is our role in in Hereford‚Äôs Town Plan, leading an initiative called The Skills Foundry which will promote community engagement around individual skills, and with businesses in the changing nature of work.

 

NMITE is a greenfield HEI founded to make a difference to the people of Herefordshire and to its economy. Herefordshire is  characterised by lower-than-average wages, lower-than-average skills, higher proportions of part-time work, a GVA gap of £1.75bn[1], and is categorised as a social mobility coldspot [2].  Into this context, NMITE was launched in 2021 without any antecedent or parent organisation, and with an engineering and technology focus whose graduates would help address the national shortfall of engineers.  We see ourselves as educators, educational innovators, a catalyst for upskilling, and agents for regional change.

An HEI founded in partnership

From NMITE’s earliest days, building strong relationships with partners has been a core part of our culture.  NMITE’s first supporters were industry partners, a mixture of local SMEs and national and international companies with a regional presence, united by the need for access to a talent pipeline of engineering graduates. The urgency of this need was evidenced in the raising of over £1M of seed funding, from a range of businesses and individuals. This early investment demonstrated to Government and other stakeholders that the concept of an engineering higher education institution in Hereford had industrial support. In turn, this unlocked significant Government funding which has subsequently been matched through donations and sponsorship to NMITE.

Over the last five years, the portfolio of partners has continued to grow. The nature of the support spans equipment, expertise and financial donations. Our Pioneer Fund raised money to support NMITE’s first students, with donations recognised through naming opportunities. For NMITE, this enabled us to offer universal bursaries to our students joining in our first two years of operation Рa powerful tool in student recruitment, and with a longer-term outcome for those early investors in their ability to develop relationships with students, increase their brand awareness and achieve their own recruitment targets in the future.

Curriculum Partnerships

NMITE welcomed its first MEng students in September 2021, and this has provided new opportunities for industrial partnership in the curriculum. The MEng Integrated Engineering is a challenge-led pedagogy where learners work in teams to address real engineering challenges provided by an industrial (and occasionally community) partner. During the process, learners have direct contact with professionals to understand commercial pressures and engineering value, apply theoretical knowledge and develop professional capabilities.

In the sprint-based MEng, NMITE learners tackle around 20 different challenges in this way. Since September, our first students have helped re-engineer the material on a torque arm, designed and built a moisture sensor for a timber-framed house, visualised data from a geotechnical survey, and validated/optimised their own designs for a free-standing climbing structure. Students are already building their portfolio of work, and employers are building relationships with our student body.

Amplifying Innovation

Whilst NMITE is comfortable in its positioning as a teaching-focused HEI, we are mindful of the contribution we can make to the regional economy. NMITE has benefitted from LEP investment to support regional skills and productivity [3], and we have identified opportunities in advanced timber technology, automated manufacturing and skills for a changing future of work.

The Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) will open in September 2022 on Skylon Park, Hereford‚Äôs Enterprise Zone. Drawing on insight from a series of round table meetings with global and national businesses in timber, we came to understand that the UK timber industry needed to be much better connected, with more ambitious collaboration across the industry both vertically (seed to end product) and horizontally (between architects, engineers and construction managers, for example). In pursuing these aims we once again opted for a partnerships-based approach, forging close relationships with Edinburgh Napier University – internationally recognised for timber construction and wood science – and with TDUK ‚Äď the timber industry‚Äôs central trade body. Founded in this way, CATT is firmly rooted in industrial need, actively engaged with industrial partners across the supply chain, and helps join up activity between Scotland, England and Wales.¬†

CATT’s opening in 2022 will spearhead NMITE’s offer for part-time, work-based learners (including professionals, reskillers and degree apprentices) and provide a progressive curriculum for a sustainable built environment. In keeping with NMITE’s pedagogical principals, the CATT’s curriculum will be infused with a diverse portfolio of industrial partners who will provide challenges and context for the CATT curriculum. In future years, the Centre for Automated Manufacturing will provide educational options for comparable learners in the manufacturing industry.

Our initial research in establishing need in these areas pointed not only to skills shortages, but to technological capacity. Herefordshire has a very high proportion of SME’s who report difficulties in horizon scanning new technologies, accessing demonstrations, attracting and retaining graduates with up-to-date knowledge. In this space, and an HEI can play a key role in amplifying innovation; activities to support this will be integral to NMITE’s work at Skylon Park.

The Changing Nature of Work

NMITE is active in two further projects that support the regional economy and social mobility, founded in the knowledge that today’s school leavers will face very different career paths and job roles to those we have enjoyed. Automation, globalisation and AI are hugely disruptive trends that will change opportunities and demand new skills.

NMITE‚Äôs ‚ÄėHerefordshire Skills for the Future‚Äô project is funded by the European Social Fund and helps SMEs, micro-businesses and young people to develop and secure the skills needed to flourish in the economy of 2030. Activities include:

NMITE’s Future Skills Hub is a central element of the Hereford Stronger Towns bid [4] to the Government’s Towns Fund, a flagship levelling-up vehicle. The overarching goal of the hub is to provide access to skills and improve employment opportunities for Herefordians, in the context of changing job roles and opportunities.

Conclusion

Our core mission of innovation in engineering education is enhanced by our civic commitment to regional growth and individual opportunity. From the outset, NMITE has been clear that to meet business demand for work-ready engineers, business must contribute meaningfully to their development. We aim to contribute to closing the gap in regional, national and global demand for engineers, but without that critical early investment from partners we would not have been in the position to establish the radical institution that NMITE is today, that remains so close to the original vision of the Founders.

 

[1] Herefordshire Council. Understanding Herefordshire: Productivity and Economic Growth, 2022. Available online at Productivity and economic growth – Understanding Herefordshire [accessed 17th January 2022].

[2] [1] Herefordshire Council. Understanding Herefordshire: Topics Related to Social Mobility, 2022. Available online at Topics relating to social mobility – Understanding Herefordshire [accessed 17th January 2022].

[3] Marches Local Economic Partnership. Marches LEP backs NMITE project with £5.66m funding deal. Available online at Marches LEP backs NMITE project with £5.66m funding deal РMarches LEP [accessed 17th January 2022].

[4] Stronger Hereford. #StrongerHereford ‚Äď The independent Towns Fund Board for Hereford

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Gareth Thomson (Aston University, Birmingham), Dr Jakub Sacharkzuk (Aston University, Birmingham) and Paul Gretton (Aston University, Birmingham)

Keywords: Industry, Engineering Education, Authenticity, Collaboration, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment.

Abstract: This paper describes the work done within the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering group at Aston University to develop an Industry Club with the aim to enhance and strategically organise industry involvement in the taught programmes within the department. A subscription based model has been developed to allow the hiring of a part-time associate to manage the relationship with industry, academic and student partners and explore ways to develop provision. This paper describes the approach and some of the activities and outcomes achieved by the initiative.

 

Introduction

Industry is a key stakeholder in the education of engineers and the involvement of commercial engineering in taught programmes is seen as important within degrees but may not always be particularly optimised or strategically implemented.

Nonetheless, awareness of industry trends and professional practice is seen as vital to add currency and authenticity to the learning experience [1,2]. This industry involvement can take various forms including direct involvement with students in the classroom or in a more advisory role such as industrial advisory or steering boards [3] designed to support the teaching team in their development of the curriculum.

Direct input into the curriculum from industry normally involves engagement in dissertations, final year ‚Äėcapstone‚Äô project exercises [4], visits [5], guest lectures [6,7], internships [8,9] or design projects [10,11]. These are very commonly linked to design type modules [12,13] or projects where the applied nature of the subject makes industrial engagement easier and are more commonly centred toward later years when students are perceived to have accrued the underpinning skills and intellectual maturity needed to cope with the challenges posed.

These approaches can however be ad hoc and piecemeal. Industry contacts used to directly support teaching are often tied into specific personal relationships through previous research or consultancy or through roles such as the staff involved also being careers or placement tutors. This means that there is often a lack of strategic thinking or sharing of contacts to give a joined up approach ‚Äď an academic with research in fluid dynamics may not have an easy way to access industrial support or guidance if allocated a manufacturing based module to teach.

This lack of integration often gives rise to fractured and unconnected industrial involvement (Figure 1) with lack of overall visibility of the extent of industrial involvement in a group and lack of clarity on where gaps exist or opportunities present themselves.

 

Figure 1 : Industry involvement in degrees is often not as joined up as might be hoped.

 

As part of professional body accreditation it is also generally expected that Industrial Advisory Boards are set-up and meet regularly to help steer curriculum planning. Day to day pressures however often mean that these do not necessarily operate as effectively as they could and changes or suggestions proposed by these can be slow to implement.

Industry Club

To try to consolidate and develop engagement with industry a number of institutions have developed Industry Clubs [14,15] as a way of structuring and strategically developing industrial engagement in industry.

For companies, such a scheme offers a low risk, low cost involvement with the University, access to students to undertake projects and can also help to raise awareness in the students minds of companies and sectors which may not have the profile of the wider jobs market beyond the big players in the automotive, aerospace or energy sectors. At Aston University industry clubs have been running for several years in Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Computer Science.

The focus in this report is the setting up and development of the industry club in the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering (MBDE) department.

Recruitment of companies was via consolidation of existing contacts from within the MBDE department and engagement with the wider range of potential partners through the University‚Äôs ‚ÄėResearch and Knowledge Exchange‚Äô unit.

The industry focus within the club has been on securing SME partners. This is a sector which has been found to be very responsive. Feedback from these partners has indicated that often getting access to University is seen as ‚Äėnot for them‚Äô but when an easy route in is offered, it becomes a viable proposition. By definition SMEs do not have the visibility of multi-nationals and so they can struggle to attract good graduates so the ability to raise brand awareness is seen as positive. From the perspective of academics, the very flat and localised management structure also makes for a responsive partner able to make decisions relatively quickly. Longer term this opens up options to explore more expansive relationships such as KTPs or other research projects and also sets up a network of different but compatible companies able to share knowledge among themselves.

Within MBDE the industry club initially focussed on placing industrially linked projects for final year dissertation students. This was considered relatively ‚Äėlow hanging fruit‚Äô with a simple proposition for companies, academics and students.

While this proposal is straightforward it is not entirely without difficulty with matching of academics to projects, expectation management and practical logistics of diary mapping between partners all needing attention.

To support this, an Industry Club Associate was recruited to help manage the initiative, funding for this being drawn from industry partner subscriptions and underwritten by the department.

This has allowed the Industry Club to move beyond its initial basis of final year projects to have a much wider remit to oversee much of the involvement of industry in both the teaching programmes directly and in their advising and steering of the curriculum.

Figure 2 shows schematically the role and activities of the industry club within the group.

Impact Beyond Projects

The use of the Industry Club to co-ordinate and bolster other industry activity within the department has gone beyond final year projects. These can be seen in Figure 2.

The Industrial Advisory Board has now become linked to the Industry Club and so with partners now involved in the wider activities of the club involvement is now not exclusively limited to twice yearly meeting but is an active ongoing partnership using the projects, other learning and teaching activity and a LinkedIn group to create a more dynamic and responsive consultation body. A subset of the IAB is now also made up entirely of recent alumni to act as a bridge between the students and practising industry to help spot immediate gaps and opportunities to support students in this important transition.

 

Figure 2 : Industry Club set-up and Activity

 

The club has also developed a range of other industrially linked activities in support of teaching and learning.

While industrial involvement is relatively easy to embed in project or design type modules this is not so easy in traditional underpinning engineering science type activity.

To address the lack of industrial content in traditional engineering science modules a pilot interactive online case studies be developed to help show how fundamental engineering science can be applied in authentic industrial problems. A small team consisting of an academic, the industry club associate and an industrialist was assembled.

This team developed an online pump selection tool which combined interactive masterclasses and activities, introduced and explained by the industrialist to show how the classic classroom theory could be used and adapted in real world scenarios (Figure 3). This has been well-received by students, added authenticity to the curriculum and raised awareness in student minds of the perhaps unfashionable but important and rewarding water services sector.

 

Figure 3 : Online Interactive Activity developed as part of industry club activity

Further interactions developed by the Industry Club, and part of its remit to embed industrial links at all stages of the degree, include the involvement of an Industrial Partner on a major wind turbine design, build and test project engaged in as group exercises by all students in year one. Here the industrialist, a wind energy professional, contextualises work while his role is augmented by a recent alumni member of the Industrial board who is currently working as a graduate engineer on offshore wind and who completed the same module as the students four years or so previously.

Conclusion

While the development of the Industry Club and its associated activity can not be considered a panacea, it has significantly developed the level of industry involvement within programmes. More crucially it moves away from an opaque and piecemeal approach to industry engagement and offers a more transparent framework and structure on which to hang industry involvement to support academics and industry in developing and maximising the competencies of graduates.

References

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Prof Simon Barrans (University of Huddersfield), Harvey Kangley (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd), Greg Jones (University of Huddersfield) and Mark Newton (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd)

Keywords: Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Design and Innovation, Student Projects, Railway Infrastructure

Abstract: A six year collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and Associated Utility Supplies Ltd has resulted in one completed and one ongoing KTP project, two successfully completed First of a Kind projects for the rail industry and the development of a new design department in the company. Benefits to the University include, graduate and placement student employment, industrially relevant final year and masters projects and the application of University research. Continued collaboration will generate a case study for the next REF. In this paper we explore the various mechanisms that have been used to facilitate this work.

 

The opportunity

Network Rail felt that their current supply chain was vulnerable with many parts being single source, some from overseas. They addressed this issue by engaging with SMEs who could develop alternative products. A local company, AUS, believed they could tackle this challenge but needed to develop their design and analysis capability. Their collaboration with the University of Huddersfield enabled this.

Seed funded taster projects

In 2016 AUS approached regional development staff at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, the University‚Äės business and innovation centre, with two immediate needs. These were: an explanation as to why a cast iron ball swivel clamp had failed in service, and a feasibility study to determine if a cast iron cable clamp could be replaced with an aluminium equivalent. Both these small projects were funded using the University‚Äôs Collaborative Venture Fund, an internal funding scheme to deliver short feasibility projects for industry. This incentivises staff to only engage in collaborations where there is a high expectation of significant external future funding, and which are low risk to an industry partner.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Projects

KTPs are managed by Innovate UK and are one of the few Innovate UK grants that are designed to have a university as the lead organisation. They are particularly attractive to SMEs as Innovate UK funds 67% of the project cost. The costs cover: the employment costs for a graduate, known as the Associate, who typically works full time at the company; an academic supervisor who meets with the Associate for half a day a week; and administrative support. The key measure of success of a KTP project is that it leaves the company generating more profit and hence, paying more tax. Increased employment is also desirable.

The first, three-year KTP project, applied for in January 2017 and started in June 2017, aimed to provide the company with a design and analysis capability. A Mechanical Engineering graduate from Huddersfield was recruited as the Associate and the Solidworks package was introduced to the company. A product development procedure was put in place and a number of new products brought to market. The Associate’s outstanding performance was recognised in the KTP Best of the Best Awards 2020 and he has stayed with the company to lead the Product Innovation team.

The second, two-year KTP project started in November 2020 with the aim of expanding the company’s capability to use FRP materials. Whilst the company had some prior product experience in this area, they were not carrying out structural analysis of the products. FRP is seen as an attractive material for OLE structures as it is non-conductive (hence removing the need for insulators) and reduces mass (compared to steel) which reduces the size of foundations needed.

First of a kind (FOAK) projects

The Innovate UK FOAK scheme provides 100% funding to develop products at a high technology readiness level and bring them to market. They are targeted at particular industry areas and funding calls are opened a month to two months before they close. It is important therefore to be prepared to generate a bid before the call is made. FOAKs can and have been led by universities. In the cases here, the company was the lead as they could assemble the supply chain and route to market. The entire grant went to the company with the university engaged as a sub-contractor.

The first FAOK to support development of a new span-wire clamp was initially applied for in 2019 and was unsuccessful but judged to be fundable. A grant writing agency was employed to rewrite the bid and it was successful the following year. Comparing the two bids, re-emphasis of important points between sections of the application form and emphasising where the bid met the call requirements, appeared to be the biggest change.

The span-wire clamp is part of the head-span shown in figure 1. The proposal was to replace the existing cast iron, 30 component assembly with an aluminium bronze, 14 component equivalent, as shown in figure 2. The FOAK project was successful with the new clamp now approved for deployment by Network Rail.

The University contributed to the project by testing the load capacity of the clamps, assessing geometric tolerances in the cast parts and determining the impact that the new clamp would have on the pantograph-contact wire interface. This latter analysis used previous research work carried out by the University and will be an example to include in a future REF case study.

The second FOAK applied for in 2020 was for the development of a railway footbridge fabricated from pultruded FRP sections. This bid was developed jointly by the University and the company, alongside the resubmission of the span-wire FOAK bid. This bid was successful and the two projects were run in parallel. The footbridge was demonstrated at RailLive 2021.

Additional benefits to University of Huddersfield

In addition to the funding attracted, the collaboration has provided material for two MSc module assignments, six MSc individual projects and 12 undergraduate projects. The country of origin of students undertaking these projects include India, Sudan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria and Qatar. A number of these students intend to stay in the UK and their projects should put them in a good position to seek employment in the rail industry. A number of journal and conference papers based on the work are currently being prepared.

 

Figure 1. Head-span showing span-wires and span-wire clamp.

 

Figure 2. Old (left) and new (right) span-wire clamps.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Knowledge exchange, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Research, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Alex Prince (Sheffield Hallam University) and Prof Wayne Cranton (Sheffield Hallam University)

Keywords: Innovation, SMEs

Abstract: The Sheffield innovation Programme led by Sheffield Hallam with the Growth Hub and the University of Sheffield, delivers bespoke R&D, consultancy and workshops, driving innovation in regional SMEs. In total, since 2016, our experts from across the University have supported over 400 projects with regional businesses, enabling them to grow, diversify and meet changing customer needs. Many projects lead to further collaborations such as KTPs and create new products, processes and market opportunities.

 

Background

The Sheffield Innovation Programme (SIP) was set up in 2016 to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the South Yorkshire region to access academic expertise, facilities and resources at Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, to stimulate innovation and growth and to increase business competitiveness. The focus of this paper is on activities delivered by Sheffield Hallam University.

Sheffield Hallam University leads the programme, and with the £3.1m second phase of the programme also introducing two Innovation Advisors working for the Growth Hub. The programme is jointly funded by; the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the universities, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), providing support at zero-cost to businesses. It runs until June 2023.

Activities

The programme has now reached a milestone of 400 projects with regional SMEs, enabling them to grow, diversify and meet changing customer needs. To date over 150 academics have worked with companies. Of these 76 staff who are based in Sheffield Hallam’s engineering research centres have worked with 85 companies. 

SIP supports time for academics to undertake work with clients. It uses funding to enable delivery of R&D consultancy services to the businesses, helping to establish new products or services, resolve problems or advise on appropriate routes forwards.

Outputs

The main output is ‚Äėbusiness assist‚Äô interventions- a minimum of 12 hours of engagement.¬† These are delivered through bespoke R&D-based consultancy and workshops. The average intervention is approx. 7 days, recognising the potential time required to work with a client meaningfully.

Sheffield Hallam has implemented a light-touch internal approval process for clients where support may take more than 10 days of time. Such investment needs to demonstrate significant added value- for the client in terms of market opportunity or jobs created, or potentially for us also in terms of joint funding proposal development.

SIP has now resulted in 8 successful KTP applications for Sheffield Hallam with more in the pipeline, plus other Innovate UK and commercial consultancy activities, plus considerable reputational benefit regionally.

SIP, Innovation and Engineering expertise

SIP has developed a proven model for collaborating with SMEs, buying out the time of engineers and other academic experts so they can work with companies.

The core areas of academic support are the expertise within the Materials Engineering Research Institute (MERI), the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE), and the Sport Engineering Research Group (SERG) and Design Futures (Product and Packaging).

In a region with a very low level of innovation and investment in R&D, the project provides an important entry point to the University’s expertise and a platform for longer term projects and creates opportunities for early career researchers, graduate interns and KTP associates.  Project delivery connects our engineering expertise with specialisms across the University resulting in collaborations with designers, biosciences and materials, and supports targeted engagement with sectors for example glass and ceramics and the food industry.

Examples: 

  1. Thermotex Engineering a family-run business which operates in the field of thermodynamics and specialises in manufacturing thermal insulation. The company required physical evidence of how a fabric performed in order to make a bid for a major project based in Arctic Russia. We undertook accelerated weathering testing on the durability of a fabric material when it was exposed to cycles of freezing and thawing, UVB radiation and high temperature / relative humidity. ‚ÄėThis solution provided us with indicative product testing for unusual characteristics, access to laboratory equipment, and performance of specific tests,‚Äô said Paige Niehues, the Commercial and Technical Executive at Thermotex Engineering. https://www.shu.ac.uk/research/specialisms/materials-and-engineering-research-institute/what-we-do/case-studies/accelerated-weathering-testing
  2. Sheffield-based SME Safety Fabrications Ltd manufactures fall protection and building access solutions. This includes roof top anchoring systems that allow roped access (e.g., abseiling) at height.¬† The company wanted to develop a new davit arm and socket system that could be used on tall structures to improve rope access for building maintenance. Their unique product idea avoided permanent obstruction on roof tops and allowed for easy installation and removal.¬† MERI worked with Safety Fabrications Ltd to design different davit arm configurations which would satisfy the complex needs of the BS specification. ‚ÄúWorking with engineering specialists within the university allowed us to theoretically explore a range of options prior to manufacture & physical testing.‚ÄĚ John Boyle, Managing Director at Safety Fabrications Limited https://sip.ac.uk/portfolio/safetyfabrications/
  3. Equitrek provides an excellent example of cross disciplinary working and progression of relationships with a company. In summary our design expertise enabled the company to manufacture new horse boxes targeting entry into the American market and has led to longer term KTPs.  The KTP has enabled Equi-Trek to enhance all aspects of their new product development processes, including ergonomics, spatial design, technical analysis and manufacturing.   https://www.shu.ac.uk/news/all-articles/latest-news/hallam-knowledge-transfer-partnership-local-firm-outstanding
  4. Sheffield Hallam’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering helping local business Dext Heat Recovery, who worked with restaurant chains including Nando’s and Frankie and Benny’s, to develop a heat exchanger to work in industrial kitchens Рreducing energy costs and environmental impact. https://www.shu.ac.uk/national-centre-of-excellence-for-food-engineering/our-impact/all-projects/dext-heat-recovery
  5. Guildhawk employs thousands of translators across the world for hundreds of clients . A project with SIP led to a KTP. At the SHU Innovation Conference 2021. Jurga Zilinskiene MBE, the CEO, told delegates in her keynote address that the KTP helped create an extraordinary SaaS platform that for the first time will help businesses of all sizes to manage people in a fast, easy and secure way.  The partnership resulted in the launch of new software products, Guildhawk Aided, Text Perfect and Guildhawk Voice avatars. https://www.fenews.co.uk/education/clean-data-for-ai-at-the-heart-of-industry-4-0-technology-revolution-says-guildhawk-ceo-coder/

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Author: Dr Mike Murray (Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow)

Keywords: Mentors, Mentees, Civil Engineering

Abstract: On enrolment at university, undergraduate civil engineering students begin their journey towards a professional career. Graduate mentoring of student mentees supports students in their transition towards ‚Äėbecoming‚Äô a professional engineer. This case study examines the results from a graduate mentoring initiative (2010-2022) involving third-year (N= 974) civil and environmental engineering student mentees, 235 graduate mentors and 73 employers.

 

A Virtuous collaboration between academia and industry

This case study examines the establishment of an industry-student mentoring scheme whereby Alumni civil engineering graduates volunteer to mentor student mentees. The mentoring is formalised in a third-year module (Construction Project Management).

Authentic Learning

The mentoring initiative aims to expose the mentees to authentic civil engineering practice, to shape their professional identity and belongingness to their chosen discipline, and, to enhance their employability skills. Mentors are tasked ‚Äėto help motivate students towards learning what is useful and what might make them a better engineer rather than just focusing on grades‚Äô [1].Two theoretical concepts provided a lens to guide the implementation. ‚ÄėPossible selves are representations of the self in the future, including those that are ideal and hoped for as well as those that one does not wish for‚Äô [2 p.233]. Anticipatory socialisation involves individuals anticipating their future occupation prior to entry and constitutes all learning that takes place prior to an individual‚Äôs first day at work [3].

People, Place & Culture

The collaboration between the department and employers began in 2010 when the author approached the department’s existing industry contacts, to become the inaugural mentors. Today, LinkedIn and other social media provide a platform for broadcasting mentoring news. Over time the mentoring has built its own brand momentum and Alumni and employers now make unsolicited offers to assist (i.e. see [4] for university and industry-driven engagement strategies). The brand is enhanced through its association with key sector employers but given the propensity for small and micro SMEs in the engineering sector, these employers should not be overlooked.

Whilst the mentoring is embedded within the mechanics of a formal structure (i.e. Module, Learning Outcomes, and Assessment etc.) the development, sustaining and leadership of the initiate is fuelled through informal professional relationships. Social relations are important to maintain ongoing engagement between universities and industry stakeholders [4 p.14]. The collaborative culture is characterised by value alignment and trust between the stakeholders [5].

 

Mentoring with a contractor.

Stakeholders

The mentoring initiative can be considered an ‚Äėemployer group‚Äô model whereby ‚Äėengagement included collaboration between a single HEI (University of Strathclyde) and two or more employers on the same initiative‚Äô [5 p.23]. The initial buy-in from the mentors normally requires sanctioning by a line manager, often, a supervising civil engineer.

The value alignment between all stakeholders is personified through knowledge transfer (mentor-mentee); professional development (mentor-employer); creating social value (employer-university) and, the university department through fulfilling the programme accreditation requirements:

JBM strongly recommends that higher education institutions (HEIs) maintain strong, viable and visible links with the civil engineering profession [6 p.21].

By association, the professional institutions benefit through the mentors’ contribution to their own CPD, en-route to IEng / CEng, and, through the mentees gaining an awareness of profession attributes through their own IPD during their university studies:

All members shall develop their professional knowledge, skills and competence on a continuing basis and shall give all reasonable assistance to further the education, training and continuing professional development (CPD) of others [7].

A fuller description of the mentoring process can be found [8]. Suffice to say the mentees (in groups of four) visit their mentors in the field, at a consultant’s office, and/or to a live construction site on four occasions over two academic semesters. Typically, the mentors will also provide mentees with access to their peers who would shed light on their own graduate trajectories. The department’s industrial advisory board [9] published guidance to assist the mentors. During the Covid pandemic, the majority of meetings were undertaken on ZOOM /TEAMS platforms. To date, the initiative has involved:

Assessment Evolution

Over the piece, the mentoring assessment has constituted a circa 40% weighting for the 10 credit module. Initially, the students were tasked with only describing what had been learned and to link this to professional institution attributes [10]. This morphed into an Assessment for Learning [11] and sought to develop the student’s reflective practitioner [12] and metacognition skills [13]. Students develop four SMART learning objectives, linked to their programme curriculum, and, to explore these topics with guidance from their mentors. Today, the assessment criteria partially reflects the tenets of self-determined learning:

The essence of heutagogy is that in some learning situations, the focus should be on what and how the learner wants to learn, not on what is being taught [14 p.7].

During the 2020-22 academic sessions the Covid pandemic presented an opportunity to employ eLearning technology, to enhance the student’s reflection skills. The author is currently piloting Vlogging [15] whereby the students are tasked with completing short video blogs concerning their mentoring experience, and, to use the audio transcript to facilitate second-order reflection in a summative report:

..any technique that requires a learner to look through previous reflective work and to write a deeper reflective overview [16 p.148].

 

Mentoring with a Consultant

Key Outcomes

The key outcomes concern enhanced opportunities for placement and graduate employment, and, an improvement in the students’ employability skills [8]. Recent anecdotal feedback (i.e. unsolicited student emails; NSS Free text; Module Evaluation; Employer Feedback) demonstrates that students, and employers, consider the initiative to constitute an emerging talent pipeline. The mentoring provides a surrogate mechanism to short circuit employer’s traditional recruitment process.

The CE4R [17] workshops are the best thing ever. That along with the mentoring class in third year is the main reason I have my graduate job, whilst my grades and ability helped, these aspects of my course opened the door for me. (NSS Free Text, 2021)

The graduate mentoring programme is excellent and is highly beneficial to both the students, our graduates in the business and AECOM as a whole.  (Lynn Masterson AECOM, Regional Director North, Scotland & Ireland. Ground, Energy & Transactions Solutions, UK&I)

The [mentoring] scheme works for us on a number of levels in providing benefits to us as a company, the professional development of our current graduate engineers, and the development of current Strathclyde undergraduates who may go on to work for us or others in industry. (Simon McCormick, Balfour Beatty, Contracts Director, Scotland)

Lessons Learned

Guidance & Resources

Generic Guidance:

Bolden R.,   Connor, H., Duquemin, A.,   Hirsh, W., & Petrov, G. (2009). Employer Engagement with Higher Education: Defining, Sustaining and Supporting Higher Skills Provision, A Higher Skills Research Report for HERDA South West and HEFCE.

Broadbent, O & McCann, E. (2026) Effective industrial engagement in engineering education‚Äď A good practice guide, Royal Academy of Engineering.

Davies, J.W &  Rutherford, U. (2012) Learning from fellow engineering students who have current professional experience, European Journal of Engineering Education, 37:4, 354-365, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2012.693907

Valentine, A., Marinelli, M., &  Male, S (2021): Successfully facilitating initiation of industry engagement in activities which involve students in engineering education, through social capital, European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2021.2010033

Waterhouse, P (2020) Mentoring for Civil Engineers, London: ICE Publishing

University Guidance:

University of Colorado Boulder (2022) Chemical & Biological Engineering: Alumni-Student Mentor Program, https://www.colorado.edu/chbe/ASMP

University of Exeter (2022) Career Mentor Scheme: Mentee Guide, http://www.exeter.ac.uk/media/universityofexeter/careersandemployability/employmentservices/Mentee_Guide_December_2021.pdf

University of Southampton (2022) Career Mentoring Programme: Mentor Handbook, https://www.southampton.ac.uk/~assets/doc/careers/Mentor_Handbook.pdf

The Pennsylvania State University (2022) Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) Mentoring Program, https://www.cee.psu.edu/alumni/mentor/index.aspx

End notes

[1] Broadbent, O & McCann, E. (2026) Effective industrial engagement in engineering education‚Äď A good practice guide, Royal Academy of Engineering. https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/effective-industrial-engagement-in-engineering-edu

[2] Stevenson, J & Clegg, S. (2011). Possible selves: students orientating themselves towards the future through extracurricular activity, British Educational Research Journal 37(2): 231‚Äď246.

[3] Sang, K., Ison, S., Dainty, A., & Powell, A. (2009). Anticipatory socialisation amongst architects: a qualitative examination. Education + Training 51(4):309-321, DOI: 10.1108/00400910910964584 .

[4] Valentine, A., Marinelli, M., &  Male, S (2021): Successfully facilitating initiation of industry engagement in activities which involve students in engineering education, through social capital, European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2021.2010033

[5] Bolden R.,   Connor, H., Duquemin, A.,   Hirsh, W., & Petrov, G. (2009). Employer Engagement with Higher Education: Defining, Sustaining and Supporting Higher Skills Provision, A Higher Skills Research Report for HERDA South West and HEFCE, https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10036/79653/Higher%20Skills%20research%20report.pdf;jsessionid=0A6694CF9D25BBD80AC649069C2D9DFA?sequence=1

[6] Joint Board of Moderators (2021) Guidelines for developing degree programmes. https://www.jbm.org.uk/media/hiwfac4x/guidelines-for-developing-degree-programmes_ahep3.pdf

[7] Institution of Civil Engineers (2022) Code of Professional Conduct https://www.ice.org.uk/ICEDevelopmentWebPortal/media/Documents/About%20Us/ice-code-of-professional-conduct.pdf

[8] Murray. M., Ross. A., Blaney, N & Adamson, L. (2015). Mentoring Undergraduate Civil Engineering Students. Proceedings of the ICE-Management, Procurement & Law, 168(4): 189‚Äď198.

[9] University of Strathclyde (2013) Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Industrial Advisory Board Guide to mentoring.

[10] Institution of Civil Engineers (2022) Attributes for professionally qualified membership, https://www.ice.org.uk/my-ice/membership-documents/member-attributes#CEng2022

[11] Sambell, K, McDowell, L and Montgomery C (2013) Assessment for learning in Higher Education, Oxon: Routledge.

[12] Schon, D. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner, San Francisco; Jossey-Bass.

[13] Davis, D., Trevisan, M., Leiffer,P., McCormack,J.,  Beyerlein, S., Khan, M.J., & Brackin, R.(2013) Reflection and Metacognition in Engineering Practice, In, Kaplan, M., Silver, N., Lavaque-Manty, D & Meizlish, D (edits) Using Reflection and metacognition to Improve Student Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, pp78-103.

[14] Hase, S & Kenyon, C. (2013). Self-Determined Learning: Heutagogy in Action London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

[15] Brott, P.E. (2020): Vlogging and reflexive applications, Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, DOI: 10.1080/02680513.2020.1869536

[16] Moon, J (2004) A Handbook of Reflective & Experiential learning: Theory & Practice. London: Routledge.

[17] Murray, M., Hendry, G., & McQuade, R. (2020). Civil Engineering 4 Real (CE4R): Co-curricular Learning for Undergraduates. European Journal of Engineering Education. 45(1):128-150.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Universities’ and business’ shared role in regional development; Knowledge exchange.

Authors: Prof Tony Dodd (Staffordshire University); Marek Hornak (Staffordshire University) and Rachel Wood (Staffordshire University).

Keywords: Regional Development Funding, Innovation Enterprise Zone

Abstract: The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire region registers low in measures of economic prosperity, research and development expenditure, productivity, and higher skills. Staffordshire University has received funding to support regional growth in materials, manufacturing, digital and intelligent mobility and to develop higher skills. Packaged together into the Innovation Enterprise Zone these projects have made positive impacts in the region. This presentation will provide an overview of our approach to regional support and highlight impact and lessons learnt for companies, academics, and students.

 

Background

The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire economy underperforms compared to the wider West Midlands and England [1].

Industry is dominated by SMEs with strengths in manufacturing, advanced materials, automotive, logistics and warehousing, agriculture, and digital industries [1].

Aims and Objectives

The aim was to develop an ecosystem for driving innovation, economic growth, job creation and higher skills in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

The objectives were to:

Enterprise Zone and Projects

Funding was successfully awarded from ERDF, Research England, and Staffordshire County Council.  The themes of the projects were developed in collaboration with regional partners to identify key strengths and potential for growth.  Each of the projects is match funded by Staffordshire University including through academic time.

Innovation

Skills development through the Enterprise Academy

The projects are part of the wider Staffordshire University Innovation Enterprise Zone (launched November 2020, Research England) to support research collaboration, knowledge exchange, innovation, and skills development.  This includes space for business incubation and low-cost shared office space in The Hatchery for new start-ups.  We also provide a Creative Lab (funded by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP) for hosting business-academic meetings and access to the SmartZone equipment for rapid prototyping.

Spotlight on Innovation Projects

To highlight the differences between approaches we highlight two innovation projects.

Staffordshire Advanced Manufacturing, Prototyping, and Innovation Demonstrator (SAMPID) Staffordshire Connected & Intelligent Mobility Innovation Accelerator (SCIMIA)
Advanced manufacturing and product development Connected and intelligent mobility
ERDF funded ERDF funded
SMEs in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire SMEs in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire
12-weeks of funded support Up to 12-months of support
Innovation consultants (students/graduates) Innovation consultants (students/graduates)
Academic supervision, knowledge exchange and business support Academic supervision, knowledge exchange and business support
Dedicated technician support (0.5FTE) Dedicated technician support (0.5FTE)
3x funded PhD students to support projects and develop advanced innovation 2x Innovation and Enterprise Fellows to support technical business engagement
Funded advanced manufacturing equipment (including 3D metal printing, robot arms) and access to equipment in SmartZone Access to equipment in SmartZone
   

 

Case study videos:

Lessons Learnt

Business engagement

Project length

Student roles and recruitment

Supporting roles

Academic involvement

Possible future developments

References

[1] Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (2019).¬† Local Industrial Strategy ‚Äď Evidence Base September 2019.¬† Available from Development of a Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Industrial Strategy (SSIS) (stokestaffslep.org.uk)

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

 

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