Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Goudarz Poursharif (Aston University), Dr Panos Doss (Aston University) and Bill Glew (Aston University)

Keywords: WBL, Degree Apprenticeship, Engineering

Abstract: This case study presents our approach in the design, delivery, and assessment of three UG WBL Engineering Degree Apprenticeship programmes launched in January 2020 at Aston University’s Professional Engineering Centre (APEC) in direct collaboration with major industrial partners. The case study also outlines the measures put in place to bring about added value for the employers and the apprentices as well as the academics at Aston University through tripartite collaboration opportunities built into the teaching and learning methods adopted by the programme team.

This case study is presented as a video which you can view below: 

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, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Research

Author: Prof Sa’ad Sam Medhat (IKE Institute)

Keywords: Innovation Benchmarking, Innovation Portfolios, Innovation-driven Leadership, ISO 56002, Industrial Collaboration, Growth

Abstract: The Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange works closely with business and industry as well as with universities (e.g. City of Birmingham, Plymouth, Westminster). The case study will feature the application of the Investor in Innovations Standard (Aligned to the ISO 56002 Innovation Management System) within the Research, Innovation, Enterprise and Employability (RIEE) Directorate of Birmingham City University (BCU). The Case Study will look at six key areas: 1. Strategy and Alignment; 2. Organisational Readiness; 3. Core Capabilities and Technologies; 4. Industry Foresight; 5. Customer Awareness; and 6. Impact and Value.

 

Introduction

This case study draws upon the work and outcomes of the Investor in Innovations (I3) ISO56002 Standard programme Birmingham City University’s (BCU) Research, Innovation, Enterprise and Employability (RIEE) department undertook with IKE Institute to benchmark their existing innovation capabilities, identify gaps and provide an action plan for future improvement in innovation and knowledge exchange (KE).

The validation and benchmarking work conducted with BCU RIEE used a six category standard framework (see fig. 1): strategy and alignment, organisational readiness, core capabilities, technologies and IP, industry foresight, customer awareness and impact and value.

 

Fig. 1 Investor in Innovations ISO56002 Standard Framework

 

Aim

The aim of the case study was to examine each of these categories to assess how knowledge exchange methodologies, practices, tools and techniques were being used to support the university’s innovation ambitions, and ultimately, to drive up value and impact.

Innovation and knowledge exchange are inextricably linked (see fig. 2). Innovation needs knowledge exchange to fuel every stage of its process, from listening and discovery, through design and experimentation to implementation and measurement. Conversely, knowledge exchange needs innovation to create a focus for engagement. Innovation gives knowledge exchange its creative, entrepreneurial spirit. The two are required to work in unison if an organisation is to achieve higher levels of innovation maturity.

 

Fig. 2 The link between the innovation process and knowledge exchange

 

Enabling innovation and knowledge exchange to work concurrently was shown to be a central theme within RIEE, exemplified, particularly, through their STEAMhouse project (see fig. 3). A collaborative innovation campus which provides product and service innovation and knowledge exchange to business.

 

Fig 3. BCU RIEE’s STEAMhouse project

 

Strategy and alignment

The critical aspect of this category was to examine BCU’s Innovation Strategy and how well aligned this was to the overall 2025 Strategy for the university. An underpinning element of the innovation strategy, was reviewing, supporting and improving their innovation ecosystem partners (both business and industry and academic), widening and growing their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) communities of practice, and supporting direct knowledge exchange through the roll-out of commercialisation policies, training, capital and digital infrastructure to support more students and entrepreneurs.

Organisational readiness

This category assessed BCU’s innovation culture, creative capabilities and the structures, processes and governance in place to support innovation developments. When examined through the knowledge exchange lens, these areas translated into BCU’s ability to use KE to spark discussion, curiosity and inspire creativity accelerating the build up of a virtuous growth mindset. BCU have engaged with over 2,500 businesses, and formally assisted 1,425 to start, grow or innovate since 2017/18. BCU demonstrated their ability to leverage this landscape to create powerful sub-networks within their wider ecosystem for greater knowledge exchange, thus, generating a force multiplier at every stage of their innovation process. Internally, dissemination of innovation wins and promotion of ideas sharing has ramped up the institution’s innovation knowledge base and underpinned a sustainable innovation pipeline of activities.

Core capabilities, technologies and IP

For an institution like BCU, this category focused on building capacity in expertise and resource. Rapid access to external knowledge sources within RIEE’s ecosystem helped to reflect different perspectives from SMEs, larger businesses, other academic stakeholders and industrial representatives from associations and learned societies. Development of 100 innovation ambassadors within RIEE has brought greater access to the ambassadors’ own communities of practice and collaborative networks. The use of crowdsourcing mechanisms such as innovation challenges, have helped build momentum around specific product, service or societal problems. Use of collaborative knowledge STEAM tools such as STEAM Sprints, have enabled greater creative problem solving and refinement of selected ideas.

Industry foresight

At the heart of this category is knowledge exchange. Through analysis and synthesis, information becomes intelligence supporting innovation directions. Within RIEE, long-established and engrained partnerships with external stakeholders and engagement on industry forums have been utilised to acquire sectoral knowledge and key market intelligence informing and shaping the exploration and exploitation of new scientific, technological and engineering discoveries. The university’s representation on key regional advisory boards positioned them as thought leaders and led to sculpting regional strategies and plans.

Customer awareness

BCU’s Public and Community Engagement Strategy forms the basis for mechanisms to drive productive knowledge exchange. This category focused on understanding the needs of the customer and involving them in the innovation development process. RIEE demonstrated its ability to use collaborative networks and customer ecosystems to identify challenges. They harnessed co-creation practices and funding – e.g. Proof of Concept Support Fund for Staff – to then deliver innovative solutions.

Effective knowledge exchange requires coherent, relevant and accurate data. Through  BCU’s CRM, segmentation and narrow-casting has been achieved. This targeting of specific information through BCU’s online platforms and social media channels has encouraged 13,591 connections with businesses and proliferated greater knowledge exchange with over 2,500 engaged relationships.

Impact and value

This category’s focus ensured that a structured approach to implementation was adopted to maximise commercial success, and measurement of the innovation process meets organisational objectives. In this context, BCU’s community engagement and knowledge exchange through multiple pathways helped to underpin continual improvement of RIEE’s innovation process. The positive impact of knowledge exchange for RIEE has been defined by the development of STEAMhouse project – phase 2, and the creation of BCU Enterprises, to further drive the impact of RIEE, including research, experimentation, exploitation, and commercialisation of product IP and service know-how in STEAM disciplines.

Outcomes

Gaps were identified across all six of the I3 Standard framework categories. The key improvements in KE included:

 

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.

In September 2015 the first university-business co-developed Degree Apprenticeship programmes were launched – having been designed and eligible for funding under the government’s new model for apprenticeship training (Apprenticeship Standards), and expected to be resourced via the so called “apprenticeship Levy”.

Whilst still at a relatively small scale and early stage, as at March 2016, Apprenticeship Standards are ‘ready for delivery’ at the Degree Apprenticeship level in three discipline areas – two of which are engineering-related.  A further seven are awaiting approval, five of which are engineering-related.

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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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

In Northern Ireland, the term “Higher level apprenticeships (HLAS)” covers what are known in England as Degree Apprenticeships and offer on-the-job training and off-the-job learning at higher levels, including Foundation Degrees (level 5), Honours Degrees (Level 6), and post-graduate awards (Level 7-8).  NB they include Level 8 (PhD) which they explicitly do not in England.

Pilot activity is currently underway with 50 employers in the following priority sectors:

 

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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

The different higher education fee levels in Wales make the situation somewhat different to England.

It appears that apprenticeships are not funded for Wales and the only relevance thus appears to be for Welsh students pursuing an apprenticeship in England.

Read more: https://www.gov.wales/apprenticeships

 

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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

In Scotland, Degree Apprenticeships are part of the Modern Apprenticeship framework and are known as Graduate Level Apprenticeships.

More information: https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/our-products/graduate-level-apprenticeships/

They will be available from 2016 and will focus initially on ICT/Digital, Civil Engineering and Engineering.

Contact for further information: https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/contact-us

 

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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

We’ve pulled together a list of FAQs regarding degree and higher apprenticeships.

One of the key recent changes in the apprenticeships landscape has been the announcement by government of a new ‘apprenticeships Levy’ which all employers (with a pay bill above £3m PA) will be required to pay.  Current plans are that from April 2017  employers will pay an apprenticeships levy of 0.5% of pay bill (less£10,000) to be held in a dedicated training account for them to use to offset against the costs of providing apprenticeship training ( excluding  apprentice salaries)

Although only a relatively small proportion of businesses will be required pay this levy, given their scale and the number of employees and trainees involved – these larger employers are likely to be the most important organisations with whom an HEI is likely to need to engage with when considering developing or delivering higher and/or degree apprenticeship training.

 

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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

We’ve pulled together a list of FAQs regarding degree and higher apprenticeships.

The main difference for HE providers is that funding for apprenticeships in England is managed by the Skills Funding Agency rather than HEFCE – with very different processes and requirements

There is also an HE specific funding guide [Apprenticeship funding and performance-management rules for training providers, May 2017 to March 2018] available at

Crucially, it is an expectation of any Apprenticeship that the employer rather than Apprentice/Student pays any costs.  Universities cannot charge student fees for Apprenticeship provision, and these programmes are ineligible for Student Loan support

The funding for apprenticeships has two main components – A contribution from Government and an employer contribution (of at least 1/3rd of total cost).  Going forwards, the employer contribution may be drawn from a mandatory employer apprenticeship levy described subsequently.

Additionally, the Government has provided (via HEFCE) funding for the development of the educational components of new degree apprenticeships by HE providers.   An initial tranche of £8M was announced for 2016-17 with further funding likely to be available for future years.

Part of the process for approval of an apprenticeship under the new standards is that the government (via SFA) agrees the maximum rate which it is prepared to contribute to delivery. This is done by allocating the apprenticeship to a series of funding bands which set a cap on the total amount of funding that can be claimed ( via Government and/or employer Levy pot).  This covers the full costs of delivering the apprenticeship training and NOT just any educational qualification component. These currently range from £3000 to a maximum of £27,000 of which the maximum government contribution is 2/3rds of the costs

There is nothing in principle to stop an HEI charging an employer a higher level of fee than that agreed in the Apprentice Standard – but the full additional cost would then be borne by the employer.    In practise, this is becoming a cost competitive market and employers are increasingly shopping around to find the best deal they can get – in contracting with education providers to deliver the education elements of their Apprenticeship Programmes.   The cost cap in the Apprenticeship standard covers the full apprenticeship programme including any training elements delivered by the employer, so employers may have an incentive to drive the rate charged to HE providers to below the maximum allowed level.  It is probable that the FE sector might enter this market at lower rates than universities can offer and the government would welcome a competitive market place of this sort.    The longevity of any contract might therefore be an important consideration when deciding whether to develop degree apprenticeship provision.

 

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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

We’ve pulled together a list of FAQs regarding degree and higher apprenticeships.

‘Trailblazer’ is the title given to the groups of employers, professional bodies and in some cases education and/or qualification providers set up to and tasked with developing the apprenticeship standards in different occupations.

These Trailblazers are required to be employer led and driven (requiring a minimum of 10 employers), but given the importance of these Trailblazer groups in developing the standards which define the allowable content of the HE component of degree apprenticeship programmes it is highly beneficial for HEI’s to be involved as members of these groups – to help guide and influence this aspect.

The Government list of standards in development is a good place to start, as this provides contact details of the leads of the trailblazer groups for each standard currently being developed

Alternatively, if no standard exists or has yet been approved for development, it may be possible to play a more influential behind the scenes role in prompting the formation of a new trailblazer group, for example by bringing together groups of companies from their own networks.  However bear in mind that ultimately these must be employer led and driven, and it is the employers that are required to drive these and commit to creating and funding the apprentice jobs to make these viable, before the education/training element becomes relevant

The standards are defined at quite a high level of granularity of job roles (generally more tightly defined than a traditional engineering degree course title) so even if one already exists in a related area, the possibility exists to create a complementary one  provided a like-minded group of employers can be found to lead a new Trailblazer group.  Departmental industrial advisory Boards etc. might be useful in this regard.

 

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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

We’ve pulled together a list of FAQs regarding degree and higher apprenticeships.

From 2015 onwards all new apprenticeship programmes have been required to be developed according to new mandatory Apprenticeship Standards.

The term Apprentice and Apprenticeship are moving to become protected titles, which means that it will be illegal to call any training programme an apprenticeship if it has not been developed and approved in accordance with these standards

The Apprenticeship is actually offered by the employer not the education/training provider (who simply provides one element of it as a subcontractor to the employer).  In order to offer apprenticeship training (and also to be eligible for funding) the apprenticeship offered by an employer must comply to this new set of national standards.

This lists both those standards which have been approved and are ready to be delivered, and those that are currently under development.   A first point for any organisation wishing to get involved in apprenticeships is to see whether a standards is already developed/under development in that occupation areas.

Where the Apprentice Standards have been approved, then any HEI wanting to deliver the education parts of it has no option but to design and deliver their provision in line with the existing Apprenticeship Standards.   In practise (and given that in Engineering at least, these will generally be linked to UK Spec) this may not be too restrictive.  The level at which the content is defined is typically not that prescriptive.  See for example these two examples of undergraduate and masters level degree apprenticeships

 

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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