KITE – Knowledge and Innovation Transfer in Engineering
A collaborative 3 year project to provide training and access to the latest technology to businesses and students in the engineering and manufacturing sector was launched in November 2009. ‘Knowledge & Innovation Transfer in Engineering’ (KITE) was a tri-partite initiative between the Northern Regional College (NRC) in Northern Ireland, the Sligo Institute of Technology in Ireland and Ayr College in Scotland.
The 3.2 million euro initiative funded by the EU INTERREG Iva Programme aim was to ensure the long term sustainability of the manufacturing and engineering industries across the region. In order to achieve that it supported businesses with training on new technology and equip laboratories with the most modern industry standard equipment, to meet the training needs of both industry and students.
The goal was to increase the pool of highly trained technicians available and active in the job market, in order to enhance the vitality of the industry in the region.
Facilitating training and access to the latest technology is crucial for small and medium businesses that have a limited capacity to expand, acquire resources and build expertise in-house.
Leonardo Partnership Projects
The Northern Regional College has an established track record in participating in the EU Life Long Learning programmed under the Leonardo DaVinci Programme. The primary aim of participation is to develop the college capacity to enhance the student experience.
Robotics, Automation Careers in Engineering (RACE) Project
Leonardo Partnerships involve three or more academic partners working with industrial partners to enhance the student experience. For example in 2010 NRC partnered with colleges from Romania, Finland, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic and Portugal in the Robotics, Automation Careers in Engineering (RACE) Project.
Each partner established a Robot Club to enable engineering students to participate in the project and explore robotics as a subject. The Robot Club enabled students to work collaboratively to research job roles in industry, compare job roles across the partnership countries and ‘Build a Robot’ throughout the two year project with a view to demonstrating Best in Class at the final workshop in the Czech Republic 2013.
Each country hosted a transnational workshop to demonstrate teaching and learning in a particular aspect of robotics. For NRC this was ‘How to Control the Speed of a DC Motor’
- Practical demonstration and explanation on this kind of electronic circuit assembly.
- In this workshop, each participant can assemble a circuit.
Academic staff and students get the opportunity to visit key employers in the sector to ensure shared teaching practices are relevant to modern industrial practices. Pictured below are staff and students from across the partnership and having a go at the robotics suite in the NRC Integrated Manufacturing Centre at the Farm Lodge campus and visiting Schrader Electronics in Carrickfergus.
Cultural Experiences and Certificate Presentations
Partnerships are a great way to explore other cultures and develop cultural diversity. Each host organisation provides a one day cultural experience ranging from ice-pool plunging in Finland to sightseeing in the birthplace of Rafael in Italy and in Northern Ireland visiting the Giants Causeway. All transversal study visits are rounded off with a farewell dinner and celebration of success with Certificates of Participation presented to all participants.
This Leonardo Project has helped NRC to integrate key engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, electronic) together and provided the opportunity to develop a robotics module within the BTEC suite of qualifications.
Enterprising Citizens, Employees and New Venturers (E3) Project
In the current economic climate it is increasingly difficult for VET students to secure employment after their initial training and therefore VET students are required to think more entrepreneurially about their career options. The Enterprising – Citizens, Employees and New Venturers (E3) project seeks to increase the profile of enterprise and explore new ways of developing students as enterprising citizens, enterprising employees and entrepreneurial new venturers.
Each partner has developed an Enterprise Hub for staff and students thus providing a focal point for the project the aim of which is to showcase current practice and collaborate on enterprise development across Europe, to exchange methodologies and good practices approaches, to improve the expertise of staff and trainers and to form a solid and sustained extra-curricular activity in the field of enterprise.
To support the college partners Ballymena Business Centre acts as an additional ‘world of work partner’ to provide an insight to new venture creation. Each Enterprise Hub will explore and develop programmes that foster:
- Enterprising Citizens (employability, problem solving, critical thinking etc)
- Enterprising Employees (team work, continuous improvement, R&D projects etc)
- Entrepreneurial New Venturers (ideas generation, business planning, pre-incubation, product development, business start-up, enterprise competitions)
Each Enterprise Hub links with partner hubs to create a European network enabling VET staff and students to share expertise such as market intelligence leading to a network wide enterprise competition.
Northern Regional College (Co-ordinator)
Ballymena Business Centre
Escola Professional de Aveiro
Instituto de Enseñanza Secundaria la Sènia
Zespol Szkol Ekonomiczno Uslugowych
It has been recognised by many VET providers that the development and implementation of an enterprise strategy enables students to experience learning in a different way. However, research suggests that the terms enterprise, employability and entrepreneurship are widely used and misunderstood and often used in an interchangeable way. Most programmes targeted at enterprising citizens centre on ‘employability’ i.e. the soft skills and personal attributes you need to get a job; and ‘entrepreneurship’ programmes targeted at start-ups through idea generation leading to the creation of a business plan. There is also some evidence to show how bringing real work problems to VET providers’ students can also develop skills associated with those of enterprising employees.
In summary there is a continuum or spectrum from employability (being able to find a job), intrapreneurship (being an entrepreneurial employee) and entrepreneur (start-a-business) each of which is currently delivered in three separate ways. In developing the Enterprise Hub the E3 partnership seeks to explore this continuum, establish best practice, develop an integrated strategy and implement new ways of delivering enterprise programmes.
E3 provides a unique learning opportunity that will accelerate the innovative and creative process while exploring and testing programmes that will develop students as enterprising citizens, employees and new venturers.
The aim of E3 is to develop new and innovative teaching practice relating to enterprise as it applies to VET students and narrow the gap between what is taught in VET and the requirements of the world of work. The primary programme objectives are:
- Opening VET to flexible methods and teaching techniques and creating better conditions for transition to working life
- Re-enforcing or creating closer links between VET and working life
- Promoting the recognition of non formal and informal learning
- Responding to the needs of the labour market, particularly SMEs anticipation of skills needs in the labour market
The specific objectives are to:
- Build a Brand- Enterprise is for everyone
- Develop VET staff and students’ awareness of the wider requirements in employment/self employment
- Create programmes that inspire VET staff and students to develop learning that increases employment opportunities
- Encourage employers to act as learning opportunities for students
- Encourage students to act as resources for local employers
- Increase student social capital and business etiquette skills
- Encourage a greater environment for learning by introducing new learning methods – enterprise is experienced as well as taught
- Foster cultural development and foreign language skills through joint projects
UK India Education Research Initiative - UKIERI
NRC working with North West Regional College and Colleges Ni have applied to UKIERI, in partnership with Team Lease Skills University in Gujarat, India.
This 2 year project, if approved, will see NRC and NWRC training lecturers from Team Lease Skills University in India in 2 subject areas – Mechatronics and Employability in order to support the development of skills in India. The project will also involve staff from Northern Ireland and India visiting each other’s respective institutions to benchmark provision and share best practice.