Posted Monday 24 July 2017
Providing budding engineers with the opportunity to gain vital, hands-on industry experience alongside their studies was key to addressing a skills shortage in the profession, according to Kingston University's Professor Mukesh Limbachiya.
Responding to the evolving demands of the sector, the University's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing is now launching a new Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeship, creating unique opportunities for collaboration across the construction industry.
Highlighting how such an integrated approach to learning would provide graduates with the cutting-edge knowledge and tools to hit the ground running when they begin their careers, Professor Limbachiya – Interim Head of the School of Engineering – said it would also allow them to quickly adapt to the emerging needs of the industry.
"The engineering sector is experiencing something of a skills gap and we need to ensure we are addressing their needs – marrying technical expertise through studies with professional competencies from on-the-job experience," he said.
Degree apprenticeships would increasingly provide a significant route for tomorrow's engineers to gain much in-demand skills, qualifications, knowledge and experience, Professor Limbachiya added, as well as providing them with the toolkit to develop practical solutions for complex civil engineering projects.
The five-year programme will see successful apprentices graduate with a BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering degree, culminating in an end-point assessment carried out by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). It will involve a mix of taught and work-based modules, with students spending around 20 per cent of their time at Kingston University and the remaining 80 per cent in the workplace.
"We want to provide the next generation of engineers with a well-structured framework to progress in to the industry," Professor Limbachiya explained. "This new degree apprenticeship will also allow us to work and collaborate closely with some of the biggest employers and the ICE – which can only benefit the opportunities that we can provide to students, apprentices and the civil engineering profession on the whole."
Apprentices will gain the invaluable experience of day-to-day life in an organisation, while taking advantage of residential field trips and the top-quality purpose-built testing facilities that Kingston University offers, he added.
The new programme was introduced to a range of industry leaders at a networking forum hosted by Professor Mike Sutcliffe, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing.
Among those addressing delegates at the event was Andrew Stanley, Head of Education Policy at the ICE, who said the pace of change in the industry meant the demand for flexible, experienced graduates had never been higher.
"It is well-known that civil engineering currently has an age-profile skewed toward those approaching retirement," he said. "It is essential that the industry employs, trains, grows and retains its workforce, and figures show that those who have served apprenticeships are more likely to stay loyal to their organisation and sector."
Giving apprentices the chance to enrol on a degree programme simultaneously meant that they would be able to apply what they learn in their studies directly in a work setting, Mr Stanley said.
"There will always be a need to understand fundamental engineering principles, but it is the most adaptable, creative and outward-looking graduates who will always be in the highest demand," he added.
Faculty Dean Professor Mike Sutcliffe said the launch of the degree apprenticeship programme demonstrated the University's willingness to respond to the developing needs of the profession.
"We recognise the importance of engaging with industry and listening to what business leaders are telling us they need," he said. "Providing a pathway for students to gain valuable workplace experience as well as benefiting from the excellent teaching here at the University will ensure we continue to produce versatile, skilled graduates who are ready to meet the demands of employers."