28 November 2019 | Grads Corner | Guest Author
It has been well-documented in recent years that employers bemoan having difficulties in finding candidates with practical experience and skills. The last employer skills survey from the Department for Education in 2017 found that there are just not enough skilled professionals to meet demand in the UK. Unfortunately, many students work hard at university gaining successful academic skills and qualities, but in some cases leave with no practical workplace experience.
Now, through a range of schemes, businesses are gaining the latest innovations from university research and in turn, university students are gaining valuable workplace experience. The gap between university student skills and workplace skills is being bridged.
Universities play an essential part of the innovation and skills supply chain to business
The economic prosperity of the UK depends on a strong knowledge-based economy to remain globally competitive. In times of economic uncertainty and political unpredictability, there has never been a greater need for a young, innovative workforce. Constant innovation is needed to continually improve upon products and services and speed up production processes and performance. And this often saves the business money and attracts investment.
Collaborations between businesses and universities play an integral role in providing dynamic, skilled students to help the business growth and development and helps keep the business ahead of the competition.
Let’s take a look at some examples of the placement and funding opportunities for university students to bridge their skills moving into the workplace:
The UK Digital Catalyst Programme
The UK Digital Catalyst Programme was developed by the Future of Business Manufacturing and saw a collaboration between Imperial College London, CP Cases and Autodesk.
CP Cases is a leading global manufacturer of specialist and bespoke protective case solutions, used by the military, medical professionals, world famous rock stars and TV and broadcast professionals among many others. Imperial College London is known for significant research collaborations that span the globe and have made a dramatic impact at CP Cases.
After the UK Digital Catalyst Programme connected CP Cases with Imperial College student Umar, Umar helped CP Cases to successfully reduce one of its digital processes from 180 minutes to just 15 minutes, while maintaining quality and accuracy. In turn, Umar has benefited with incredible work experience and impressive results to show to potential future employers – and he has done this via the programme. The UK Digital Catalyst Programme gave Umar a platform in which he was able to impart his knowledge and skill set and get that crucial face-time with a business to listen to what he had to say.
CityStarters Weekend is where City, University of London students come together in teams to voice their ideas for benefiting businesses and society, building products and launching startups. The University has had students who have been hired by companies as a result of sharing their ideas over the CityStarter weekends. At the last event, City University students came up with ‘game-changing’ ideas for Islington council to help Islington to become a net carbon zero borough by 2030 – and they are now putting the ideas into action.
The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships scheme
The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships scheme (KTP) is part-government funded and part-funded by the business, and helps companies to innovate and grow. It’s designed for businesses who otherwise couldn’t afford to invest in new cutting-edge technology or wouldn’t know where to start implementing their ideas. KTP is run by Innovate UK, and sets up collaborations between universities and businesses. In this way, people come together who would not otherwise have crossed paths, allowing businesses to reap the benefits of students who bring a much-needed fresh perspective. Through KTP, students at the University of Southampton produced a modelling tool for CJR Propulsion which optimises the company’s propeller designs based on a ship's speed and performance.
A Masters degree course in partnership with Siemens
The University of Hull has partnered with Siemens to bring a Masters degree course which combines academic study with practical work experience — mutually beneficial for the offshore wind industry and for the students. Siemens and the university are working together with the aim of encouraging innovation and delivering a strong talent pipeline of skilled workers into the industry. This will help to advance the offshore wind industry around the Humber just as employment in the sector is set to increase. The aim is also to increase the representation of women in the offshore wind workforce to at least a third by 2030.
The QConsult programme
The QConsult programme is a collaboration between Queen Mary, University of London, the University of East London and City, University of London, supported by J.P. Morgan. The programme places students into mini consultancy projects, finding solutions for real-life business challenges. The students get paid for their work, gain support and training from J.P. Morgan and can add experience to their CV while businesses benefit from the student’s expertise.