Festo has been selected to work in partnership with five University Technical Colleges to provide learning systems in industrial automation for 21st century learning. In addition, they have worked closely with the UTCs to develop a curriculum fit for the next generation of engineers to enter the workplace.
University Technical Colleges offer an opportunity for education and business to come together to develop the skills that will be needed in the industry of the future. UTC Sheffield had its official opening on the 16th October 2013 by HRH the Duke of Gloucester. As a supplier partner Festo was involved in the development of the curriculum and the supply of state-of-the-art learning systems that many engineers will utilise throughout their careers.
The opening of the latest UTC comes at a time when the engineering sector is suffering from a skills shortage, which looks set to get worse as the economy recovers. In a recent survey from Works Management, 75% of manufacturers and engineers say they suffer from a skills shortage. The same survey identified a lack of basic design and technical skills in today’s apprentices. Babak Jahanbani, Didactic Manager GB; Learning Systems is leading the partnership with the technical colleges, says, “Working with UTCs is of tremendous interest to us. It is similar to the German dual vocational system, which has a strong heritage of partnership with industry and also high value placed on engineering and apprenticeships. With the skills shortage in the UK it is highly important that we play a part in developing young people and equip them with the skills required in the industry. Students will be working with the same equipment as many of the leading manufacturing brands such as BMWMini, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Nestlé.
Black Country was the first UTC that Festo worked with, in partnership with Siemens and was the second UTC to open in the UK. Festo also supports and supplies learning systems to Aston University Engineering Academy (opened Sept. 2013) and Silverstone UTC (opened Sept. 2013). Next year Tottenham UTC is due to open, which will be the biggest UTC in England. Festo is an employer sponsor and closely involved with all activities. Tottenham UTC will be focusing on Science, Sports & Health; the curriculum partly focuses on processes specifically in the food and pharmaceutical sectors, two key areas for Festo. By 2015 there will be 45 UTCs across the UK.
Partnering with UTCs is just part of Festo’s involvement with the education community. Festo is a founding global partner of WorldSkills and a sponsor of the WorldSkills UK National Skills Competition in Mechatronics, Mobile Robotics, Industrial Control & Manufacturing Team Challenge (14-16 November 2013, NEC Birmingham). 10% of Festo’s workforce in the UK are STEM ambassadors and regularly work with school children and colleges in the area to raise awareness of manufacturing and engineering as a career choice.
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