Dave Allan discusses how NMiTE is designed to open up the possibility of a career in engineering to a whole new genre of students
The rapid pace of technological change is driving demand for skilled graduate engineers who will be adept at solving problems we haven’t even realised existed yet. Demand from manufacturers for a skilled engineering workforce is outstripping supply. That is why we are aiming to become a new university that catapults engineering education into the 21st century.
The New Model in Technology & Engineering (NMiTE) higher education institute will open its doors to learners in September 2019 (subject to Validation by The University of Warwick). Our aim is to work with people who may have never considered an engineering career before.
While there have been several industry wide initiatives aimed at promoting engineering as a career, notably 2018 was the Year of Engineering, NMiTE is taking the bold step of changing the provision of engineering learning to broaden its appeal to a wider range of people.
We are not looking to compete with traditional engineering institutions or replace them, in fact students with a predisposition for STEM subjects are likely to be better suited to such courses. Our plan is to supplement existing courses and open a new road to a career in engineering for students.
Manufacturers need engineers who are not just analysts or scientists but who can manage projects and be innovative in finding solutions. They need people who are good at communicating, have highly developed social skills, who are creative or even artistic.
Traditional engineering programmes are failing to supply those people because the majority require undergraduates to have either a Maths or Physics A Level to get onto the course. In doing so, we are preventing a whole section of people from even considering an engineering career.
To broaden NMiTE’s appeal to a broader range of undergraduates, we have removed the demand for Maths or Physics A Level at entry and created a new curriculum that is aimed at producing graduates who are work-ready.
We recognise that the pace of technological change and innovation is so fast that some courses are out of date by the time students graduate. Our focus instead must be on producing graduates who will become lifelong learners and are skilled in self-development. For too long lifelong learning has been perceived as a secondary benefit of a university education, when in fact it should be the primary objective. Learning and being able to adapt to solve new problems are fundamental skills in the modern workplace.
NMiTE is different. We offer project-based learning, where students will work on real world problems. They will come to the studio (not the classroom) from 9am till 5pm to work on projects in three and a half week blocks. We are doing away with the long holidays, our courses will run for 46 weeks, instead of the typical 23 to 30 weeks.
Academic staff are timetabled to be in the studio with learners through the lifecycle of the project. They will act as facilitators and mentors whose sole responsibility is to work with the student body.
Groups will learn the subject – whether it’s mechanics, dynamics, statics or thermodynamics – using project-based learning. We want to be able to simulate the modern workplace to such an extent that when our students leave us and go to work, the only difference they’ll really notice is the location.
Our graduates will not only be independent but interdependent. They will have been taught theory, but also know when they need to top up their skills, or source information from other engineers. Only by learning together can they really know how to work together to keep up with modem technology.
The aim is to give learners the tools they need to become modern problem solvers. We are always looking for real-world problems for our learners to get to grips with and would welcome the opportunity to talk to manufactures about the challenges they are facing.
Broadening the appeal of engineering is essential if we are going to keep up with demand for skills and the pace of technological advancements. Finally, the time to change how we educate engineers has arrived. v
Dave Allan is Professor of Founding Faculty, New Model in Technology & Engineering (NMiTE). Subject to validation, NMiTE will open its doors to an initial Pioneer Cohort of undergraduates in September 2019. By 2020, it’s expected that a minimum of 150 students will be based at a purpose-built city centre campus in Hereford from where NMiTE will deliver the world’s most distinctive and innovative engineering curriculum. With a focus on learning by doing, it intends to be educating more than 5000 engineering students by 2032.