From education to employment

12 technical, practical vocational initiatives happening right now in FE supported by the Edge Foundation

Over the past decade Edge has championed the importance and benefits of high quality technical, practical and vocational education and training, seeking a closer alignment between education and the skill needs of the UK economy.

Edge encourages innovation in education by supporting the creation of new institutions that promote profound employer engagement and address areas of skills shortages for the UK economy. In addition Edge champions projects that will support the effective dissemination of best practice in vocational education and training and have the ability to support further development or replication. All the projects in the series have the potential to become beacons of excellence and exemplars of what can be achieved.

The first in the series is The Siemens Mechatronics Academy at Barking and Dagenham College.

Name of project: Siemens Mechatronics Academy
Name of FE College: Barking & Dagenham College
Location: London
Sector: Engineering
Project Lead: Alan Lazell, STEM Project Coordinator [email protected]

What are you doing?

We are enhancing Barking & Dagenham College’s existing engineering offer with training in leading-edge mechatronics technologies. The Siemens Mechatronics Academy is a high-tech training environment where students learn from tutors who trained at the Siemens Technik Akademie in Berlin.

The Academy was made possible by a grant from the Edge Foundation, and it was their Chair, Lord Kenneth Baker, who officially opened the Academy in February 2015.

Why is it different/innovative?

Barking & Dagenham College is the only college in the UK who has been accredited by Siemens to run the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Programme (SMSCP).

Qualifications & skills learners acquire

Students can study the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Programme (SMSCP) as part of their BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering at Level 3.

Alternatively, technicians who are already working in an engineering or manufacturing environment can study for the stand-alone Siemens Mechatronic qualification in the evening.

Who are your main partners & stakeholders?

Siemens plc, the global leader in electrification, automation and digitalisation, is our main Academy partner.

David Wheeler, Learning and Development Manager, Siemens plc said:

“Siemens is proud to be partnering with Barking & Dagenham College in bringing this innovative skills solution to the market. It will make a significant contribution to the College and provides a solid foundation to build the advanced manufacturing skills we need for the future.”

In term of stakeholders, our local schools are vitally important to the programme because we need to work with them to try and get more young people engaged in training for a STEM career. Local and regional employers are also a key stakeholder group, because we’ll either be training their current workforce, or developing a pool of new talent from which they can recruit.

What are your ambitions for development?

In addition to the day-time programmes and evening classes, we will be offering Saturday and holiday programmes in mobile robotics for school age children.

Students on our HND in Engineering course will also be studying mechatronics as part of their course from September 2015.

We want to work closely with employers. Firstly, to give them the opportunity to influence the design and delivery of the curriculum and, secondly, to work collaboratively on projects which could see our students taking commissions from to plan and deliver technical solutions.

Please tell us about any plans you have for dissemination of the model and how you are sharing best practice

Siemens use our partnership work as a case study which they disseminate through their extensive network. In addition, we welcome colleagues from schools and colleges across the UK and overseas who come and see how we are expanding our STEM provision.

Employer engagement- how does this tie in to local labour market?

Barking & Dagenham College’s education and training offering is designed to meet the priorities outlined by the London Enterprise Panel, so that our students leave with the highest quality technical training with a clear line of sight to work.

The LEPs priorities are: skills and employment; support for SMEs; digital creative, science and technology; and infrastructure to keep London moving. By giving people access to engineering, mechatronics and wider STEM-related education and training, we are helping Londoners develop the skills needed by this global city, and that means greater economic prosperity.

What are the further learning and career path opportunities?

We are already in discussions with the University of East London, Middlesex University and King’s College London to develop mutually beneficial collaborative projects, and establish progression routes for those of our students who wish to move on to higher level study.

It’s important also to create links for our students with businesses and help facilitate employment opportunities.

Destinations of students following the course- please give any examples where possible

The Siemens Mechatronics Academy opened to students in September 2014, so this is the first year of operation and it’s too early to give destination data.

What have been the greatest challenges of the project?

Probably the biggest challenge is that engineering and mechatronics is not clearly understood by parents and careers advisers. It is such a vast and relatively recent sector which offers many different career paths, but young people still perceive the STEM subjects as too difficult and that’s where the UK starts to slip behind the competition.

Also, we need to do more to attract more women into the sector.

What do you see as the biggest achievements around the project?

Without doubt, it’s the industry-standard equipment that our students train on, and which we would not have been able to invest in had it not been for the Edge Foundation’s grant.

Only this week we had some further good news: we have secured the STEM Assured kite mark from the New Engineering Foundation. We’re one of only 25 or so colleges across the UK who has reached the required standard. It’s fantastic news for the whole College team.

For more information about the Edge Innovation and Development Fund visit

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