The NEF Industrial Fellowship Scheme (IFS) is the only scheme in the UK in further education that supports teachers, trainers and lecturers to take up a placement for technical updating. Since 2005, the NEF (New Engineering Foundation, part of NEF: The Innovation Institute) has been offering grants to lecturers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths, including of course the automotive sector) to spend 2-3 weeks in industry or at a research centre. Together with the NEF Masterclass programme of one-day events, the IFS remains a primary source of industry relevant technical enrichment for teachers in further education.
The aim is to allow lecturers to spend time outside the college environment to refresh their technical knowledge and increase their understanding of current industry practices. Lecturers return reinvigorated and inspired, so impacting on curriculum to support provision that is relevant to industry.
The 2013 IFS theme of “STEM Innovation for Society and Industry” highlights the possibility of linking to issues of sustainable transport and offers colleges the opportunity to employ IFS grants to encourage innovative, multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning. Lecturers and assessors can use the grants to support the CPD required to meet IMI membership standards.
Grants are typically £1500 per lecturer, dependent on the expected outcomes. The theme is meant to inspire, not to constrain, and so applications outside the theme are welcome.
For automotive companies, retailers and garages, manufacturers and designers, both the IFS and the Masterclass programmes can offer a chance to influence in a very direct way the delivery of training and education as well as the opportunity to increase awareness of products and technologies with the workforce of the future.
The scheme has had a positive impact on over 200,000 learners through grants totalling over £3m from NEF to over 650 lecturers. It is supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and directly and indirectly by the over 500 companies and universities that have taken part. In 2012, hosts provided an estimated £200,000 in contributions, during the actual placement time, and of donated materials and time beyond the placement. The IFS has proven to be a catalyst for change in many colleges, leading to new curriculum, strengthened or new links with employers and companies and so driving real changes in STEM provision.
In 2011, Gateshead College planned new curriculum in low carbon vehicle technology, and Iain Arthurs took up an IFS placement: “The purpose was to look at how my host, Smith’s Electric Vehicles, uses telemetry to record vehicle data and how this is used to identify faults. As part of this secondment I was tasked to develop a Foundation Degree on Electric Vehicles, and I am speaking with awarding bodies to get an HND/HNC approved in Electric Vehicle Technologies.” Other experiences are related to new technologies, as Karen Gallagher of Derby College explained in 2012: “One of my team did a secondment in the industrial automation services where, with a local university, he developed a new 24V electronic system for cars.”
Placements have taken place at garages and retailers, in servicing and maintenance, so ensuring that trainers can take back to the college and learners invaluable real world experience. Steven Henderson, Trafford College, was at VAG Tech Motor Company who reported “This has given Steve a more in depth view of the systems we have in place, which will support our apprentices in turn.”
But it is never a one-way experience. As Gary Short of the Honda Institute explains of the placement undertaken this year by Carl Roberts, Coleg Cambria: “It offered a good exchange of practices and issues”. In turn, Carl lists many new technologies he experienced and adds “It has given me a valuable industrial update where knowledge gained could not be got anywhere else, which I will be sharing at all levels.” We can end with Gary’s comment on the value of the contributions of the IFS and the host to the college’s teaching “Priceless”.
For more information on the IFS for both companies and lecturers and trainers, see www.thenef.org.uk/IFS
Dr Sarah Peers
PhD PGCE MSc BSc MIET MWES MIoD MIKE
As NEF Director of Programmes, Sarah oversees IFS and Masterclass programmes to support FE colleges with STEM vocational education and training. Her background is in engineering and mathematics with experience of FE, HE and industry.