New initiative offers employees the chance to join Plymouth’s digital revolution

Employees across Plymouth – and those looking to enter the labour market – will be able to secure new and increasingly sought-after skills thanks to an initiative placing the city at the heart of the UK’s digital revolution.

The University of Plymouth is working with Babcock International, Plymouth Manufacturers Group, and the Real Ideas Organisation to develop two new short courses for the design engineering sector.

They will teach skills in digital design, digital fabrication, 3D modelling, design simulation and optimisation, and offer access to state-of-the-art facilities within the University’s Digital Fabrication and Immersive Media Laboratories.

Developed directly with industries and their employees, the project will allow city businesses to upskill their workforce with technical expertise and resources that would otherwise be out of reach.

The new 15-week courses will welcome their first students in September 2022, with additional intake dates currently scheduled during the 2022/23 academic year.

Funded through the Office for Students (OfS) Challenge Competitions, they will be designed to tackle current skills gaps and anticipate future skills needs, with their success being evaluated by SERIO, also based at the University. And the vision is that more courses will be developed in a similar way in the future.

The short courses are also being launched alongside a new BA (Hons) Digital Design and Engineering programme, which will allow students to engage with high value sectors of the creative economy, such as manufacturing, product development, digital fabrication, and design innovation.

Professor Chris Bennewith, Interim Executive Dean in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business, said:

“The move to Industry 4.0 has forced firms to adopt new digital processes to produce products in a more flexible, energy-efficient and resource-saving manner. This has led to skills shortages in the current workforce, which this project will directly address. It reinforces the University’s vision of supporting economic growth and prosperity in both the engineering and creative sectors through digital innovation. It will also ensure Plymouth stays ahead of the game when it comes to digital technology and its real-world applications.”

<p>Professor Chris Bennewith</p>

Professor Chris Bennewith

The new Digital Fabrication Studio and Data Studio courses will align with Plymouth’s status as the UK’s first Fab City, and its ongoing investment in digital technology, innovation and learning.

The courses will address the Fab City agenda by promoting sustainable production processes and circular economy models. This could lead to the creation of additional green jobs across the city and support the city’s Climate Emergency Action Plan by ‘making’ things locally and reducing the need to transport goods from across the world.

Already this year, the opening of the Market Hall, as an immersive, creative tech hub in Devonport brings new facilities to the city, as does the University who are currently creating a new Engineering and Design facility on its city centre campus.

Steve Gerry, Secretary to the Plymouth Manufacturers Group, added:

“At 16%, the Plymouth economy is disproportionately dependent on the manufacturing sector with close to £1bn GVA created each year (the national figure is less than 10%). As one might expect, we also have correspondingly high employment figures, with Plymouth having the highest concentration of manufacturing employment of any City south of the Midlands. With figures like these it is incredibly important that we keep ahead of the curve with regard to the skills agenda and a boost to digital skills is particularly important and most welcome. The Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group is delighted to be a partner in this initiative.”

Lindsey Hall, CEO of the Real Ideas Organisation, said:

“Real Ideas is delighted to partner the University, Babcock and the Plymouth Manufacturers Group to develop much needed, innovative, short courses to ensure individuals and businesses in Plymouth have critically important, digital design skills.

"As a social enterprise and keen supporter of Plymouth’s inclusive growth strategy, we will be working hard to make sure course participants come from diverse backgrounds and support a wide range of individuals and businesses to grow and prosper.”

The OfS worked collaboratively with the Department for Education on the programme, with the OfS launching a challenge competition in August 2021 seeking bids from universities, colleges and other higher education providers who wished to trial the courses.

The courses form part of a pathway towards the delivery of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE), with 22 universities and colleges being awarded a total of £2 million in this funding round.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said:

“I am pleased to announce the successful bidders for these important courses. The courses cover a range of subjects at universities and colleges from all parts of the country. They will help people – including those who might already have significant work experience – learn new skills and retrain for a career change.
"This type of flexibility is important and will help employers fill skills gaps which are essential for their businesses and support future economic growth. At the same time students will be able to benefit from higher education for short periods of time, which will enable them to further their careers, as well as giving them the opportunity to go on and gain a full degree.”

Office for Students higher education short course trial – funded projects

Contact the School of Art and Media