In its quest for innovation in higher education and ambition to produce work ready engineering graduates, NMITE (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering) begins life with a comprehensive list of supporting partners and on Tuesday 1st December confirms that it has secured match funding worth just under £25m Partners range from those supplying gifts in kind to others who will engage with the curriculum by providing module challenges, deliver specialist talks and host students’ projects.
Having received expressions of interest and potential support from over 400 companies, large and small, local and national, NMITE has to date signed MOUs with 70 partners in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, health, and security including companies such as Arctic Circle, Avara Foods, AJ Lowther, Openreach, Simple Design Works, Virgin Media, Welsh Water and Western Power Distribution. Equally important as its employer partners and having confirmed Herefordshire Council as its first community partner, NMITE is planning to establish more which are key for two reasons as community-based challenges are part of the NMITE curriculum and as NMITE regards itself as a citizen of both the city and county.
“We haven’t been prescriptive in what an NMITE partner has to be, instead we have engaged with interested parties to discover how our joint ambitions and requirements match. Some partners have become funders of Pioneer Students and others have committed to playing an active part of the delivery of NMITE’s MEng course” says Professor David Langley, Chief of External Engagement. Langley continues “We have always put the partnership model top of our way of working whether that’s the donations from the initial 100, the Founders Fund, which got the NMITE project up and running, or the support and funding from the Marches LEP or Herefordshire Council with whom we partnered to provide student accommodation.”
Part of this engagement programme has been via running a number of roundtable discussions (including 12 during lockdown) with businesses on their requirements for skills, training and education. “As an innovative Higher Education provider, we will continue to collaborate with industry, ensuring that our education and training is of a high standard, forward thinking and relevant,” says Toby Kinnaird, Head of Partnerships at NMITE.
Quotes from some of NMITE’s partners:
Arctic Circle, based at Rotherwas, designs and manufactures equipment for the heat transfer market for use in food retail, processing and manufacture. A founder partner of NMITE, Arctic Circle employs 60 people in Herefordshire and has been running four-year technical apprenticeships for over 30 years.
Arctic Circle Director, Deborah Gittoes, comments: “Right from the outset, I’ve been impressed by NMITE’s teaching model of concentrating on life skill development as well as hard engineering skills. As a business our strength lies in the skills of our people and we have tried to develop what many term ‘soft skills’ and which I term ‘essential life skills’. Thinking skills, emotional intelligence, communications skills all necessary no matter what career path you follow.
We believe that NMITE has the potential to transform the way engineering is taught through their commitment to partnerships and working with the local business community.”
Avara Foods is one of the UK’s largest food businesses with 7,000 people working across the country, managing an integrated supply chain that supplies leading UK retail and food service customers. Avara Foods is one of the Pioneer Funders, will be sponsoring five of the Pioneer Cohorts, as well as providing placements, and projects to support the cohort. Avara is also a CPD Anchor partner working closely with NMITE on short courses and lifelong learning.
Andrew Brodie, Avara’s People & Communications Director comments: “For us, this is the start of a long-term relationship with NMITE. We are an integral part of the Hereford community and the largest private employer, providing jobs to over 2,000 people locally.
We are committed to investing in our sites in technology and automation, so we have the common goal with NMITE of encouraging more young people to move into careers in manufacturing. NMITE offers the ideal combination of technical engineering in a modern educational style setting right here in Hereford, and this fits perfectly with our plans to invest in food manufacturing technology in our Hereford operation.”
Antony Lowther runs a third-generation family engineering business and lives and works in Herefordshire. AJ Lowther designs, manufactures and erects steel framed buildings across the UK. He explains he became involved in NMITE because it brings together two of the things about which he is passionate: engineering and Herefordshire.
Antony Lowther comments: “Time was to be an engineer was the career to follow. Over the years engineering in the UK has fallen from its preeminent position and it’s time to put that right. Engineering education needs re-engineering. That’s why engineering needs NMITE and why Herefordshire needs NMITE. NMITE will change both for the better and that’s why I became involved.”
Openreach Limited is the UK’s digital network business. Openreach is 35,000 people, working in every community to connect homes, schools, shops, banks, hospitals, libraries, mobile phone masts, broadcasters, governments and businesses – large and small – to the world. Openreach’s mission is to build the best possible network, with the highest quality service, making sure that everyone in the UK can be connected.
Openreach CEO Clive Selley comments: “I’m delighted that Openreach will be working with NMITE to use our industry perspective to help teach the next generation of engineers.
Engineers play a vital role in society, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, and we’re keen to offer our expertise to support students’ learning through guest lectures, a connection with our training centres and contributions from our learning and development team.”
Simple Design Works is a Hereford-based product design consultancy, founded by Kristo Shivachev which works with innovative clients across the fields of mechanical engineering, electronics, and product design and development. Simple Design Works has been a supporter of NMITE from the beginning through a variety of routes and is developing plans for further joint initiatives with NMITE for the future.
Kristo Shivachev, Founder and Director of Simple Design Works, comments, “As a local employer we feel passionately about retaining as well as attracting bright talent here in Herefordshire. It’s very exciting that we’re working with NMITE to develop the skills for jobs, some of which haven’t even been invented yet.
We’ve known about NMITE since its very early stages and I’m a big advocate of NMITE’s philosophy and the model of theory plus practicing what you learn. It’s important for the local community that we all work together to provide jobs and skills for the future of young people here in Hereford.”
Virgin Media is a supplier of broadband, TV, mobile and home phones across the UK and Ireland. Virgin Media was the very first partner to sign up as an employer partner with NMITE and has been advising on the strategic partnership model approach.
Karen Handley, Head of Future Careers at Virgin Media comments: “As an employer that requires skilled labour and expertise, we’re committed to broadening our talent pool and ensuring the widest possible range of people have the opportunity to join our business in STEM roles.
We recognise that learning can be delivered in many different ways and we’re excited to be involved in NMITE’s work to create innovative new ways for our apprentices, interns and graduates to learn which help drive diversity and ensures everyone has a sense of belonging.”
Welsh Water employs 3,000 people serving customers across most of Wales, communities along the English borders and in Hereford. Welsh Water has been involved with the development of NMITE since 2018 and is providing sponsorship for three students starting in 2021.
Ian Christie, Managing Director of Water Services, Asset Planning and Capital Delivery at Welsh Water comments: “As a business we want to support our local community to develop engineers for the future. Which is why we’re pleased to work with NMITE to develop the next generation of first-class engineers – and it’s a privilege to support ambitious young people at the beginning of their careers.
NMITE offers something different from the standard university route of learning and the selection process isn’t just about getting the right grades, it’s looking for real curiosity, innovation and passion for engineering whilst also encouraging diversity. And for us, it’s a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the opportunities offered by a career in engineering and the water industry more generally.”
Western Power Distribution (WPD) is the Electricity Distribution Network Operator (DNO) for the South West, South Wales and East and West Midlands and serves 7.8 million customers. With over 6,500 employees, WPD has offices within their operational area including in Hereford and Ludlow. Western Power is an NMITE employer partner and has been involved through a series of roundtable discussions about industry needs to help design and refine the NMITE offering.
Carl Ketley-Lowe, Western Power Distribution’s Engineering Policy Manager comments: “Right from the outset, it was clear that NMITE and WPD have similar views on the need to get young people into the workplace with the necessary and relevant knowledge and skills to add value to businesses.
For us, the non-traditional methods offered by NMITE are very appealing in getting students work-ready. We’re excited to work with NMITE and its students to benefit the Hereford area and engineering in general.”