Success stories of industry and education links

,  17 March 2015

Building closer links between education providers and businesses in the creative industries has been core to our work in the past decade. We asked some of our partner organisations and colleges to give us case studies of collaboration in action.

(Image: Alex Rumford)
(Image: Alex Rumford)

These success stories show the range, innovation and quality of the work being done in this field. You can read them in full here:

So let's reflect on some of the themes that seem to tie them together.

Physical links between institutions

Some of the case studies point to the delivery of arts education becoming more embedded within physical institutions in the sector. The Salisbury Playhouse, for example, partners with Wiltshire College in delivering a Performing Arts BTEC qualification. Rather than learning within the college environment, students spend time creating productions. However, due to being embedded within the theatre itself, they also learn quickly about the professional environment of theatre work.

Meanwhile, colleges such as Coleg Sir Gar in Wales have formed links to bring award-winning practitioners into their day-to-day teaching. The college has enlisted a Cymru Bafta-winning dance group called Earthfall to teach part of their BA Dance course within the college. Embedding practitioners of this calibre within the institution adds to the uniqueness of the course being delivered in Llanelli.

Future-facing technologies open to students

New technologies are clearly also helping to bridge the gap between education institutions and businesses and may in some instances give local businesses scope or capacity to create new products and ideas.

The FabLab at the Plymouth College of Art is a digital fabrication laboratory which has digital design technology such as 3-D printers, 3-D scanners and laser cutters. The benefits of the lab are twofold to businesses.

Firstly, students who work with businesses in the area can bring their knowledge and skills with the technology in the lab to their work. Secondly, the lab is available for businesses to use at certain points, meaning they can increase their capacity through utilising the education institutions facilities. In industries such as product design this is vital, as the technologies and practices change quickly which means that businesses have to keep updating their skills.

Linking live briefs to qualifications

A recurring theme throughout the case studies was that assessment should be linked to the work that colleges do with industry. North Hertfordshire College created a project in which students had 24 hours to stage a performance in front of industry leaders. Rather than having this outside of the curriculum though, the assessment contributed to their qualifications. Ensuring that this type of fast, industry-linked project actually contributes towards a final grade shows the importance of this type of work.

Belfast Metropolitan College used assessment in a similar way in their project with Cahoots NI, a world-class children’s theatre. Students on the HND in Performing Arts acted and crewed a 49-run performance over the 2014 Christmas period. The work was used in their assessment; however students were also kept on in paid roles for two weeks to complete the run of shows, showing how educational activities can sometimes lead straight into fee-paying work.

Using industry links to combat youth unemployment

Alongside formal qualifications, industry-education collaboration has also been used effectively to combat issues such as youth unemployment. 

Artswork have launched a creative traineeship programme with Southampton City Council, the Wheatsheaf Trust and Brockenhurst College. Seven people between the ages of 16-19 completed the programme, which included taking an Arts Award qualification and conducting a 14-week work shadowing programme with employers like SoCo Music Project and the John Hansard Gallery.

Similar work has been happening across the Bridge England Network between, for example, Rio and Devonport Guildhall, and Royal Opera House and The Hat Factory.

Taking students out of their comfort zone

North West Regional College in Derry/Londonderry launched a project called the Stroke City, which offered an arts workshop programme for stroke survivors, their carers and family members. 

It was also open to others who wished to support the local stroke community and gain a better insight to stroke and its impact. Students gained industry experience, as the Stroke Association communications manager gave the media students a formal brief and a budget to work with, and a similar approach was taken with the art and design staff. 

This project allowed for a creative and collaborative atmosphere to be created between students, staff and stroke survivors. The project culminated in an exhibition and taking the film of the process to a conference in London.

No 'one size fits all' for industry links

There is definitely ‘no one size fits all’ model with regards to industry-education links and collaboration. In some instances it seems a business or organisation has the capacity to take a large number of students on at once, particularly in the cases of theatres.

However, businesses using educational facilities and students’ technological knowledge and skills could lead to them being continually updated and refreshed, which may also have economic benefits.

See the National Skills Academy Programme 2015-16 to find out more about how we help industry and education work together.

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