“Digital skills are vital for the economy – now and in the future. It’s estimated that over a million digitally skilled people will be needed by 2022”1. Importantly, in addition, driving up Digital skills is a key plank of the UK’s Industrial Strategy2. Thus, the overall aim of this HEFi-funded Digital Innovation Boot Camp was to develop a week-long education enhancement activity that trains students in the cutting-edge digital technologies used within research activities and in industry. This project directly targeted a key area of future graduate skills, and provided an interpersonal development opportunity to our students that other University activities such as PebblePad support.
The Digital Innovation Boot Camp, which ran in collaboration between academia and industry, introduced the students to key skills associated with digital innovation and the applications of such innovative technologies within current research and industrial practices, e.g. Virtual Reality, Automation and Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics. Research groups from within the School of Engineering and other UK institutes (i.e. UCL and University of Leeds) were engaged to demonstrate state-of-the-art digital innovations. Industrial stakeholders provided case-studies exposing students to new/existing applications of digital innovation within relevant fields. Students were also professionally trained on idea generation, brain storming and pitching during the week. The key ethos of the Boot Camp was to tap into the student’s potential to ‘imagine big’ while preparing them for future challenges in a rapidly changing industry/research arena. To this end, the students were given the unique opportunity to pitch digitally innovative concepts which could potentially solve global challenges.
The key outcome from the Boot Camp was improving graduate employability by training the students in digital skills, entrepreneurship and making them aware of its potential in being work-ready for careers in either research or industry. From the University’s point of view, the Boot Camp can be seen as an education enhancement activity for the enrichment week within the NATY, with potential to be translated across the Colleges. We envisage that the Boot Camp will act as a vehicle for significant education enhancement within the current academic system, by drawing on existing strengths but allowing students direct and comprehensive exposure to research-led educational activities and experience of key digital systems used in different industrial sectors. An important additional benefit of this project is the direct engagement in research-intensive teaching and learning which will inspire our students at key stages of their educational journey, and through this enhance the promotion of potential research careers. Going forward, this offering positively contributes towards positioning the University of Birmingham as a digital institution that equips the future generation with up-to-date skills. Ultimately placing Birmingham graduates at the centre of UK and global economy through enhanced digital skills ready for the future.
1Office for Students, 2018, https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/skills-and-employment/digital-skills/
2Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the future. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/664563/industrial-strategy-white-paper-web-ready-version.pdf