Intelligently responding to the pace of change

Change is in the air. New technologies are completely transforming the world we live and work in.

Recognising that pace of change, engineering experts at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are now working with businesses to equip them with the skillsets they need to thrive in this new world of intelligent machines.

And that includes developing degree apprenticeship courses in mechatronic engineering. This multidisciplinary branch of engineering is becoming increasing important to businesses in a number of sectors.

It focuses on both electrical and mechanical systems and includes a combination of robotics, electronics, computer, telecommunications, systems, control, and product engineering.

UCLan works with employers to design and deliver degree apprenticeships and establishes the content and delivery of a programme according to their needs on an individual basis.

And that is certainly true when it comes to its BEng (Hons) degree apprenticeship in mechatronic and intelligent machines, being delivered from the university’s new £35m Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) on its Preston campus.

UCLan were approached by the Royal Mail in the summer of 2019 to create a course that will give its product design and development engineers the skills they will need as the use of intelligent machines grows.

UCLan started to deliver the degree apprenticeship programme in November last year and it has been developed around the specific needs of that business.

The aim is to equip its staff on the course with a deep understanding of intelligent machines so they are able to develop and use mechatronics systems in all stages of product creation, modification and componentry.

The programme was initiated by the Royal Mail and is attracting many other businesses, as it helps to “futureproof the workplace” particularly for organisations involved in the large-scale distribution of items such as mail, parcels, food and goods, using big sorting machines.

These types of technologies and skills help optimise the workplace - reducing machine downtime and increasing productivity and competitiveness

Dr Martin Varley, principal lecturer at the School of Engineering, says mechatronics is a “recently new concept based on existing and developing technology” and is becoming increasingly relevant to businesses as they look to harness robotics and intelligent machines to improve productivity.

He says the students who successfully complete the mechatronic course will have a deep understanding of intelligent machines.

They will be able to develop mechatronics systems which include programmable logic controllers, robotics, precision technologies, systems engineering and engineering management.

Dr Peter Robinson, director of academic development in the College of Science and Technology, says: “UCLan is committed to the principle of an apprenticeship being the development of an individual into a role, with the course just one component.

“What the course is made up of and how it is delivered is designed with the employer, through the tailoring of delivery in both mode and content.”

He adds that flexibility is important. Royal Mail staff on the degree apprenticeship course come from all over the UK and attend the university in blocks.

The students also have mentors in the business as part of their “on the job” training and development, which makes up 20 per cent of the course time. In February 2020 the programme reached its next phase of delivery with the students.

The mechatronics course has also been designed to meet the professional standards of the Engineering Council for initial registration as an Engineering Technician (Eng Tech) in partnership with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Dr Robinson believes more businesses will look to work with the university, creating the degree apprenticeship courses and using the apprenticeship levy to their benefit.

And the university is eager to work with more businesses committed to the skills agenda.

The students also benefit from world-class facilities in manufacturing, materials testing, tribology and computer-aided engineering,

The newly opened EIC is set to be a hive of innovation, creating a spirit of collaboration and knowledge transfer between university researchers, industry experts, businesses and the very best student and graduate talent.

The state-of-the-art teaching and research facility is engaging directly with industry and provides students with real-world experience on live projects.

Dr Robinson says: “The demand for engineers massively outstrips supply - there is a UK-wide shortage of around 40,000 engineering graduates.

“We require a new generation of talented engineers, inventors and scientists to become the innovators and gamechangers of tomorrow.

“All courses at the EIC are closely aligned with the needs of industry. Our ambition is to produce an increase of hundreds of locally trained, high-calibre graduates every year to meet the current and future needs of the economy and increase productivity in key areas such as aerospace, artificial intelligence, mechanical and oil engineering.”

  • To find out more about the BEng (Hons) Mechatronic and Intelligent Machines course, and how UCLan can work with your business on skills development and degree apprenticeships contact Uclanapprenticeships@uclan.ac.uk or phone 01772 895500
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