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Higher education lifelong learning opportunities (HELLO) Assembly

Aim of the Assembly

The aim was to focus on the success and not so successful techniques of engaging employers in project activity and participation with project outputs.

The intended outcomes where:

· To have an understanding of how other projects have engaged with employers

· To share ideas of how to effectively engage with employers

· To produce a “best practice” list of methods to share with the wider community


The Assembly was attended by

- Paul Bailey, JISC/Support Project

- Paul Chapman, Leicester College, Libraries and E-Strategy

- Kirsty Coolin – SAMSON Project, University of Nottingham

- Ruth Drysdale – JISC Programme Manager

- Martin Fisk – Assistant Principle for HE, Leicester College

- Lisa Gray – JISC Programme Manager

- Richard Jones, SMART Project, Buckingham New University

- Ian Lindsey – Consultant, Critical Friend for HELLO Project, worked for HEA

- Anita Pinkerden, Associate Director (Public Sector) foundation Degrees Forward

- Magdelena SlowenskaiWoble Project, University of Westminster

- Richard Staniforth – UWIC

- Lucy Stone, HELLO Project Manager, Leicester College

- Dan Vaughan, Information Learning Technologist, Leicester College

- Stuart Wood – SAMSON Project, University of Nottingham

Future Events

Lisa Gray is organising an event on flexible provision in response to employers needs on the 27 May in Birmingham. Further details available from


Hello Project – Lucy Stone

Lucy presented an overview of the Moodle sites developed to support foundation degree students within the college.  The HE NET project is working with Dr Sarah Younie from DeMontford University (DMU) to support students progressing to the 3rd year . Of the 600+ learners who went to HE intuitions last year, 61% went to DMU.

HENet is using Mahara to support student led activity. Students are familiar with the social networking aspects of the tool. Mentors from DMU meet with students and then support later through Mahara.

The project is also exploring trying to link tutors with business contacts using Mahara, allowing employers to advertise work placements.

Business development managers in the college have little involvement with HE courses, beyond the validation stage.

SAMSON Project – Kirstie Coolin/Stuart Wood

The University of Nottingham is working with Nottingham Trent University to develop two applications to support employer engagement. They are looking at supporting undergraduate placements and post graduate internships.

The first application allows students to match their skills with employers’ offers of placement students.  This system could use the XCRI standard to allow sharing of placement information across institutions.

The second is being developed with a project with the University of Derby and the Scott Wilson Company, who are running a pilot with engineering students, funded by the company. Scott Wilson Company want weekly updates to monitor employees learning progress and also to be aware when they have a lot of course work or assignments to deliver. The applications links in several information streams (CRM, e-Portfolio, etc) and presents this in a single coordinated interface to the employer.

Foundations Degree Forward – Anita Pickerden


fDf was set up to support developing FDs, and has achiebed its target of 100,000 learners by 2010.

Anita highlighted some common barriers to employer engagement

- Employers don’t understand the language in education.

- Employers have to meet several people from a college/university to get agreement.

- Universities not as responsive as raining providers

- DPA not understood – sharing of information on employees achievement.  Employer paying for course then they have rights but need to ensure student learning contracts and policy.

The fDf employer and partnership relationship publication provides a very detailed overview of hwo to develop successful partnerships with employers. we should check  not duplicating info that has already been produced by fDf see http://www.fdf.ac.uk/page.aspx?id=19

CULN  (Colleges of Leicester Network) produce a Do’s and Don’ts of partnerships see http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/lifelong-learning/culn

It takes a large amount of networking to engage employers, building relationships for 1-2 years before getting started with courses. Relationships need to be maintained overtime keeping the employers in the loop and developing the course together.

Institutional processes need to change to adapt to the needs of employers.

Magdalena Slowinska iWoBLe – Interactive Work Based Learning

The iWoble project is supporting students during placements providing a space for learning, communication and management. They are piloting support for 50 placements students, working with tutors, students and employers. Magdalena has been supporting and evaluating the process within the institution. The findings are suggesting they need to communicate the purpose more clearly to all involved and adopt a more user friendly platform for delivery.


The discussion explored the role of BDMs in Colleges who protective of business contacts and reluctant to share with HE curriculum areas. So although colleges have good contacts with employers and processes in place to manage these relationships, it has not always been transferred to the HE curriculum areas.

There is a need to define the process and how to manage the relationship for HE courses within the college and to engage the existing BDMs and existing systems.

Employers are involved in the curriculum design process and validation. They are also frequently used as experts in courses. However practice is inconsistent and fDf are working on quality with providers (is same happening with QAA?)

Discussion around student placements highlighted the need to provide support to business who offer placements. UWIC for example have 200 placements (rising to 500 soon) , defined processes and technology can be used to offer and effective support service. Need to offer incentives for employers to offer placement, they need to see the benefits of getting involved. Also need to sell the benefits of placements to students, valuable experience, supported by reflection for future CV.

There are several reasons why institutions will engage with employer e.g. placements, keeping the curriculum relevant, input to courses, enhance employability, skills development, etc. Any guidance needs to be targeted appropriately. Employers may be offering placements at many levels, school, college and university.

Is there anything (research) from BCE programme that can be shared?

Is BCE a route for supporting BR activities around employer engagement issues?

Time, lunch and a power cut reduced time for discussion and the HELLO project team agreed to produce a wiki with areas for further discussion and to look at developing some guidance materials  on employer engagement.

Further information

The Assembly programme, further details of the presenters and copies of their presentations are available from http://hello.lec.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=10 or contact Lucy Stone lstone@lec.ac.uk .

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