Inspiring the next generation through work-based learning

We understand the importance of inspiring the next generation of engineers, not just to help attract new talent into the industry but also to benefit from new digital mind-sets. In addition to our STEM Education Programme, we’re proud to work with the University of Chester as a Work Based Learning provider.

In this blog, we caught up with Andrew Gascoine, our Digital Engineering Manager, and Katie Whitaker Moon, Placement Coordinator at the University of Chester about the programme.


What is the University of Chester's Work Based Learning (WBL) programme?

Katie: Our WBL programme is an academic module offered to undergraduate students during the second year of their degree. With the focus on enhancing their employability, the module includes both online and group sessions, support with CV and cover letter writing and finally the five-week placement. Students can either choose to source the placement themselves or can apply from our selection of advertised placement vacancies. 

The emphasis is on transferrable skills, with the placement offering students the opportunity to put them into action within a real workplace environment. The programme is really diverse, and we encourage students to consider a company or industry that may not be an immediately obvious choice for their degree. For example, students applying for Mabey Hire’s WBL placement are typically studying our BSc (Hons) Games Development degree, taking with them interactive IT skills (including virtual and augmented reality), problem solving abilities, visualisation and collaboration.

Companies which are part of the programme can benefit from a new pair of hands and a fresh perspective, with students bringing with them new ideas and the latest knowledge and insight that they’ve learnt from their degrees. 

How do you select companies to collaborate with, as part of the WBL programme?

Katie: For us, it’s all about bringing together students and organisations; it’s very much a two-way collaboration. We look at what the company can offer our students and also what our students can offer the company. 

Placement providers for WBL are many and varied, representing a number of sizes and sectors across the UK. The shared quality is the ability to provide challenging yet supportive workplace opportunities which reflect authentic graduate level roles.

First and foremost, it’s about an organisation that can offer a quality work-based learning experience and is also open to students actively contributing – we don’t want our students to simply be shadowing someone for the five weeks. It’s important that they are really able to develop, contribute and put their degree knowledge and transferable skills into practice. 

Why did Mabey Hire choose to collaborate with the University of Chester, as part of the WBL programme?

Andrew:It was a really easy decision for us - the University of Chester ticked all of our boxes. Its students, their skillsets and the ways of thinking were just what we were looking for. 

Also, the fact that the WBL programme is delivered in Year Two was a great factor, for it really enables us to work with students and develop a positive relationship, before they then graduate and enter the job market.

 How have you found the collaboration so far?

Andrew: We’ve worked with the WBL team at the University of Chester for four years now and it’s been fantastic, a really positive experience. As well as demonstrating the value that a career in engineering can offer (and hopefully doing our bit to inspire the next generation), it’s also been incredibly valuable as a company and a digital engineering department.

As we all know, technology is ever-changing and advancing. To stay on the digital wave, you sometimes need to look ‘outside of the box’. A multitude of skillsets can be required, not just those found within the typical civil engineering degree. Identifying those skillsets through the University of Chester Games Development degree has been ideal. Not only has the input and mindset of students helped to further enhance our digital journey, including our development of EVE, it’s also contributed to improving the way we work across the wider business – not just within engineering but including our Sales, Marketing and SHEQ departments too. 

Katie: It’s always a pleasure to work with Mabey Hire. The WBL placements offered have always been interesting, providing the chance for our students to be really challenged, stretched and given a great insight into the world of work and engineering. It’s also a really supportive environment, with our students able to ask questions and learn from the Mabey Hire team. 

What are you looking for in a student when you hire them as part of the WBL programme?

Andrew: For me, it’s really about looking outside of the typical engineering skills. Given the ongoing skills shortage facing the engineering industry, it’s clear that what we really need is a wide variety of qualities and skillsets to call upon at different times. It’s for this reason that we look for students who offer ‘future thinking’, as well as digital thinking. 

Technology changes so quickly that thinking creatively and looking ahead to the future is key. We aren’t just welcoming students to work as part of the Mabey Hire team for five weeks but also for them to connect with the construction and engineering industries and provide future insight.  

Looking ahead to the future, how do you see this progressing?

Andrew: I’m really looking forward to continuing our work with the University of Chester. The WBL programme has had a really positive impact so far. We’ve also filled the position every time it’s been advertised, showing that students really see the value of a career in engineering and understand the importance of transferable skills.

Looking further ahead, I’d love to expand upon our existing graduate programme, taking it into the digital engineering field. While we’re not quite there yet, it’s definitely something we want to build upon, again working closely with the University of Chester. 

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