Smart Machines & Factories
Fast track degree programme accelerating engineers towards Industry 4.0
Published:  14 May, 2021

A training solution from Siemens Digital Industries is helping upskill their customers and suppliers to capitalise on the opportunities of Industry 4.0. Smart Machines & Factories reports.

The one year ‘top up’ degree programme gives engineers a BEng Hons (Bachelor of Engineering) in Control and Automation. Co-designed and co-delivered by Siemens Digital Industries and the University of Salford it uses a block delivery model combining academic modules in automation, robotics, and embedded systems, Siemens S7 Certified PLC programmer training and accreditation, and a workplace project to solve a real-world problem.

Since its launch in 2017 more than 40 internal and external personnel from global companies as well as SMEs have upgraded their existing qualifications and improved their academic status. Among them is Fairfield Control Systems, a Siemens Solution Partner that specialises in the design, manufacture, installation, commissioning and 24/7 support of industrial control solutions across a wide range of markets. Its work includes the supply of systems for many prestigious engineering projects including Tower Bridge, Wimbledon Centre Court’s retractable roof, the London Eye, and the Falkirk Wheel.

Fairfield began enrolling its engineers to the programme in 2019 having previously used a two-year part-time degree programme. It is expecting its fifth engineer to graduate in the autumn. Peter McMorrow, engineering director, said: “Our growth strategy means we need to increase the pipeline of talent every year. By moving to the Siemens one-year degree programme we can fast track the upskilling process of our engineers with industry relevant training content, while the block release approach allowed them time to focus on their studies and condensed their learning periods.

“This accelerated degree option is also now an attractive recruitment tool.”

Among those graduating is Jack Wilson, a 34-year-old design engineer. The degree is the end of a culmination of an extraordinary five-year journey which saw him quit his well-paid job in construction and embark on Fairfield’s apprenticeship scheme, all while trying to raise a young family. He commented: “I never saw myself going as far as a degree, partly because of the cost and time involved and I doubted I could achieve that academic level,” Jack said. “But the fast track, block release approach was an attractive option. It has meant I have been able to really concentrate on taking on board what I am being taught, learn in my own time and at my own pace and deliver the results. Then, take it back to my day job. It has been fantastic.

“Starting again with a new career at the age I did was a very difficult decision and a hard job balancing work and my family responsibilities. But with the support of my loved ones and Fairfield Control Systems I’ve kept my focus and not looked back.”

“Since its launch in 2017, the degree programme has gone from strength to strength and by the end of the year will have upskilled 79 young and experienced engineers making them industry ready and fully equipped to deal with future technologies.”

The programme is aimed at those at HNC/HND level looking to gain new skills, experience and knowledge and study through to degree. It is available both for apprentices as part of a degree apprenticeship, funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, or as a separate Continuing Professional Development (CPD) initiative for non-apprentices.

Other businesses to enroll engineers on the programme include Amazon, Costain, GSK and Muller Dairies.