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Subsea Collaboration – A Class Act!

24 May 2010

The extraordinary efforts of Newcastle University, Newcastle College and Subsea NE, a cluster of the region’s leading subsea firms were recognised at one of the region’s most prestigious awards ceremonies last month.

The Celebrating Learning and Skills Success (Class) Awards, sponsored by One North East and Business and Enterprise North East (BENE), took place at the Sage Gateshead on Friday 23rd April, with over 1200 guests celebrating the achievements of outstanding learners and those at the cutting edge of skills development.

A collaboration between Subsea NE, Newcastle University and Newcastle College was announced as the overall winner in the Collaboration in Higher Skills category, recognising the efforts made in addressing the skills needs of the region’s cluster of subsea technology firms who are world leaders in their respective fields and key contributors to the region’s economy.

The collaboration, cited as ‘an exceptionally broad and innovative example of employer engagement’, has allowed for the development of new subsea specific courses, including a Foundation Degree in Subsea Engineering Technologies at Newcastle College and an MSc in Subsea Engineering and Management at Newcastle University.

Dr Fiona Whitehurst of Newcastle University Business School and Dr Julia Race of the School of Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, originally secured funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to work with Subsea NE to map the skills needs of employers and develop new models of engaging employers in course development and the promotion of engineering to school students. The outcomes of this project made it apparent that there was definite demand for new course provision and a willingness by the subsea firms to work closely with the education sector. This led to a successful bid to One North East’s Higher Level Skills Capacity Building Fund.

Newcastle University and Newcastle College worked with Subsea NE, establishing industry-education committees with representation from regional firms to guide the development of the two new programmes at Foundation Degree and Masters level. With both courses now successfully up and running, Subsea NE continues to support the programmes through employee sponsorship, provision of invaluable student projects, acting as external lecturers and providing substantial amounts of capital equipment to enhance the learning experience.

Far from being a short-term effort, Subsea NE is keen to maintain the position of the North East of England as a world-renowned, centre of subsea engineering, as Neil Kirkbride, Chief Executive Officer of BEL Valves, a division of British Engines Limited, and a key supporter of the project explains: “The establishment and success of these new courses in Newcastle sends a strong message about the strength of our regional sector. Firms in North East England will continue to invest in staff and attract new learners in order to maintain the world class skills this region can currently boast.”

Dr Fiona Whitehurst collecting the award, alongside colleagues from Newcastle College and Subsea NE says: “This partnership has achieved so much in a short space of time and we are incredibly proud to see what impact our collective efforts are having on the regional sector, particularly in the current economic climate. The support the University and College have received from the subsea firms has been excellent and we look forward to strengthening the relationship through further collaborative activities including our participation in the National Subsea Research Institute”.