Inspiring the next generation through early introduction to technology

June 8, 2020

Big data, automation and robotics are among the pieces of the jigsaw being slotted together as the picture of the workforce of the future comes into sharp focus.

For North East Scotland College the opportunity to be at the heart of new and exciting developments for the region is one that is being grasped – with learners from school age through to adults retraining and reskilling embracing new and rapidly evolving subject areas.

Through the College’s growing School Links programme – offering secondary pupils the opportunity to combine school studies with a broad range of NESCol courses and qualifications – budding young engineers are being offered a first taste of robotics.

The recently introduced Automation and Renewables course is designed to provide and engaging introduction, aiming to inspire the next generation of innovators.

Kevin Bruce, Head of Faculty for Engineering and Construction at NESCol’s Fraserburgh Campus, said: “As a College we’ve got a strong track record in electrical and mechanical engineering, two disciplines at the heart of the advances we’re seeing all around us in automation and robotics.

“Automation is making life easier for us all in day to day life, not to mention in industry. From remotely operated vehicles in the oil and gas sector to robotics and industrial motion control in manufacturing, the progress has been significant. Education and training has to keep pace with that change and we’ve been very proactive with STEM subjects.

“As a College we work closely with industry to meet the workforce needs on the horizon – automation and robotics is one of the areas that there’s great potential in. The School Links course, combining automation with another of the growth areas in renewables, is a really good hands-on introduction for pupils. It includes 3D printing and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), so covers a range of emerging technologies.

“We also have the Fujitsu Innovation Hub at the heart of the Fraserburgh Campus and that’s a resource that will come into its own in the coming years. We’re planning to continue investing in equipment and technology to allow us to build on the work already being done and from a College perspective the opportunities for students are really beginning to open up, growing from the knowledge and experience we have across electrical and mechanical engineering.”

With the future of engineering being explored with new audiences in the workshops and classrooms at the Fraserburgh and Altens campuses, at NESCol’s City Campus the potential of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber security is being brought to the fore through the computing faculty’s work.

The recent addition of Dr Ibrahim Alwawi to the lecturing staff has brought a new perspective, stemming from his PhD studies in big data, and adds to the focus on the skills required for students with their sights set on a career in a fast paced and changing industry.

Cameron Walker, Head of Faculty for Computing and Science at the College, said: “In recent years we have seen a spike in interest in courses across Computing, including in software development, and given the career opportunities and pathways to further study we hope to see that continuing. AI, big data, data analytics and the role of software development in harnessing that power to provide solutions is a fascinating area and bringing computing to life is something NESCol and our team prides itself on.

“Technologies in Business is one of the new courses that we’re gaining traction with, bringing together the technical areas such as big data and user interface design with the entrepreneurial elements of project management and business communications in a new way. Our first HND students are progressing through that course and developing skills that are aligned to the demand we can see in the business sector.”