Shropshire is in line to benefit from a Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) grant to address skills shortages in flood management, modelling and engineering.
The University of Chester, which has established University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) with Shropshire Council, has been awarded more than £110,000 to develop a series of higher education and professional development flood prevention and management courses. The courses will be developed with the Government’s Industrial Strategy in mind, which recognises that upgrading water and flood defences is an urgent priority, given recent flooding incidents across the country.
Entitled Flood Risk, Assessment, Modelling and Engineering (FRAME), the project will be based within University of Chester’s Department of Geography and International Development, and will be delivered in partnership with University Centre Reaseheath. It is planned that some of the modules will be offered at UCS and the catchment area of the River Severn will be used as a real-world field laboratory for delivering practical elements of the curriculum.
The project funding from HEFCE’s Catalyst fund programme has been allocated to FRAME, with additional investment provided by the institutions involved, employers and other partners. The courses will be co-developed and co-designed in conjunction with employers, both national and local. Partners already aligned to this project include the Environment Agency (West Midlands), Shropshire Wildlife Trust, United Utilities and the National Flood Forum. In addition the team will be working with CIWEM (the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) to acquire accreditation and ensure the courses provide a clear pathway for students to gain professional chartership.
Welcoming the news, Professor Anna Sutton, Provost of UCS, said: “This is a very timely announcement, with flood alerts recently having been in force in Shropshire.
“As well as creating sustainable, industry-relevant and flexible routes for progression for individuals working or wanting to work in flood prevention and related industries, this project fits with our wider aims of working closely with industry, ensuring students have the practical skills they need, and addressing challenges in our world today.
“We are thrilled that through the University of Chester, University Centre Shrewsbury and University Centre Reaseheath, we can contribute towards work to prevent and manage flooding.”
Dr Martin Degg, Head of the Department of Geography and International Development at the University of Chester, said: “According to the Committee on Climate Change, flooding and coastal change are the most significant climate challenges facing the UK. We are very excited to be given the opportunity to develop these courses, which aim to address skills gaps in this particular area of expertise.”
Work-focused modules will be developed that can be used as stand-alone, targeted skills solutions, or be built up to a specific qualification. These include a Foundation Degree in River and Coastal Flood Engineering and Management (designed to cater for individuals who have gone straight from school into work, who need support developing their river and coastal engineering skills; and for school leavers who want to gain the skills and experience to secure employment within engineering consultancy or local government); a postgraduate (leading to Masters) qualification in Flood Risk, Assessment, Modelling and Engineering (FRAME), which is for graduates working within a relevant industry, and to be carried out with minimal disruption to employment. CPD (Continuous Professional Development) modules around flood management, climate resilience, flood modelling and catchment modelling are also being developed.
A non-traditional approach to teaching is part of the aim of this project. Games, virtual simulation, workplace/laboratory learning and fieldwork will all be involved, and targeted to meet employer needs.
Dr Servel Miller, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and International Development at Chester added: “One of the key aims of the HEFCE bid is to support higher education (HE) providers to work more closely with business, professional bodies, public sector employers and other key partners to deliver productivity gains and support inclusive growth in their local or regional context in priority economic sectors.
“Investment in new, or redesigned, HE provision, co-developed with employers and professional bodies, has the potential to drive forward key parts of the economy, increase productivity, and support inclusive growth in local and regional economies, which the new FRAME courses will do. The Marches Strategic Economic Plan (2016), which covers Shropshire, highlights the need for skills supporting climate resilience and skills to manage natural assets. The new curriculum will address both of these priorities.”
HEFCE’s investment will help to enhance graduate outcomes and employability, and upskill the workforce - providing the key skills that industry and employers need and contributing to UK productivity in the longer term.
HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said: “We were delighted with the quality of proposals received for this funding call and particularly the impressive levels of engagement between higher education and industry.“This investment represents important support for the government’s Industrial Strategy. The funding will provide new courses and vital skill developments in key industrial sectors across the country, from which students, the workforce and employers all stand to benefit.”
Full details about the HEFCE Catalyst funding announcement can be found at: www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/catalyst/futureskills.