It is understood that engineering student competencies at the end of an undergraduate degree course should be a well-balanced mixture of underpinning science along with the development of necessary skills to allow successful transition into employment. The Engineering Department at Lancaster University accepts around one hundred undergraduate students onto a variety of general engineering degree schemes annually. Responding and aiming to realise several benefits of closer collaboration with industry, the Department has recently developed the concept of an Engineering Student Academy (ESA), a model which aims to bring undergraduate students closer to the business world in which most of them will be destined. The ESA is funded jointly by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Lancaster University, and intends to place students on short-term projects with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) typically of up to around 140 hours.
The paper will outline the rationale for this academy approach and detail the specifics of the support that will be available to, and planned activity with, undergraduate students. It will draw on existing curricula-based schemes to consider how proven best practice can be transferred and integrated into the academy model, which builds on years of experience of delivering small-scale projects with industry; these learning outcomes will be presented. This will include a case study example of how students have made meaningful contributions to product development and process improvement with commercial organisations and how they themselves have become more readily aware of expectations placed upon them by future prospective employers.