Scottish students gain key skills in international renewable energy initiative
Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is leading an innovative Erasmus+ project focused on fighting climate change.
In 2016, GCU successfully applied for Erasmus+ higher education strategic partnership funding to lead a three-year project called PEETS - Promoting Excellence in Employability and Transversal Skills.
Working with Finland's Lahti University of Applied Sciences, The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, and industry partner Constructionarium (Scotland) Ltd, the project has enabled students and staff to gain vital experience and skills in the renewable energy sector while studying and teaching abroad.
They are learning and working together to build installations, such as wind turbines, in each other’s countries.
“This concept originally arose out of informal networking across our three universities and Constructionarium, which provides hands-on learning in civil engineering and construction management," said Professor Bob Gilmour from GCU.
"Together we have created industry-informed, multidisciplinary and intercultural learning resources to enhance the professional development of our students and staff.
“We wanted to develop an approach to teaching and learning around the concept of global citizenship, using a sustainable development initiative that inspired our students and supported their graduation and employment.
"Central to this was working across disciplines and borders, which meant they had to develop transversal skills, engage in teamwork and address industry challenges.
“The project provides unique learning experiences from different perspectives for our students, enabling positive transformation in attitude and development of attributes and skills.
"It has enhanced our students' experience and knowledge and improved their international competence.
“Widening participation is a priority for us. Our activities were designed to be as inclusive as possible and developed in close liaison with the disability, diversity and wellbeing departments of all universities.
"All the cycles have attracted a diverse range of students including disabled and LGBT students and students with refugee status.”
Jo McKenzie has been involved from the start - taking part as a student in 2017, as a mentor in 2018, and as environmental consultant at Go Contaminated Land Solutions Ltd in 2019.
I gained the confidence to look beyond the boundaries of Scotland for future opportunities.
“PEETS allowed me to develop my interpersonal skills and gain a greater appreciation for other cultures," Jo said. "I gained the confidence to look beyond the boundaries of Scotland for future opportunities.
"Returning to the project for a second year consolidated my knowledge of how to be an effective team member and team leader while being involved as a participant allowed me to gain an understanding of other disciplines and develop my knowledge in areas that were not covered in my degree.”
As well as enhancing students' skills and employability, PEETS has also benefited staff.
“The project has brought together staff at different stages in their careers in HEI and industry and enhanced their expertise and productivity, creating new processes, publications, grant applications and curriculum design," said Professor Gilmour.
"We have all developed and improved as learners, teachers and learning facilitators. It has certainly been a defining journey in my career.
"The opportunities of mentoring, leadership, collaboration and dissemination have undoubtedly directly contributed to my promotion to Professor.”
Tim Hoppen, from The Hague University, agreed.
“I have improved my collaboration skills with professionals across borders and cultures, across academia and industry," he said.
"I have learned to design and deliver an international, intercultural and interdisciplinary student project. I have worked with students from many different countries, cultures and disciplines and had to acquaint myself with their specific needs and properties.
"This has made me a more complete lecturer. PEETS has made me grow as a professional."
“Strategic Partnerships allow you to work with a wider, diverse team which brings significant added value," said Professor Gilmour. "We have been exposed to new networks and subsequently created additional cross school/university/European projects.
"The project has improved our institutional facilities and reputation and contributed towards our achieving some of our strategic goals."
One cohort of participating students has graduated to date, with some very positive outcomes.
80 per cent of PEETS graduates gained 2.1 or 1st class honours (or equivalent) degrees compared to 70 per cent of those who didn't, while 95 per cent have gone on to high-level jobs or postgraduate degrees, many outside their home country
PEETS has also recently been recognised nationally as a 'ground-breaking' project, having been named among the 2019 recipients of the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence by Advance HE.
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