A SMART Partnership between Aston Martin and UWTSD is helping to drive graduate employability through academic and industry collaboration.
The partnership between academic staff, research associates and engineers is aimed at knowledge exchange and collaboration between the University and Aston Martin to develop graduates that are industry ready.
Welsh Government Smart partnerships provide financial support to businesses for innovative projects that require academic collaboration – helping to develop new products, and in this instance using automation and digitalisation to remain competitive.
Richard Morgan, Programme Director Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering at UWTSD said: “The SMART partnership which we undertook with Aston Martin Lagonda, at its global headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire and at St Athan, was a link between academic staff, research associates and engineers from Aston Martin. We focused on the area of body structures, product development and advanced manufacturing and looking at ways to streamline some of the operations within those activities within the company.”
Gareth Jones, Research Associate, and Body Structures, Aston Martin said: “I wouldn’t be in this company without the smart partnership. I feel it was a great way to get into the automotive business without going through the traditional routes”
Guy Stanley, Manager Underframe, and Body Structures, Aston Martin said: “I think it’s had a brilliant effect on the business and we’ve obviously gained Gareth as a full time employee. We’ve gained experience, knowledge and efficiency in existing and new processes that we’d never been able to do before. As a company it will be a big benefit to us.”
Graham Howe, Principal Research Fellow at UWTSD said: “It’s what UWTSD has been known for, for years in terms of our industrial relevance and our industrial led programmes. We think it’s phenomenally important that our programmes develop graduates that are industry ready. What we need to be doing is ensuring those graduates can secure employment opportunities in companies with the right level skills, the high quality skills that we are developing in automation, simulation etc. And what we have seen with the Welsh Government SMART partnership, is it really benefits the university in terms of our teaching delivery but also for our students, who learn theses skills in the university and can apply them in industry for industry.”
Aston Martin Lagonda interviewed applicants from all over the world for the Research Associate positions. The two RAs chosen were both Welsh, Barry Meacham, a UWTSD graduate and Gareth Jones from Gower College Swansea. Both research associates were studying and working in England and as a result of the SMART Partnership are now both working in Wales.
Graham added: “We are not only retaining talent in Wales, we are actually bringing it back across the border which is fantastic. To see the benefits of smart partnerships in Wales, to see some of that benefit happening in St Athan, to seeing those cars coming off the end of the line knowing that two graduates have had a very direct impact on that, is absolutely phenomenal.”
Additionally, Stuart Faulkner and Tristan Quilter, who were both studying towards BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering at UWTSD have benefited from internships within Aston Martin Lagonda’s Product Development and Body Engineering departments at the company’s headquarters in Gaydon Warwickshire.
Their role involved them being able to execute material and component testing to support materials development, design verification for existing vehicles and new vehicle launch.
At the end of the internship, Stuart and Tristan presented a summary of the investigative work which they had carried out to chief engineers and heads of department at Aston Martin. Both were asked to continue the specialist work which they were undertaking with Aston Martin as the focus of their final year engineering projects.
Richard Morgan said “Within the School of Engineering at UWTSD, we have strived to develop a culture which emphasises the application of academic study to real-world challenges. The work which Tristan and Stuart undertook during their internship, then being taken forward and developed for their academic project work epitomises this ethos. We feel that, by offering our undergraduate Engineering students such opportunities, they gain invaluable experience and significantly strengthen their profiles. Our, independently monitored, post-graduation employability figures back this up.”
Graham Howe said: “The internships have enabled Tristian and Stuart to apply the knowledge learned in the lectures and modules on their programme to real world applications. It has given them valuable work experience that will enhance their CVs and prepare them for their engineering careers following graduation. These internships are tremendously valuable to all our students and I’ve been delighted at the quality of work that has been produced and I am really excited and looking forward to seeing the outcome of this work.”