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Small Development Projects 2011 - Teesside University - Academic leadership for business engagement - Final Report

The final report is below. You can also read the original proposal.

Project Overview
Responding to emerging priorities in the HE sector (including the vital nature of transferable employability skills and the economic value of higher-level skills) the purpose of the project was to develop a model for HEIs to establish and develop academic leaders in the field of business engagement, a critical role for universities. It was intended that the activity strands in the proposal would work towards tying together the workforce development, work-based learning, employer engagement and skills agendas, helping to ensure active involvement of a greater number of academic staff, directly addressing the need for specific skills and approaches required for working with employers and making the vital connections between the multi-faceted challenges students must negotiate to be successful lifelong learners.

Project Aims, objectives and outcomes
The key aims of the project were to:

  • To engage more academics in business-facing activity
  • To put in place mechanisms to develop academic leaders in this field, with the ability to lead and mentor less experienced colleagues
  • To promote and support the sharing of expertise and best practice for professional development

Reflecting on the year there have been a number of challenges to overcome, for instance, a graduate intern was initially employed to support the project but left once they gained full-time permanent employment (although slightly inconvenient for the project this was obviously a good outcome for the intern). The intern’s activities were covered by a member staff in the workforce development team. There were also some logistical challenges around times and locations of sessions but these were overcome. Despite small challenges such as these there have been no major issues and the project has achieved what it set out to do and the objectives have been fulfilled.

Since disseminating information on the project it has become apparent that there is significant potential to develop the project further. There has been a lot of interest generated from staff wishing to become mentors and although we have taken on more mentors, with limited funds this also limits staff development opportunities. The first 10 mentors have benefited from a financial boost to their staff development fund, however, due to the modest budget this is not available for the colleagues who are now coming forward. There is a lot of potential to enlarge the project if additional funds could be obtained.

1. Create and facilitate a network of practitioners with differing levels of experience and ability in business engagement to share best practice and support and to mentor each other via monthly meetings, workshops and events

A baseline of best practice was established by undertaking small scale desk research and interviews with colleagues across the university. This exercise enabled us to identify both ‘business engagement champions’ who would be suitable mentors and secondly people who needed support and would therefore benefit from mentoring/involvement in a ‘business engagement network’. The network was successfully established and currently has around 80 members. Although the target for the project was 10 mentors, 19 people have actually been developed as mentors (with mentor profiles available to staff via the Business Observatory – an electronic repository). Some of the network members have established one-to-one mentoring relationships whilst others regularly attend workshop sessions or do both. The mentoring is supported by the mentoring handbook Sharing Ideas for Business Engagement, which has been developed by the project team.

A number of surveys have been sent by the project team to the business network asking for further ideas for future sessions; ideas for developing the mentoring programme further, and so on. As time has passed a number of the mentees have now expressed an interest in becoming mentors.

2. Create and lead a programme of leadership through mentoring for the business-facing community

A programme of network events/workshops, development sessions and one to one mentoring has been established and these are regularly promoted and open to all staff across the university.

3. Create, populate and service a Workforce Development Innovation Observatory. This is a web portal with resources which will include research and publications, events information, discussion boards and blogs, details of colleagues’ expertise and other workforce development material. There will be a specific strand focusing on leadership through mentoring for the business-facing academic agenda.

A Business Engagement Observatory has been developed and is located on the University’s SharePoint site Unity. Content on the Observatory includes mentor profiles, an electronic copy of the mentoring handbook, case studies, materials from the workshop sessions and other useful resources such as research and publications. Content on the observatory is updated on a regular basis and is used to bring the business engagement community in the University up to date with relevant news, key developments and events.

Discussions with the University’s Marketing and Student Recruitment department are ongoing in relation to developing an online Observatory presence.

4. Create and facilitate a series of lunchtime seminars aimed at developing leadership qualities in business-facing staff. These will build on a tested model: the University is currently delivering monthly staff development seminars based on Dr Ruth Helyer’s book The Work-based Learning Student Handbook (Palgrave, 2010). This publication is specifically aimed at staff who are working/would like to work with work-based learners.

A programme of lunchtime seminars has been developed and delivered across the year (see below). These have sessions have been delivered and facilitated by business engagement mentors as well as external mentoring experts. The sessions have been well attended with numbers ranging from 15 to 47 people at each session. Some members of the network regularly attend the sessions but more often than not individuals dip into sessions that are most appropriate to their areas of work.

Date , Host and Topic

6th September 2011
Dr Ruth Helyer Introduction to the Business Engagement Mentoring Scheme

11th October 2011
Warren Harrison, Accidents, innovation & experimentation: exploring the links between WFD and undergraduate provision

15th November 2011
Dr Tim Thompson, "It really shouldn't be this hard..." - attempting to take forensic archaeology and anthropology training from the lecture room to the crime scene

12th December 2011
Brian Rankin, Communication and Pedagogy in Workforce Development

9th January 2012
Bruce Bolderson/ Dr Elaine Hooker, Mentoring in Practice
Nicky Gormley (NLG Partners) Mentor development session

14th February 2012
Kevin Ions/Norma Sutcliffe, Assessing the organizational benefits of Work Based Projects

March 2012
Ruth McGrath, Virtual workshop - Teaching Off Campus, Preparing to Succeed

25th April 2012
Scott Watson/Sharon Patterson, Innovation and Perspiration: the Challenges of workforce development in SAM

16th May 2012
Jonathan Roberts, Engaging with the Public Sector in times of Changing Policy

12th June 2012
Nicky Gormley, Effective Mentoring for Business facing Academics

5. Create a module for staff new to the university aimed at familiarising them with the business-facing agenda and helping them to become future leaders and mentors in this academic area.

The academic module ‘Teaching Employed Learners’ has now been written and passed through School Academic Standards Committee (SASC) successfully. The module is due to be delivered in May 2012, 11 learners are currently enrolled.

Benefit of the project
The project has enabled us to develop a foundation for taking academic mentoring (specifically for business engagement) forward in the University. This mentoring initiative raised awareness of business engagement in the institution and the types of activity that are taking place and encouraged more people to get involved. Hopefully the mentoring will be sustainable through the network the project has created. Further sessions have already been booked for next academic year although there are limited resources to support this activity.

Project Income and Expenditure
As the project activity evolved it seemed obvious that we needed to transfer some of the funding from ‘other’ to staffing costs to cover the additional staff costs needed to effectively deliver the project.

Project dissemination activities
A number of activities have been undertaken to effectively disseminate best practice established through the project these include:

  • Conference paper presented (in conjunction with Bedfordshire University) regarding issues around business engagement at Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) annual conference in March 2011 (Dr R Helyer)
  • Mentoring project promoted at the HE in FE conference at Teesside University in July 2011 through a poster presentation (see attached abstract) – ‘Academic mentoring for continuous professional development’ (Dr Ruth Helyer and Dionne Lee)
  • Journal article ‘Academic mentoring as continuous professional development towards academic leadership’ – written and submitted to special edition of the International Journal of training and Development (forthcoming 2012) – (Dr R Helyer and D Lee)
  • Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) annual conference 2012 - informal discussion group with colleagues from other universities (and invited some to attend further network sessions) – (Dr R Helyer and D Lee)
  • Forthcoming poster presentation (see attached abstract) at the Professional Practice, Education and Learning (ProPEL) CPD conference, May 2012 - Academic mentoring for continuous professional development’ (Dr R Helyer and D Lee)
  • Dr R Helyer and D Lee are currently preparing a paper about the project activity for the International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education
  • The network sessions have continued to provide dissemination opportunities about the project and about Academic Mentoring for Business Engagement throughout the project.
  • Dr R Helyer and D Lee would be happy to present a paper about the project at the Leadership Foundation’s annual conference – or other pertinent events/publications that the Leadership Foundation is involved with
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