New Diploma in Manufacturing and Product Design in the UK holds promise

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I just got details through of a new qualification in the UK that will allow 14 to 19 year olds to study vocational courses in a wide range of manufacturing disciplines while still in school and college. The Diploma in Manufacturing and Product Design (MPD), which is being introduced in 28 areas around England from September, will allow students “to gain accredited qualifications in disciplines ranging from computer aided design (CAD) and engineering to furniture making and food safety as an alternative to studying GCSEs or A-Levels.”

The choice of qualifications, known as Additional and Specialist Learning (ASL), has recently been released ahead of launch and is intended to complement the study of core principles relevant to all manufacturing sectors by offering clear progression routes into the industry.

Derek Jones, who has led the development of the Diploma in MPD on behalf of food and drink sector skills council Improve, said: “The Diploma in MPD is a response to the long-standing complaint from industry that young people are leaving education without the practical skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace.

Its main purpose is to give young people a sound understanding of what manufacturing is in an applied, real-life context. The core topics cover product design, materials science, production systems and business and management, and it also pays close attention to ’employability’ skills like communication, numeracy and ICT, as well as ’soft’ skills such as critical thinking and team work.

But the intention is also to give students an education they can actually use, which will stand them in good stead in the workplace. So the ASL requirement has been developed to allow students to pick from a wide range of existing, recognised qualifications, be it something specific to a particular sector or to a particular manufacturing theme, or on a different topic altogether, for example a modern language, which could be useful to them. This offers students the widest possible choice of future paths, preparing them for further academic study in college or university, but and giving them the chance to gain qualifications that will be recognised in the workplace if they choose to seek a job or further vocational training through an Apprenticeship or similar.

The Diploma in MPD has been developed by employers working with the five manufacturing sector skills councils – Improve, Cogent, Skillfast-UK, Semta, Proskills. Employers will play a central role in its delivery, working as part of consortia, or partnerships, with school and colleges. Their role will range from offering work placements to assisting with project topics to assisting with teachers’ Continuing Professional Development.

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This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for employers to shape the education of the next generation of workers,” added Mr Jones. “Not only is this putting manufacturing right at the heart of mainstream education, it is mirroring the way companies train and develop staff in the workplace and giving young people practical skills they require in the workplace.”

Notes: I have just two thoughts about this. the first is “Thank **** for that. What took so long.” And the second is that I seriously hope this isn’t just a temporary initiative and something long term. I’m going to try and get hold of the man in charge and have a chat and see what the plans are. The real challenge I can see is two fold. Firstly, getting kids to engage with design and manfacturing at an age early enough for them to find taking on these course attractive. The other is that the interest is maintained while on these courses. It strikes me that the use of CAD within education can do wonderful things. Kids love tech. If you can tie some of the amazing technology we all perhaps take for granted and expose kids to it at an early enough stage in their career formulation, then it might stick. Because frankly, if we don’t. We’re screwed three ways from Sunday.


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