Published on in EducationDigital Transformation

 

Ian McCormick, IT Director at Derby College Group

 

This blog is guest authored by Ian McCormick, IT Director at Derby College Group.

 

The Derby College Group is an institution founded on the principles of providing educational excellence, championing social mobility and enabling economic prosperity.

Our IT department welcomes over 20,000 students in full time, part time or short courses each year. However, it’s with our ongoing partnership with Fujitsu in the last seven years that we’ve realised the many benefits and opportunities that partnering with an innovative IT organisation can bring.

In this blog, I’m thrilled to share how these benefits and opportunities have been passed on to our students, the increase in learning opportunities for the department as a whole, and how all of this is contributing to creating future generations of digitally skilled workers.

A symbiotic partnership

When initially approached by Fujitsu, we thought it was a targeted sales effort to acquire the college as a customer and brand ambassador. However, it quickly became apparent that our relationship would far exceed that of a business and customer, instead evolving into a positive, mutually beneficial partnership – which continues to empower our staff and students, seven years on.

It all began with Fujitsu’s desire to be involved in the grassroot education we offer, by way of understanding our business model, the breadth of courses we offer and the range of students we cater to. Using their expertise and experience from partnering with other institutions, Fujitsu was then able to help us bridge the gap of inclusivity by bringing students from different backgrounds with varying levels of disadvantage together.

Their team also helped us create an organic peer-to-peer network with other colleges and universities in the area. Through our discussions, we realised we all shared similar challenges around digital inclusion and skills. This has enabled us to collaborate and given us an insight into the future through webinars, seminars and trips where we’ve been exposed to new technology. All of which has led to a great learning experience for the department.

What I’ve found most important though, is the projects we’ve carried out to learn from experts in the field about digital transformation and how it affects different industries.

Since we train young people who go on to work in different sectors, it’s been vital to understand how the industry is going to change and where skill gaps might emerge; we are able to translate this into our courses to ensure what our students are learning is appropriate, relevant and ultimately equips them for the future.

Through our learnings, we started a Skills Development Fund project where local businesses can come in and talk to us about the present changes in the industry and how they can work with us to fill skills gaps. Owing to our longstanding partnership, Fujitsu was a willing participant in the project, who joined us to share expertise, communicate best practises, and showcase any innovative products that could address industry challenges.

Top of the line technology

Another reason why our partnership has been so fruitful is because we’ve experienced the quality of Fujitsu’s products first-hand. Previously, we had some 800 desktops and laptops from which more than 600 would be sent for refitting or repairing every year. Since we replaced them with Fujitsu devices, we now only repair about 20 laptops per year – often due to accidental damage or vandalism, rather than defects or faults with the device.

Having a higher quality product has positively impacted the reputation of our IT support team and our students now trust the device we provide and want to use it more often, which makes for a better learning experience.

Ultimately, devices have been durable and invaluable. Even the devices we gave students to use at home during lockdowns have come back in good condition.

 

Cutting edge projects

The Institute of Technology (IoT) project is an exciting collaborative bid that will bring together Derby College, Derby University, Loughborough College and Loughborough University to form the East Midlands Institute of Technology (IoT). We were selected by the government to enter the final round of applications to become one of eight new UK IoTs. Our goal is to create a highly advanced workforce needed to lead UK’s green and digital revolution as we recover from the pandemic.

The IoT project will focus on levelling up the critical engineering, manufacturing and digital skills needed by employers to succeed in an AI and a data-driven economy.

To reach this goal, the project will offer specialist programmes such as Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies, Information and Communication Technology, Science and Mathematics and Construction, and Planning and the Built Environment.

We’re delighted to be working with Fujitsu as an employer partner on this project, to ensure the curriculums are well developed and are addressing skills gaps, complete with the providing of relevant work placement opportunities for students.

Next-generation gaming

eSports is an emerging area and exciting addition to our curriculum. Fujitsu has played an invaluable role in the process, by helping us with workstations and desktop units with the right airflow and build quality to ensure the high-end performance devices are going to be suitable for esports.

They’ve also given us great insights about the industry, the environment needed for the esports arena, and worked with us on its branding to promote to new students.

Digital transformation strategy

As the IT director, our partnership with Fujitsu has been immeasurable for the opportunities to attend Fujitsu events and learn first-hand from experts in the industry. In turn, it’s equipped me with the knowledge and language needed to devise and deliver a meaningful digital transformation strategy for the college.

With this experience, rather than creating an IT strategy like I would have done in the past, I was able to use my learnings to create a data driven transformation strategy that was easy to understand and would be everybody’s responsibility to carry through in the college.

This has been a huge strategic benefit and a real turnaround for us from where we were a couple of years ago with devices that were falling apart.

Overall, our partnership with Fujitsu goes way beyond the relationship of an IT supplier. The partnership has derived many benefits that we couldn’t have envisioned at the start.

From cutting-edge products to driving our curriculum development, innovation and digital transformation, our partnership has been hugely successful and critical to helping us meet our ambitions of educational excellence. In the process, championing social mobility and enabling economic prosperity as we empower future generations of digitally skilled workers.

I’m enthusiastic about the future and excited to be going all the way with Fujitsu.

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