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“Gateways into the Professions
Article Type: University news From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 4
The University of Bristol Language Centre has been selected by CILT, the National Centre for Languages to take part in a project funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to design and deliver an innovative new language-learning programme. Entitled “Gateways into the Professions”, the project connects students with employers and professional bodies while they are still at university.
The language centre is working with Airbus UK and colleagues in the Department of Aerospace and Avionic Engineering at the University to develop a range of learning materials for online, interactive private study in French for undergraduate students in the department. The aim is to inform the next generation of aerospace engineers about the importance of developing language and intercultural skills for their future careers and to equip them with the relevant linguistic skills set to get ahead in the aerospace industry.
Conducted entirely in French, the course includes a history of avionics, specialist terminology, interviews with industry professionals, business French, vocabulary and grammar exercises, plus information and links to careers in aerospace and avionics. The course is taught by Hélène Duranton, recent winner of the arts faculty’s annual e-learning prize.
Speaking about Airbus’s involvement in the project, Duncan Greenman, Head of people development for Airbus Engineering in the UK and a visiting senior research fellow in aerospace at the university, commented: “Airbus and its predecessor companies have had a long association with the University of Bristol dating back over 80 years; these collaborations have added much value to both organisations. As a recruiter of new graduates, we are particularly pleased to be involved with the language centre and the gateways project. For graduates to have an existing foreign-language capability on joining is of great benefit to employers, especially when that capability covers both conversational and technical subjects. The project focus on business, aerospace and avionics will make airbus involvement even more appropriate and mutually valuable.”
Bristol and the other universities involved in the project (Kingston, Loughborough, and Salford) each have a team of professionals (a language tutor, a vocational tutor and at least one employer) who work together to design the curriculum and materials. As well as the input from individual employers, professional bodies such as the Engineering Council UK and construction skills are closely involved in the project to offer advice and to disseminate the work of the initiative.
Explaining why Bristol was selected for the project, Teresa Birks, higher education adviser at CILT, the National Centre for Languages, said, “Collaboration and innovation are key to the Language Gateways into the Professions project. Equally important are the passion and commitment of both the language and vocational teachers. The University of Bristol has brought all of this and more in developing and piloting a pioneering course that will serve as a best practice model to be disseminated at national level.”
Dr Steve Burrow, lecturer in aircraft systems in the Faculty of Engineering, added: “We know from experience that a significant proportion of our students will go on to hold senior positions in international companies and hence we need to give them the opportunity to learn diverse language and business culture skills. Initiatives like the Gateways project are important because by contextualising language tuition it not only appears more relevant to students, which improves uptake, but it also allows the language tuition to be tailored to the needs of industry, improving graduate employability.”
Describing her experience of the course, Mariam Niknejad, a second-year aerospace-engineering student, said: “The Language Gateway is an engaging way of learning and putting into context French for aerospace engineering. It caters for reading, listening and writing in an enjoyable manner. I found it easier to learn technical vocabulary using the Gateway as it is interactive. I particularly like the section that provides you with links to further information on the topics the exercises dealt with.”
It is intended that the project will be used as a model of best practice and further collaborative work between higher education and the professional sector.