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Collaboration is just the business

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A group of final-year degree students are set to graduate this summer with an advanced insight into the world of business after taking part in a unique collaboration between the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and SSE.

Initiated by Create, the centre for enterprise and innovation at Inverness College UHI, in partnership with the innovation and quality management team at SSE, the collaboration resulted in a new approach to the university’s innovation and enterprise module.

Led by Inverness College UHI lecturer Catriona Grant, the BA (Hons) Business and Leisure students spent their final semester researching SSE’s approach to innovation with the aim of producing a strategic review and recommendations for new projects. Senior staff at SSE worked closely with the students, allowing them access to staff, project information, research materials and case studies.

This approach gave students an in-depth and real-life insight into the process of running a business and using innovation to maintain a competitive edge.

Rachael Bews, 21, from Evanton in Ross-shire, was one of the students taking part in the module.

Speaking of her experience she said: “This project has given me the chance to experience life as a business professional in a large, successful organisation. By working with a real company with specific goals and expectations, I have gained a great deal of insight into what awaits me in the world of work when I graduate this summer. It has also helped me to develop my research skills by giving me real scenarios to explore.”

Fellow student Lara Gilchrist, 22, also from Evanton, added: “The practical elements of the module were particularly valuable. We were asked to treat SSE as a real client, an element which we can sometimes miss when working from fictional projects or case studies. I really enjoyed experiencing a live client relationship, and found it very motivating as it pushed you to deliver results in exchange for real industry feedback.”

Niall Blair, head of innovation and quality management at SSE, said: “We’ve been very impressed with the high standards and enthusiasm demonstrated by the students throughout the module. We have received some fresh thinking about how we can continue to improve our innovation process and the students have gained a better understanding of the variety of career opportunities available within large organisations such as SSE.

“As a large employer in the north of Scotland, the collaboration will also allow us to feed into the programmes developed by Inverness College UHI to help ensure students leave their studies with a better understanding of current business thinking and what will be required of them as an employee.”

As part of the overall collaboration between Inverness College UHI and SSE, a group of electrical installation students were also able to gain a deeper knowledge of their industry by visiting SSE’s Fairburn windfarm development in April 2014.

SSE staff led a tour of the development and delivered a series of lectures on the manufacturing process, management and the technology installed at the site.

Speaking of this opportunity, Andrew McIntosh, lecturer in electrical installation at Inverness College UHI, commented: “The site visit to Fairburn windfarm provided our students with a great insight into the manufacturing and management of these sites as well as a greater understanding of renewable energy systems. It also allowed them to hear first-hand accounts of what it is like to work in this sector.”

Carol Langston, head of Create, added: “It is through innovative partnerships with businesses and top employers like SSE that students can really compete for high quality jobs with the thousands of students graduating in Scotland every year.

“As well as the essential skills and knowledge gained in the classroom and through study, students of all disciplines need to learn about being innovative and enterprising as this is what today’s employers want from their staff. By working with SSE, our students have learned a great deal about being competitive and successful, and I’m very confident that the students taking part in this project will bring to their future employers a sharper knowledge and understanding of world of business ahead of them. I’d like to thank SSE for their contribution and support during this project.”