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SISA Innovation Champions 20-21

Pauline Bremner Web
Dr Pauline Bremner, Teaching Excellence Fellow and Head of Year 4 Fashion Management, writes about SISA and ensuring that graduates and all young people are more innovative and resilient in the changing job market.

When students enter the workplace, many will be going into roles that didn’t exist only a few years ago. The pace of change and technological development call for a new set of skills to ensure that our Robert Gordon University graduates and all young people are more innovative and resilient in the changing job market. Skills like analytical thinking, problem solving, collaborative working, creativity, leadership, resilience and flexibility are crucial as AI, robotics and automation impact across different sectors.

As part of RGU’s ongoing commitment to equip students with skills for the future, teams across RGU, have taken a central approach to the implementation of Scottish Institute for Enterprise’s Scottish Innovative Student Award (SISA), and as a result of the partnership the SISA programme has gone from strength to strength. SISA is a personal development programme from the SIE which is designed to develop students’ innovation competencies across the following tiered levels: Level 1: Future Thinker, Level 2: Innovation Catalyst and Level 3: Innovation Champion. Recognising the benefits to students in participating in the programme, developing mindsets which are flexible and innovative, our SISA team at RGU recognised the need to develop the partnership. 

Our collaborative team presented a ‘blueprint’ for level one module accreditation process to become the first and only university in Scotland to award SISA level 1 in house. It led to RGU being awarded the Imaginative Educator Award at the SIE’s Festival of Innovation.  Using the accreditation model has accelerated the growth of RGU student participants across the academic year 20-21 giving us the largest market share of level one awardees in Scotland.  RGU colleagues acted as facilitators for the SIE on their newly shaped level 2 virtual workshops.  In recognition of our new Innovative Champions, Fiona Godsman CEO of the SIE joined our ‘virtual ceremony’ at our annual What’s Next Conference to offer some advice to our Innovative Champions. Fiona highlighted ‘For me, a university education is about preparing students for the future, which is not just about getting a job that will start them on their own personal careers, but also about thinking more widely about the world they are a part of, and how they can make a positive impact on that world. That is why the rounded education that is provided by Robert Gordon University is so important, and I am proud that the Scottish Institute for Enterprise has been able to partner with RGU to provide so many students with access to our Scottish Innovative Students Awards Programme. I know that the students will be able to use what they have learned here to go on to make a positive impact on the world, and I thank them for their enthusiasm and passion for innovation. The future is brighter with all of our awardees in it’.

Students often comment on the benefits of SISA giving us feedback which links in with our whole person education ethos, our teaching and learning framework and our RGU Values.  More importantly it adds to the skills set for our future graduates.  Erin Smith (Ba Hons) Media said “I have seen a major increase in my confidence, networking and innovation skills. I believe this programme has helped me become a more adaptable and flexible thinker, allowed me to manage my uncertainty about various ideas and how they can be turned into a more positive decision using evidence and analysis. I believe that this scheme has helped me develop the appropriate skills needed to start up my own videography company during the pandemic." 

In April 2021, the Scottish Institute for Enterprise will cease its operations, however the university is well positioned to continue to work in the spirit of SIE and deliver a similar award programme, aligned to our own teaching and learning Framework – creating a ‘whole-person’ education. Chris Moule Head of the EIG noted  ‘RGU can build on our strong employability record and are committed to ensuring our students have the confidence and skills to be successful in the future world of work, whether employed or starting their own venture’. 

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