School of Civil Engineering & Geosciences

Bespoke Courses

Bespoke Courses

Bespoke and In-House Courses

We have a proven record of developing bespoke courses, working with organisations such as the Environment Agency, Ordnance Survey, Fugro and Balfour Beatty.

Many of our courses can be delivered in-house. We're always seeking to develop training in response to what our clients want, so do get in touch if you're interested in collaborating with us.

Case Study: Hydrogeology

Skills in Hydrogeology

A lack of skills in geosciences has been recognised in recent years as a national problem.

The School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University responded to this gap by introducing a new flexible learning MSc programme in Applied Hydrogeology and Water Management.

Emerging Skills Challenges

The Environment Agency aims to protect and improve the environment, and to promote sustainable development. The identified lack of skills in geoscience has particular significance for an organisation with this focus.

The Environment Agency runs a national Geosciences Recruitment and Retention project to address issues regarding recruitment and retention of experienced staff with appropriate skills. A realisation that the portfolio of training programmes available to staff needed expansion led to the Environment Agency seeking out external expertise to help with the effective and efficient delivery of courses.

The existing Applied Hydrogeology and Water Management MSc programme at Newcastle provided an established basis of teaching material for the development of the necessary skills to meet the Environment Agency's needs. This included both short CPD courses and work-based and part-time MSc/Diploma courses.

The Response

Two short courses were developed by experts in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University: Groundwater Chemistry and Groundwater Contamination. The curricula were developed jointly between Newcastle University and the Environment Agency to address knowledge and skills including:

  • fundamental understanding of the chemical composition of groundwater
  • sampling and analytical methods
  • process conceptualisation
  • modelling skills
  • remediation techniques

The courses allow students to earn modular credits from Newcastle University which can contribute towards postgraduate awards.

A combination of lectures, classroom desk exercises, computer workshops and field exercises cover both the underpinning principles and the detailed knowledge necessary to apply the skills in an operational environment. Practical exercises, both in the classroom and in the field at local industrial sites, consolidate the learning with the real world application of the taught material.

Impact

Angela Haslam, a Technical Adviser at the Environment Agency, is convinced that the flexible approach offered through modular training is of great benefit. It gives employees the opportunity to study appropriate skills either as stand-alone continuing professional development or as part of a broader programme leading to an accredited qualification. This means that training is tailored to organisational needs and yet has the credibility of a postgraduate academic qualification.

Developing the technical skills to put training into practice allows staff to move on within the organisation, supporting their professional development. Angela Haslam stresses that training such as the Newcastle University modules allows people to move from supervised practice through the application of newly-acquired skills to working at a higher level and in a more independent way. The opportunity to take up structured training makes the organisation more attractive as an employer and helps to make people feel valued, improving staff retention.

Technical resilience is increasingly important. Staff with high level technical skills being developed through courses such as Groundwater Chemistry and Groundwater Contamination at Newcastle University are valued.

Case Study: OS

Case Study: Ordnance Survey

Location is an essential component of most information as it underpins much of government activity and thus impacts directly on the citizen (for example, through house purchase, travel to work or emergency services response times).

Ordnance Survey, established as the UK national mapping agency in 1791, produces a range of products and services. The usefulness of these products relies on field data that is increasingly gathered through the use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), previously referred to as Global Positioning System or GPS, which allow for accuracy within a few centimetres.

Emerging Skills Challenges

Ordnance Survey field surveyors were already well trained in using a suite of tools associated with high accuracy GPS when new tools were made available to around half of the surveyors in 2002-03. Efficiency at that time was seen to be around 40% up on the use of older equipment. However, staff were given the new equipment and a standard set of operating procedures which limited their effectiveness in situations that were outside the norm and in some circumstances may even have meant that they were not well placed to detect errors in data being collected.

Allied to a growing awareness that staff could use the new equipment even more effectively if their understanding was enhanced, a new career management process (Pathways) enabled Ordnance Survey to develop new ways of engaging in staff development. In line with government requirements the Pathways programme empowers employees through their contribution to the business rather than the length of time they have been with the organisation.

Ordnance Survey managers concluded that a tailored continuing professional development course in Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) would provide further gains in productivity, both in terms of output and quality. Paul Cruddace, Product Manager & Geodetic Adviser at Ordnance Survey, believes that using a national centre of excellence such as Newcastle University to develop and deliver such a course sends an important message to its staff: personal development is taken seriously and they are provided with access to the best.

The Response

Staff from the Geomatics group within the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University worked alongside Ordnance Survey staff to develop a three day course that would increase staff understanding of GNSS. The course aimed to provide participants with opportunities to:

  • learn how Global Navigation Satellite Systems (eg GPS) work
  • appreciate the causes of error in GNSS
  • understand how GPS coordinates are related to Ordnance Survey mapping
  • discuss how good practice in the use of GNSS can mitigate errors
  • become aware of future plans for GNSS and how they may impact surveyors day to day duties

Although Ordnance Survey carries out surveys in a unique way, they were keen to see a course that would also be of interest to commercial organisations working within the sector, allowing for mixed cohorts of learners who would each benefit from the different backgrounds of their fellow delegates.

Over three days, course delegates explore the theory underpinning measurement, GPS and GNSS, judgement of accuracy and precision and kinematic GPS positioning/processing. To put their understanding of the theories into practice, groups then engage in an analysis of their daily workflow with regard to potential errors and how they might be able to improve accuracy without sacrificing efficiency. Delegates also examine ways to get the best out of new equipment that will be purchased and undertake a practical field session. Finally, they are asked to develop Ordnance Survey best practice and guidelines with knowledge they have acquired during the course.

Impact

Ordnance Survey selected key people from each of their 10 field regions to attend the first of four contracted courses on the basis that they would be able to roll out their new-found expertise to other colleagues in their area, helping to increase impact.

Tony Baginski was one of those who attended the first course. He was impressed by the professional approach and the way he was able to take away answers to the questions he had identified in advance of the course regarding error and mitigation of error.

Approaching the material from a theoretical angle first rather than focusing on particular equipment meant that as a departmental trainer, Tony was later able to produce best practice guidelines for field staff in his area. Armed with new strategies to avoid error creeping in to measurements taken in the field, staff were able to achieve better performance in terms of accuracy of data collection.

Chris Anderson also valued the course facilitators, describing their approach as "perfectly pitched". Although offering much greater theoretical insight than typical Ordnance Survey training, they avoided overloading participants with mathematical expressions and research, keeping theoretical material firmly relevant to practical application. Chris feels that attending the course helped some participants to secure a place among a select few who are trialling new GNSS kit in the UK.

The course dovetails with other training, aligning perfectly with the Geodesy component of the Tech RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) qualification, for example.

Offering off-site development opportunities such as this is something Tony Baginski feels is very valuable, providing scope for the broader aspects of the job to be explored rather than the more insular effect of on-the-job training. To enhance this aspect, he would very much like to see development of an even more mixed cohort of learners on the course, with more coming from private companies as well as Ordnance Survey.

Chris Anderson summarised his feelings about the value by saying 'If money were no object, I think every Ordnance Survey surveyor should attend it'.