A success story from the Knowledge Innovation Centre

At a globalized, digitally connected world, not only online learning, but also online jobs and everything in between, such as online apprenticeships, will soon become mainstream.

The Knowledge Innovation Centre in Malta (KIC) is a dynamic consultancy focusing on knowledge brokerage and innovation of knowledge transfer processes. The Centre brings together a variety of local and European experts from a variety of fields and has worked extensively within Quality Assurance of Higher Education, Technology enhanced Learning, Student Services and the knowledge economy (as it relates to the Lisbon Agenda and Barcelona Process). The Centre has forged close relationships with a number of stakeholders in the regional innovation and Higher Education fields and is active in leveraging such relationships to build multi-disciplinary, multi-country networks for knowledge transfer and capitalization.

Given the nature and geographic scope of its activities, KIC´s work force is spread across several countries and most of it is composed of highly mobile individuals, used to work from wherever they are at any given moment. To enable this, KIC uses a variety of web-based managements tools that assure adequate team communication and effective remote project management.

Having this online structure in place, the next natural step was to extend it to apprentices and this case describes the successful experience of Tara Drev, a designer from Slovenia who was the first apprentice involved in KIC´s online apprenticeship scheme.


More Information

Impact

What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

KIC staff and researchers are located in different countries and communicate and work remotely with the support of web-based tools. Creating a placement for an apprentice in these conditions, implies the apprentice to immerse in this digital hyper-mobile culture and get used to perform her/his tasks remotely as well, receiving guidance and seeking support through online means such as email, messenger and web-meeting apps. On the technical-scientific side of the apprenticeship, the main challenge was for Tara to understand the personality of the company and of each research project to which she had to create corporate images and branded materials to. In her own words:
“As an apprentice at KIC I learned a lot more than just dealing with graphic design. I also learned how to communicate with different associates in a foreign language which gave me contemplated knowledge of English, especially in writing. The communication with both co-workers and customers need to be on a professional but still friendly level, which means I learned very well how to react, to speak, to write and to present my design work. Working at KIC also gave me a lot of new skills: I learned how to organize my time better, I learned how to be the most efficient in the work I do, I learned how to be responsive and I also appreciate that some responsibility of the projects were on me, because this way as an apprentice I felt I was doing well at the firm. For the graphic design part I was involved in different projects, mostly in designing a brand materials which is the area of graphic design I like the most and this really brought me a lot of knowledge. I also got familiar with some software programmes which I didn't use before, but I would say I never had extreme problems with getting to know different online tools for communication and overview of the projects. I also met some great people I worked with which were always kind, ready to help, with a positive thinking and an experienced attitude, from which I learned a lot. I am also grateful I had the opportunity to work for the European Commission through ERASMUS+ projects, which is a huge reference for an apprentice´s curriculum.”.

Success Factors

What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?

KIC´s internal digital culture and Tara´s digital literacy and easiness with web-based tools were key to the success of the experience, as it was her fluency in English as a bridge language to assure clear communication between all parties involved.

Constraints

What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

Since this is an online apprenticeship, the biggest concern from Tara´s side was that she wouldn't be able to present her design ideas or concepts the right way through online meetings or better said, through mailing, because there is no other option but to write about it. She always had a strong opinion that the best and the most successful presentations are presented in person because a designer has the freedom to talk about the idea/concepts at the same moment so all the information and suggestions from all the parties are involved and discusses at that same time. Therefore, the biggest constraint of doing an online apprenticeship in this scientific-technical area might be the lack of opportunities for the designer to present and extensively discuss the projects in person and at the same time upgrading public speaking and brainstorming skills with the team. However, in this case, Tara´s ideas were well written and perfectly understandable, so the online nature of the apprenticeship did not generate any complex problems in this matter.
Other limiting factors can be lack of interoperability between the hardware and software used by KIC and the apprentices. However, in this case it did not happen, and everything has run smoothly technically-wise. Have it happened, alternative IT solutions to assure interoperability would have been implemented.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

To launch an online apprenticeship scheme, some investments in software apps to support communication and project management are needed. On the other hand, due to the online nature of the apprenticeship, many costs related with the physical infrastructures needed for face-to-face apprenticeships are saved, resulting in overall savings for the whole apprenticeship scheme.

Replicability & Upscaling

What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?

Replicability and upscaling at KIC will be done as needed to support the operations and no other investments are needed – only the initial briefings and induction phases will be polished, based on the lessons learned with each new apprentice. For replicability and upscaling in new contexts (other companies) and besides the software investments already mentioned, the development of an organizational culture compatible with online communication and remote project management is needed, as is the inherent acquisition of digital skills that allows the staff to engage in this new culture.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

A good briefing is essential, so the apprentice understands the online characteristics of the placement. An adequate induction phase to assure the apprentice gets acquainted and comfortable working with the many web-based software tools that support and assure communication and project management is also of paramount importance to allow the apprentice to start working and adding value in an effective and efficient way.
To avoid any surprises during the apprenticeship, it is probably a good idea to develop a checklist with items to verify the hardware and software interoperability between the host of the placement and the apprentice, before the apprenticeship period starts.

Context

Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

The Knowledge Innovation Centre in Malta (KIC) is a dynamic consultancy focusing on knowledge brokerage and innovation of knowledge transfer processes. The Centre brings together a variety of local and European experts from a variety of fields and has worked extensively within Quality Assurance of Higher Education, Technology enhanced Learning, Student Services and the knowledge economy (as it relates to the Lisbon Agenda and Barcelona Process). The Centre has forged close relationships with a number of stakeholders in the regional innovation and Higher Education fields and is active in leveraging such relationships to build multi-disciplinary, multi-country networks for knowledge transfer and capitalization.
Given the nature and geographic scope of its activities, KIC´s work force is spread across several countries and most of it is composed of highly mobile individuals, used to work from wherever they are at any given moment. To enable this, KIC uses a variety of web-based managements tools that assure adequate team communication and effective remote project management.
Having this online structure in place, the next natural step was to extend it to apprentices, as described in this case