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Case Study - Fab Lab, Coventry University

Thursday, 18 April 2019

For this case study Sinead Ouillon, FAB LAB Programme Lead, City University Initiative explains how working with Open College Network has transformed how they can now support a range of disadvantaged individuals from some of the hardest to reach communities in Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

“Open College Network West Midlands have been a highly influential awarding body for us.”  Sinead Ouillon, FAB LAB
 
 
Fab Lab Coventry have been awarded multiple funding grants through the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) to work with some of the hardest to reach communities in Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

The Fab Lab Coventry (a fabrication laboratory) facility is based in a city centre shopping arcade and provides access to a range of equipment and tools, with the aim to support people to make “almost anything”. Fab Labs encourage the sharing of information and ideas to develop the integration of different cultures, backgrounds and ages and to partake in creative problem-solving through the art of making and designing.  In the Fab Lab there is access to a wide range of top quality print and design equipment including: 3-axis CNC milling machines, 3D printers, printed circuit board milling, microprocessor and digital electronics design, assembly, and test stations, equipment and materials for sewing and casting, computer aided design (CAD) modelling, laser cutter and an upcycling furniture factory.

“Since becoming an Open College Network accredited centre, we have been able to offer strong support to help individuals face and overcome the challenges they face relating to for example, employment, isolation and loneliness. The nature of the Open Coll Net WM qualification framework combined with the Fab Lab Coventry approach has really enabled our students reach their full potential.”

The output of the fusion of research from Coventry University and a practical community maker space, is a citizen driven approach that co-creates and implements innovative social, economic and environmental programs that are designed to tackle (from the bottom up) the challenges that can both impact and create vulnerability within our communities. FabLab Coventry teaches individuals new skills, allowing them to flourish by providing them with access to tools and technology that they would not have had otherwise.
 
Since becoming an Open College Network accredited centre, Fab Lab has been able to offer strong support to help individuals face and overcome their challenges relating to for example, employment, isolation and loneliness. The nature of the Open College Network qualification framework combined with the Fab Lab Coventry approach has really enabled our students reach their full potential.  
 
Open College Network West Midlands have been a highly influential awarding body for us, and we found them highly responsive in how they developed the Level 1 and Level 2 in Digital Fabrication qualifications for us.  The qualification framework supports our self-paced learning approach, and this really lends itself to providing accredited courses to some of the most vulnerable groups that we work with in Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Having started off with delivering the Level 1 qualification we are now providing qualifications to a wider audience using the Level 2 Digital Fabrication, supported with Level 1 in DIY, Carpentry, Painting and Decorating and L2 Citizen social science and community Health Champions.

“The flexibility of Open College Network has enabled us to develop and create our own bespoke units, specific to the digital skills and research we have to offer in Fab Lab. They have been highly influential in our ability to support individuals, forming part of our various funded programmes and helping people on their journey back into employment and training. The nature of their accreditation framework aligns with our creative self-paced learning approach and is proving to be a successful model for getting some of the typically hardest to reach communities into employment and training” Sinead Ouillon, Programme Lead City University Initiative.
 
With the support and training from Open College Network, we have helped and supported over 100 people so far to achieve level 1 or 2 Digital Fabrication and most recently our painting and decorating and carpentry units. Open College Network have directed us through the stages to not only become a delivery entre, but also to create the right style of courses for our participants and giving us enough support on how to deliver training effectively to give the participants the best.
 
For more information about Fab Lab Coventry visit their website: www.covfablab.org.uk
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