Forging an alliance with Newbridge Silverware

“Each year this partnership advanced the student’s skill sets, developing knowledge and expertise in key areas such as computer-aided design for industry. This enabled real sustainable career opportunities for our graduates working across design disciplines.” – Angela O’Kelly, Head of Body and Environment, NCAD

In 2004, motivated by the need to provide their students with hands-on industry experience, NCAD approached Newbridge Silverware with a proposal to develop a knowledge transfer agreement. Initially signing a three-year research contract, this partnership continued to thrive for thirteen years, equipping NCAD’s students with invaluable manufacturing experience and exposure to the commercial market- something which is difficult to replicate through education alone. One of the  College’s key incentives for partnering with a large manufacturer was to up-skill students in the area of computer aided design (CAD). As Newbridge Silverware produce much of their commercial jewellery using state of the art computer aided manufacturing processes, this proved to be the perfect alliance.

Each year a new brief was co-created by the NCAD jewellery department and Newbridge Silverware. In the following weeks the students would research, sketch and prototype before translating their work into CAD software. These initial design concepts were then presented to expert jewellers from Newbridge Silverware for feedback. Following further design development, CAD models would be sent to the company’s manufacturing team for evaluation and testing. Several months were then spent producing each student’s design collection. Finally, Newbridge Silverware and NCAD would select the winning designs and award a range of prizes. Each year a small number of commercially viable concepts were also selected to go into full scale production alongside Newbridge Silverware’s in-house designs for distribution to retail outlets nationwide.

Throughout these years NCAD received significant funding from Newbridge Silverware to invest in capacity building. Equipment which was purchased with the proceeds from this partnership continue to be used by NCAD’s students on a daily basis. Angela O’Kelly, head of the Department of Body and Environment at NCAD reflects that this “makes a massive, positive impact” to the course. For the students, one of the most important aspects of this partnership has been the real-world use of CAD/CAM technology while learning how their work might be commercialised. Since the partnership began in 2004, a number of promising NCAD jewellery students have been employed by Newbridge Silverware as paid interns. In 2014 a graduate secured full-time employment receiving further on-the-job training to become a vital member of the Newbridge Silverware design and manufacturing team.