School pupils and teachers across Caithness and Sutherland have been taking part in a number of industry visits as part of a £110,000 project investing in the future of young people in the area.
Launched last year, the technology project has seen around 350 pupils from local high schools take part in visits to Dounreay and Caithness Horizons in order to understand the opportunities available locally in engineering. A further visit is planned later in the year by pupils to Nigg Energy Park.
Farr High School has also had visits to Forss wind farm and one currently under construction at Camster by EON earlier this year.
The two year programme is funded by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Highland Council. Focusing on the future needs of the engineering industry in the area, the project provides specialist equipment for schools, training and work placements for local teaching staff and pupils.
The project concentrates on S1-3 pupils in the technology departments of the four secondary schools in Thurso, Wick, Farr and Golspie, ensuring they are well informed before they make their subject choices and when they are starting to think about their future careers. Activities concentrate on helping make classroom learning relevant by putting it in a real life context.
Laura Robertson, Development Manager from HIE, said: "The benefits of working closely with young people before they make their career choices is clear after only one year of this project so far. Each of the schools have benefited from new equipment, such as 3D printers and laser cutting machines - all of which give pupils hands on experience of using tools which they would normally not have access to. The visits to large engineering sites such as Dounreay and Nigg Energy Park are intended to both excite and inspire many of the pupils and we hope they will use the experience to look more closely at a career which many of them may not have fully considered before."
Stuart Tait, a teacher of technical education at Wick High School, was appointed as the project's part time coordinator and is working with the four schools over a two day per week contract. Stuart, who has been teaching at the school since August 2008 has a strong background in industry, having previously worked for UKAEA and Kongsberg.
Scientists and engineers in charge of dismantling the redundant nuclear site at Dounreay have worked closely with the schools taking part in the project.
Based at the design office, teachers have discovered how technology is developed, through the concept, scheme and detailed design phases to support the clean-out and dismantling of hazardous nuclear facilities.
Stuart says it is a busy programme of visits, projects and learning, all designed to help today's young generation become tomorrow's technologists and designers.
"The NDA investment allows us to use the skills at Dounreay today to inspire a new generation and put in a place a legacy that will live on once the site itself has gone," said Stuart
It is not only the school pupils gaining experience from the project. Teachers from secondary schools in Wick and Thurso are spending five days each on work placements at Dounreay, while the pupils have had day visits.
This project supports a number of activities within the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership (CNSRP) Programme.
Eann Sinclair, CNSRP Programme Manager, said, "This project is another good example of CNSRP's partners working together to help move the area's economy away from its dependence on Dounreay-related work. We are seeing that the area economy is becoming less dependent on Dounreay, and that there is increased confidence in the area as a place to live and work. There are a number of developing industries that our area is well-placed to take advantage of, and it is therefore encouraging that both students and teachers are being given the opportunity to learn more about these. "
For more information on this project please contact Laura Robertson, Development Manager at HIE on 01463 244528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org