Plans are being developed for a series of learning centres across the Highlands and Islands to help engage more young people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths/digital (STEM/D).
The Science Skills Academy (SSA), backed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), is being designed to help ensure there are sufficient numbers of young people with the STEM/D skills needed for future economic growth in the region.
An estimated 1,000 new high-quality jobs in biosciences and a further 5,000 in renewable energy are anticipated in the next five to eight years. Developing a suitably skilled workforce is essential to ensure employers of these jobs locate in the Highlands and Islands region.
Plans for the learning centres are being modelled on the Norwegian Newton rooms, with a similar mix of funding from central and local government and private enterprise. They will provide resource support for practical STEM/D activity in schools and provide an accessible base for extracurricular projects.
Former Gairloch High School teacher, Andrew Johnston, was appointed project director for SSA in August. His post is funded by HIE, Skills Development Scotland, UHI, the Highland Council and Scottish and Southern Energy.
Outlining the aims of the project, he said: “There are some excellent examples of STEM/D activity happening around the Highlands and Islands. The aim of the Science Skills Academy is to take the best examples of these and make them systemic and available to all young people in the region.
“We want to work with partners who are already engaged in the field to provide a coherent STEM/D learning experience throughout a young person’s education. This in turn will provide opportunities for young people to pursue careers in some of the emerging and future technological developments in the region.”