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Firm appointed to create Scotland’s first Newton room in Thurso

Published: 21/02/2018

Young people in Caithness will be the first in Scotland to benefit from new Norwegian style learning centres.

A network of ‘Newton rooms’ in Norway and one in Denmark are used to inspire more young people into careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). This is also the principal objective of the Science Skills Academy (SSA); a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with £3m from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.

The centres will provide resource support for practical STEM activity in schools and an accessible base for extracurricular projects.

HIE has appointed international specialist firm FIRST Scandinavia, the company that developed and owns the Newton concept, to create Scotland’s first Newton room at North Highland College in Thurso.

FIRST Scandinavia is a not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to encourage children and young people’s interest in science, engineering and mathematics.

SSA is planning a network of Newton rooms across the Highlands to help ensure there are sufficient numbers of young people with the STEM skills needed for future economic growth.

Andrew Johnston, HIE’s director for the SSA project, said:

“It is very fitting that the first Newton room in the country will open in Thurso. Caithness has been at the forefront of scientific and technological advances in Scotland for more than 60 years and this facility will help it stay there.

“We are delighted to be working with FIRST Scandinavia. We look forward to learning from their considerable experience in inspiring young people in rural communities about STEM subjects and, in turn, contributing to their programme.

“We also relish the opportunity to build international relationships with the communities and employers already involved in the Newton room network in Norway and Denmark.”

Stian Elstad, managing director for the FIRST Scandinavia foundation, said “More than 180,000 children have been educated in the Newton rooms in Norway, and now we are looking forward to establishing the international network of Newton rooms.

“We strongly believe in sharing state of the art STEM educational programs across borders, and this is the first important step in that process. Establishing great learning facilities for the innovators and engineers of tomorrow is crucial in order to attract their interest and increase their understanding and motivation to pursue further studies and careers within this field. We can´t wait to get started in Scotland.”

Donald MacBeath, Principal of North Highland College UHI, added: “We are delighted that our main campus in Thurso has been chosen as the home of Scotland’s first Newton room. Any college or university campus would have been a great choice but we feel our venue is particularly befitting as the Newton room will be located in close proximity to our Engineering, Technology and Energy Centre (ETEC) and our Environmental Research Institute (ERI, both of which are involved directly with their respective industry partners. Having the Newton room on our campus can only strengthen our relationships with schools and young people, encouraging them to take up a hobby, education and potentially employment in a STEM related field.”

Thousands of new high-quality jobs in biosciences and renewable energy are anticipated in the Highlands and Islands in the coming years. Developing a suitably skilled workforce is essential to ensure employers of these jobs locate in the region.

The SSA partnership approach is designed to provide a coherent STEM learning experience throughout a young person’s education. This in turn will help young people benefit from some of these emerging and future technological developments and related career opportunities.

Other organisations behind the SSA include Skills Development Scotland, the University of the Highlands and Islands, NHS Highland and The Highland Council.

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