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Work starts on Lochaber Newton Room

Published: 23/01/2019

Work is underway in Fort William to create one of Scotland’s first Norwegian style learning centres.

Newton Rooms are designed to encourage more young people into careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

A network of the centres in Norway work with schools and local employers to provide inspirational STEM education in the most rural parts of the country.

A similar network of Newton Rooms is being created in the Highland region by the Science Skills Academy, a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with £3m from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.

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

Longer term, the Newton Room will be part of the new Centre for Science and Technology in Fort William, which is being planned by West Highland College UHI for 2020.  In the meantime, an interim Newton Room is being created at Caol Youth Centre, which is now being fitted out with a teaching room, auditorium and a laboratory. 

Organisations behind the project are developing Newton modules to match STEM sectors in the Highlands and Islands. These will complement the school curriculum and allow families and communities to use the Newton Rooms to enhance and grow STEM activities within the Lochaber area.

Scotland’s first two Newton Rooms, in Thurso and Fort William, will officially open in the spring.

Andrew Johnston, HIE’s director for the Science Skills Academy, said:

“It’s great to see work start on Lochaber’s Newton Room. The centre will aim to inspire young people across the whole of Lochaber who are interested in STEM subjects.

“We are working with partners in the field to provide a coherent STEM 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.

“We very much look forward to opening the centre.”

Local Cllr Allan Henderson, Chair of Highland Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee said:

“The Lochaber Newton Room is a prime example of how the City-Region Deal is benefitting the wider Highlands at a local level. Young people studying STEM subjects in Lochaber will find their learning experiences and opportunities improved greatly when the Newton Room opens.”

Sue Macfarlane, Depute Principal at West Highland College UHI said:

“This is an exciting initiative, which will help increase the interest and engagement of our young people in STEM-related subjects – not just in general but linked to the job and career opportunities in Lochaber. 

“The College is delighted that Caol Youth Centre is able to facilitate the early stages of this prior to the Newton Room having a permanent base in our new Centre for Science and Technology from 2020.  

“The new Centre will also provide state of the art facilities for the delivery of a significantly increased range of STEM-related qualifications and training, which we hope will provide even more opportunities for our young people to access qualifications and training at further and higher education in their local area.”

Infrastructure Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“It’s fantastic to see the progress being made in creating a network of Newton Rooms across the Highlands by the Science Skills Academy - a project supported by the Scottish Government through a £3m investment as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.

“We want Scotland’s young people to be inspired on an ongoing basis to develop their STEM capabilities throughout their educational experience and learn how this can be translated into future skills and career opportunities. I am pleased that work has started on Lochaber’s Newton Room and that it will benefit not only young people but also their families and communities across the region to develop an interest in STEM subjects.”

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