Offshore wind developers take the lead to transform STEM delivery in education in the East

Offshore energy industry titans Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm, ScottishPower Renewables, and Vattenfall have joined forces with the University of East Anglia, Nautilus Associates and local charity The Bridge Trust to form the STEM Coordination Hub. In a highly innovative and game-changing approach they are developing a solution to improve the learning experience and create new career opportunities for young people in Norfolk and Suffolk.

An increasingly fragmented STEM education landscape is contributing to a crisis in the talent pipeline, affecting not just offshore wind but almost all sectors. This industry-funded programme brings together employers with education and academia to transform the STEM provision in Norfolk and Suffolk, directly impacting the future workforce in the East of England.

The STEM Coordination Hub will initially be piloted in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, counties that are already a hub for engineering and technology supporting the energy sector. It aims to make the most of what is already there, identify and plug the gaps and find new ways to enhance STEM education.

Over half of the UK’s offshore wind industry is located off the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk, with a development pipeline that could see more than 15GW developed over the next decade, or half of the industry’s vision to deliver 30GW by 2030 up from 7.5GW today. The region has also been identified as one of the UK’s leading energy clusters when Claire Perry, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, was in Lowestoft last week launching the new national Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

The sector supports thousands of high-skilled jobs across the supply chain, generating billions in revenue, but an increased supply of STEM skills is crucial in other key sectors in the region such as nuclear, civil engineering, agri-tech, finance, life sciences, and digital creative industries.

The project takes a game-changing approach to the problem by integrating industry itself into the solution. Businesses will have the opportunity to directly influence the conversation driving STEM delivery in education.

Sonja Chirico Indrebø is the Power Plant Manager of the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm, which is operated and part-owned by Equinor. As one of the first female Power Plant Managers’ in the UK offshore wind energy industry, she said:

“I believe we all have a duty to be role models for future generations, and by strengthening the delivery of STEM skills, the Stem Hub will help inspire today’s young people to become tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and inventors.”

Victoria Sinclair for ScottishPower Renewables said:

“We are excited to be supporting the STEM Hub and furthering our commitment to promote STEM subjects and careers to young people across East Anglia. The STEM Hub represents a unique opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of what students, teachers and parents would like to know about when it comes to STEM. We believe in a collaborative approach between education and industry when it comes to encouraging young people particularly girls into STEM subjects and believe the STEM Hub will be a huge step forward in achieving this.”

Susan Falch-Lovesey, Skills Champion for Vattenfall said

"Vattenfall believe in enabling high quality skills and learning opportunities that inform our next generation's career aspirations. We are thrilled to collaborate with Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm, ScottishPower Renewables and other industry and academic partners on this innovative initiative and look forward to working together to create inclusive pathways into the offshore wind industry for our talented students."

Professor Lawrence Coates from UEA’s Faculty of Science said

“The UEA relishes the chance to work directly with these industry partners in helping young learners to understand the full range of STEM opportunities available to them.”

A new web portal will offer work experience opportunities and STEM events to students and teachers, and signpost STEM resources for educators to use in teaching and career personal development (CPD).

The project was originally developed by Nautilus Associates whilst investigating opportunities to encourage business growth in North Norfolk, a piece of work that highlighted the barriers and challenges industry faces and acted as a catalyst to develop a solution.

Johnathan Reynolds, Managing Director at Nautilus Associates said

“Seeing our ambitious solution come to fruition has been immensely exciting for the Nautilus team. “The STEM Coordination Hub is a new and disruptive model that we hope will significantly enhance STEM activity in the area. The Hub will focus on the benefits to young learners, but crucially it will also provide support to teachers, non-teaching support staff, parents and guardians, and other influencers too. You never know, we could be educating parents about new career opportunities in the clean energy sectors as well as their children.”

The Hub will be hosted by The Bridge Trust, a Great Yarmouth-based charity that provides support to young people and community development.

The UK government’s recently announced sector deal will ensure 30% of electricity comes from offshore wind by 2030. It also aims to increase the number of highly-skilled jobs to 27,000, up from 7,200 today.

The deal explicitly sets out steps to achieve at least 33% of women in the total offshore wind workforce by 2030, with the ambition of reaching 40%. As International Women’s’ Day highlighted, women currently represent just 16% of this workforce.

The STEM Coordination Hub has ambitions to improve parity between the sexes, helping young people to access STEM and improve the entry rate of women into the workforce.

Celia Anderson, Director of STEM Coordination Hub knows the programme will be transformative:

“STEM is the cornerstone of 21st Century industry. We have a responsibility to ensure the workforce of the future can meet the demands of tomorrow’s industry. This is a partnership of incredible organisations determined to deliver a shared vision: local people with well-paid sustainable STEM based careers.

“We will only make the vision a reality if we work together to enthuse more young people about the opportunities for them in STEM based employment. By putting industry at the heart of this process, we can support education’s ability to deliver STEM whilst giving students unparalleled opportunities to gain real-world experience in some of the country’s most exciting businesses.”

The STEM Coordination Hub will launch formally in May this year and is actively seeking to grow its industry and education partnerships.

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