Boost to regional economy will give businesses access to fresh science talent.
A NEW £1.2million facility for teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has been unveiled at a regional conference held at The Bournemouth & Poole College.
The business event, hosted jointly by The College and the New Engineering Foundation (NEF), was addressed by key industry speakers including Lord Willis of Knaresborough, former chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and focused on the region’s economic growth priorities, skills and competitiveness and creating sustainable business capability.
The new state-of-the-art STEM Centre will be central to The College’s five-year plan devised with businesses, schools and universities to provide students with the best possible learning environment and skills to meet the needs of scientific, technological and manufacturing employers. It is based at their North Road campus in Poole.
The STEM Manifesto outlines The College’s commitments to this area and was created in partnership with the New Engineering Foundation. It intends to play a key role in supporting scientific, technological and manufacturing sectors both in this region and beyond.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Willis told more than fifty invited company representatives from major local employers such as Cobham, LV=, Morgan Sindall, Sunseeker International and several local authority representatives that the new STEM unit would be a vital link between their companies and further education establishments. “Today the demand for technology is so high and the competition from the USA and emerging nations so fierce that we have to meet the challenge. Our Further Education Colleges were born out of the needs for developing skill in science and technology and the need to prepare people for a job. We must produce employees who are fit for purpose in the workplace and not just stuffed with qualifications. The College is to be congratulated on turning the focus on producing people fit to work in sustainable jobs.”
Commenting on the announcement, Principal Lawrence Vincent said: “We’re very excited by the opportunities that the new STEM Centre will provide. The £1.2m investment demonstrates our commitment to the regional economy and will ensure our students develop the key skills demanded by employers to meet the needs of today’s labour market. Through it, we will help to drive innovation, enterprise and employability across the region in the sciences, and maths in particular.”
Professor Sa’ad Medhat, CEO of the New Engineering Foundation, commented that there was a desperate shortage of quality scientists and technicians with the skills employers need. He said: “STEM will allow a cross curricula approach to producing engineers, mathematicians, bioscientists and ITC to a higher level of skill but with skills that are appropriate to the needs of local employers
“The college has always enjoyed an excellent reputation for its science and technology base but the STEM Centre will allow staff to have a focal point to support students who have the talent and ambition to succeed in these areas.”
The success of the new approach depends not only on the talent of the students. It also relies on the willingness of employers across the region in the technology sector to come forward and engage with the college to define their own needs and identify those skills and knowledge areas that they require. The College will respond to those needs in the training of the students.
This initiative begins to address the perceived lack of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs. It also addresses concern that the subjects are often taught in isolation, instead of as an integrated curriculum.
Already a new head of maths has been appointed and the profile of the life sciences will be raised with the new laboratory. Engineering will be a crucial sector as the college takes a modern responsible approach to supporting both the economy and the needs of the labour market.
The new STEM Centre will take in its first batch of students at the start of next year, and will include a lecture theatre, three life sciences workshops. It is just the latest in a tranche of investments at The Bournemouth and Poole College designed to modernise and offer learners superb facilities in vocational and academic studies across a broad spectrum of learning.
Already this year the college has unveiled a marine technology unit, a new academy for budding entrepreneurs, a new Art and Design Centre, a new Music Centre and opened a unique facility to help students find jobs locally.
A recent CBI employer survey revealed that:
· Nine out of ten firms employ STEM-skilled people.
· Many businesses need highly numerate and analytical STEM-skilled people for financial positions in their companies.
· 40 per cent of employers across all sectors need STEM-skilled people to design and innovate new products and services.