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Inspiring the next generation of manufacturing leaders in South Wales

Local school pupils recently had the chance to learn about Sustainability and Manufacturing in South Wales at an event hosted at Swansea University.

In July 2023, Swansea University Bay Campus welcomed the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) to deliver the first South Wales Challenger Day workshop on Innovation and Sustainability, funded by Innovate UK. A total of 80 KS3 students from Llangatwg Community School, Bryn Celynnog School, Ebbw Fawr Learning Community, Olchfa School and Willows High School participated in this inaugural event. Pupils were joined by industrial representatives from Vale Europe and Tata Steel UK at the Challenger Day, which was also sponsored by the Transforming Foundation Industries Network+ and the SUSTAIN Future Steel Manufacturing Research Hub.

The activities, developed by the Engineering Development Trust, introduced pupils to the foundation industries and manufacturing. Participants were given examples of what these industries produce and why they are so crucial in South Wales through a series of fun activities. Pupils built on their existing knowledge of fossil fuels and how they are impacting climate change through a series of true or false activities, and learned about several of the options local industries are considering to decarbonise their operations.

The event also introduced the concept of circular economy, by looking at how every day actions such as repairing and recycling can help reduce carbon emissions. These were then related to how similar activities on a significantly larger scale, such as using recycled scrap material, are being adopted by industry. In groups, the students designed and built bridges to support an object. Materials for this had to be purchase from a special shop, where both cost and carbon footprint of each component had to be considered to make the best value bridge, that was still suitable for the application.

Professor Cameron Pleydell-Pearce (lead for metals on the Transforming Foundation Industries Network+ and Director of the SUSTAIN Future Steel Manufacturing Research Hub) said:

“It’s been an amazing event, having all these school children here to learn more about the foundation industries.

I’ve learnt that you can really engage young people – the potential future leaders for the industry – in sustainability and the role that the foundation industries play in delivering a brighter future for their generation.

The students here today have got really unique, exciting ideas. They’ve been coming up with these really cool ideas, building bridges, considering the benefits of the embodied carbon and how to design them better. You can see that they’ve got creative minds and they’re keen to try and help us solve the climate problem.”

Dr Sarah Connolly, from Innovate UK said:

“Innovate UK is working with industry across the UK to build best practice into their organisations. A really key part of that is future skills and talent, and bringing the best minds of the next generation in, to instil these good ideas and best practices and change the way that we look at our materials industries.

It’s massively important that we keep some of these skills local in industrial regions across the UK. South Wales is a massive one, it has so much presence across all of the foundation industries and having these skills locally gives us that diverse range of talent that we can pull on to keep these industries thriving and keep the UK fulfilled with all its materials needs.”

Peter Martin, from Vale Europe said:

“I think it’s important to do outreach with schools, get kids interested in STEM and make sure they really see a link to industry and the careers with their STEM subjects.

It’s a really good group of kids here, really looking enthused… …they’re obviously interested in the subject, and that’s what we want for jobs. If you’ve got a job you’re interested in, passionate about and enjoy, that’s half the battle. If you’ve got roles like that the kids enjoy, they’ll bring their best into work and we can get the best out of everyone.”

Jack Gourlay, from Olchfa School said:

“For us we’re looking into that STEM background, I think the important thing is that in school we look at science as biology, chemistry and physics, whereas as soon as you leave school it’s way broader than that, so our idea is to broaden horizons, increase employability opportunities and just educate the kids on what they could do by following STEM.

Today has been fantastic, the activities have been really engaging, our students have got really involved, getting them thinking. It’s also nice to engage that creativity side as well as the sustainability side, so its super cross curricular, really in line with what we’re trying to do in schools at the moment in Wales. I think it’s a really important opportunity to get kids down into this sort of scenario, meet industry experts and real scientists in the field.”

About the Engineering Development Trust

The EDT are the UK’s largest STEM education charity. Their aim is to get as many young people excited about STEM as possible, through a wide range of schemes and programmes to give young people a hands-on learning experience, supported by real people working in industry. All programmes are accredited by the Industrial Cadets award scheme.

A video of the event can be found here: 

Published: July 27th, 2023
Posted in Events

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