New STEM coordinator 'excited' to inspire a new generation of learners in Caithness and Sutherland
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Primary school children in the far north will be given an insight into the careers of the future in the region after a new tie-up between industry and academia.
A new STEM outreach coordinator will support teachers across the science, technology, engineering and maths curriculum.
Mara Gibb is one of 10 new co-ordinators and has joined the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) North, West and Hebrides team.
The roles will help to promote STEM careers to primary school children across the north of Scotland and are supported by £900,000 of funding provided by offshore wind developers.
The initiative, which was announced in January, is led by the West of Orkney Windfarm alongside Buchan Offshore Wind, Ossian and Thistle Wind Partners – all of which are developing sites as part of the ScotWind leasing round from Crown Estate Scotland.
Mara, who grew up in the north, has just started her full-time role, having recently graduated from Heriot Watt University with a Masters in Chemical Engineering.
She has already worked locally, in the battery innovation and production industry, as well in the brewing industry.
“I spent two summers at AMTE Power based in Thurso, working in the lab for the formation process of battery production,” Mara said. “Whilst during my time as an assistant brewer, I had a hands-on role in producing different types of beer, as well as working on the more customer facing side in the visitor centre. It was a role that really allowed me to reconnect with home and the community.
“I love travelling and all things outdoorsy, from paddleboarding to running. I’m also a huge fan of the Scottish trad music scene, and love going to live music events.
"Having grown up in the region, I am excited to expand the opportunities available for young learners, and to inspire them to think about career paths they may not have even realised were an option.”
Over the last six years, UHI has delivered a STEM outreach programme to early years settings and primary schools across the Highland Council area, providing materials and training to teachers to build their confidence and knowledge in subjects they may not be familiar with.
UHI has now been able to extend its outreach programme to schools in Orkney, the Western Isles, Shetland, Argyll and Bute, Moray and Perthshire thanks to the funding.
The project has supported the employment of eight part-time and two full-time STEM coordinators. Mara’s full-time role, along with another full-time role in Orkney, has been supported through additional, targeted support from the West of Orkney Windfarm.
Mike Hay, deputy project director at West of Orkney Windfarm, said: “We are delighted that Mara has joined the UHI North, West and Hebrides team. It’s vital that we invest in the next generation and offshore wind offers the prospect of rewarding careers for children in primary school today.
"By supporting this programme, we hope as many of these jobs as possible are secured by young people who live in the communities in which we operate.
“We’re particularly delighted to be funding directly the two full-time positions in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney as part of our overall contribution.”
Alison Wilson, director of advancement and alumni engagement at UHI, said: “We are so excited to welcome Mara to our STEM outreach team. Her appointment and those of our other co-ordinators has been made possible thanks to the generous support of our offshore wind partners. Their funding is the largest package of corporate giving UHI has received and we are hugely grateful for their support.
“The ScotWind development provides fantastic possibilities for people in our regions to contribute to the green economy. We want to ensure that every young person in our communities has the chance to be inspired by these opportunities, to pursue their studies and to develop skills to achieve careers in the sector. It is through initiatives like this, where industry and academia work together, that we can make a tangible difference to our communities and the choices available to our young people now and in the future.”
During the three-year programme, the STEM co-ordinators will work with UHI partners, schools and teachers to deliver lesson plans and equipment, including ‘Lend a Lab’ boxes, to support a range of topics, all aligned with the Curriculum for Excellence. They will also work with other agencies involved in STEM outreach to consider local needs and seek new partners and additional funding to ensure the STEM development programme can be sustainable over the longer term.