A SCIENCE academy is to be created in the Highlands – aimed at providing the necessary skills for young people to grasp future jobs in the oil, gas, renewable, engineering and life sciences sectors.
Highland Council has joined forces with a host of major employers in the north, as well as a number of public bodies, in a bid to drive forward the project.
While set to be based at the new Inverness campus, currently under construction in the Highland capital, the aim is to provide a networked science and technology hub across the region.
The prime focus of the academy, which is being supported by industry leaders in the area, was aimed at interesting and enthusing young people of all ages – from pre-school to further education – about a possible career in life sciences, energy, engineering and IT sectors.
Highland Council leader Drew Hendry said: ““We have agreed that the creation of a science hub is a logical and positive step to take and that its scope can be adequately defined and all the parties that need to come together are now working on a common approach.
“I am looking to take this to The Highland Council meeting in December for formal support and inclusion in our council’s successful programme for the Highlands.”
He added that there was massive job growth predicted in the oil, gas, renewable, engineering and life sciences sectors but a shortage of people locally who have the skills or educational background to take advantage of these.
The Highland Science Academy aims to provide the link for young people to grow up in the region with every opportunity to see these higher paid careers as a serious choice for them.
The Highlands, and specifically the City of Inverness, is one of the only areas in Scotland without a science centre, or an equivalent venue.
The creation of a Science Academy seeks to address this and take things to another level.
The key public organisations have met with other key parties from the major and prospective employers from the Highlands to drive the project forward.
They partners include the council, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Global Energy Group, SSE Renewables, Lochaber Smelter, Rio Tinto Alcan, LifeScan Scotland Limited, Skills Development Scotland, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, RES, Fujitsu, Inverness College, the Centre for Health Science, and NHS Highland.
Mr said: “Most of us left school without a clear view of our future career but when I talk to people we all agree that for the majority of us, we knew that we weren’t going to do.
“That mostly involved anything in the field of Science or Mathematics, a key requirement in the modern Highlands in the sectors of predicted jobs growth.
“Science and Mathematics are not difficult, in fact with the right exposure they can be grasped and enjoyed by our youngest children.
“We have never had a better chance than now to change the learning environment, the access to future work and to prepare our young people for the future with a firm view on giving them access to thousands of highly paid and skilled jobs.”
He added: “I have met with partners from across the public sector, Life Sciences, Engineering and Technology to develop a Highland-wide Science Academy project.
“It is likely that this will be networked to the new Inverness Campus at Beechwood but also linked to shared facilities across our whole region.”
Carroll Buxton, Director of Regional Development with Highland and Islands Enterprise, said the science academy would be an integral feature of new, purpose-built premises which HIE and UHI plan to share at Inverness Campus.
She added: “There is a great opportunity to create more than office space here and to establish a centre for effective collaboration between the worlds of education and business.
“We want to use these premises as a showcase to attract inward investment to the whole region, to highlight new opportunities such as digital communications, and deliver high quality learning. The science academy will find a natural home in this environment.”
Dr Jeff Howarth, UHI vice-principal research and enterprise, said: “This development is not only of enormous significance for the new Inverness Campus but importantly for the whole of the Highlands and Islands.
“It signals our joint aspiration to make this an even greater destination for industry to locate and thrive, our absolute determination to equip our young people with the technical skills and the expectations which will enable them to grasp the highest value career opportunities, and to create economic prosperity based on those future growth sectors in which we can truly excel.”
Alastair Kennedy, communications director of Global Energy Group and chairman of Nigg Skills Academy, welcomed the concept of a Highland Science Academy providing a home-grown skilled workforce for the Highlands.
He said: “This academy is an exciting opportunity, where the focus requires to be on creating the right education to meet the demands of all industry sectors and where jobs will materialise.
“The possibility of fostering and securing innovative, highly skilled and creative employees in the future from within the local area is highly appealing to the business community. Retaining and recruiting from a locally pooled skills-base is not just good for business it’s good for the economy.”