Frank Mitchell: It’s essential that we get the country’s young bright sparks interested in engineering

Inspiring school pupils towards engineering through STEM subjects
Inspiring school pupils towards engineering through STEM subjects
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This week is British Science Week, a celebration of ­science, technology, ­engineering and maths (STEM). Across the UK, pupils and the public will take part in hundreds of events to help them learn more about science.

In Scotland, it’s absolutely vital that we find ways to engage primary and secondary school pupils in STEM subjects and give them the skills needed to work in engineering.

We anticipate as many as four out of five workers in the energy sector will retire over the next 15 years. ­Without a pipeline for producing a skilled workforce in Scotland, it would be impossible for us to deliver the essential upgrades that will be needed for Scotland’s electricity network in the next 50 years.

That’s why SP Energy Networks is making major moves to support STEM education in schools and find new ways to inspire the next generation of engineers. A basic knowledge of science and maths alongside a ­passion for engineering and technology are essential skills for any ­aspiring power engineer.

Last year, more than 200 SP ­Energy Networks staff members ­volunteered more than 700 hours to visit local schools and colleges to talk with young people about life as an engineer. A further 3,000 schools across the UK were involved in our education programme, PowerWise, which teaches children about electricity networks and how to stay safe around them.

We have been finding creative ways to inspire teachers and get pupils interested. This includes providing training and resources for teachers, hosting fun ‘meet the expert’ sessions at the Glasgow Science Centre, ­running educational STEM ­workshops alongside the Glasgow Warriors, and using virtual reality technology to sell power engineering at career fairs.

A huge part of our engagement work in schools and colleges is to introduce young people to apprenticeship opportunities. More than 230 apprentices and 84 graduates have joined in the last five years and hundreds of engineers in the SP Energy Networks workforce have been through apprenticeships. This year, we’ll help to fund 16 students’ master’s degrees through the ScottishPower Scholarship Programme.

Alongside our colleagues across the wider ScottishPower group, we are also working with industry leaders as part of the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership. It has brought together power, gas, water and waste management companies to create new apprenticeships and launch the website to help young people look for vacancies and apprenticeships.

Getting Scottish school children inspired by STEM at an ­early age is an essential part of ensuring we have a skilled workforce in the future. Taking part in British Science Week will ignite the imagination of some young ­people and we’ll be here to ­nurture their talent for the long-term benefit of our business, the country and our customers.

Frank Mitchell is CEO of SP Energy Networks, part of ScottishPower.