A NEW engineering education programme will aim to tap into Blaenau Gwent’s industrial heritage by promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Welsh Valleys Engineering Project will establish a network between schools and education establishments with the industry to boost career options in those sectors.

Also operating in Merthyr Tydfil, a number of Blaenau Gwent schools have already signed up, including Willowtown, Deighton and St Illtyd’s at the primary phase; Tredegar, Ebbw Fawr and Brynmawr secondary schools and Coleg Gwent.

Alun Davies, the Blaenau Gwent AM and cabinet secretary for local government and public services, said: “It is important that we do all we can to support STEM learning in schools to ensure that pupils are given every opportunity to access good quality employment.

“We have seen the success of similar projects in Barrow-in-Furness, Stoke-on-Trent and Lowestoft, which have together provided more than 100,000 STEM learning opportunities for young people.

“We need to develop a strong skills base in Blaenau Gwent and across the Valleys, which can support new engineering companies investing in south Wales.

“Forging links between primary and secondary schools, further education colleges and partners in industry is important if we are to achieve this.

“I am hopeful that this project will provide the support needed to both pupils and staff to help develop some of our future engineers.”

The partnership approach draws together pupils and students with employers, government and other key stakeholders to encourage more to study STEM subjects at post-16 level.

The programme will enrich the curriculum, stimulate interest, and improve student attainment outcomes by bringing real-world engineering practice into the student experience.

The aim of the project is to encourage a diverse range of young people to progress towards the engineering roles of the future in local industry.

Lynda Mann, the head of education programmes at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “We are in the Welsh Valleys because this area is full of engineering potential for local students.

“We want to bring engineering to life for students, nurture a STEM-interested network across local schools, colleges and businesses, and point the way to engineering careers.

“This programme builds on tried and tested methods from projects in other areas of the country which, have resulted in significant increases in the numbers of students studying STEM subjects.

“We hope to achieve similar success here.”

Funding will support involvement in national and regional engineering programmes as well as the purchase of kit and equipment to enhance and enrich the delivery of the STEM curriculum in schools and colleges.

It will provide up to 4,000 STEM learning opportunities for young people each year.

Students will also be able to apply for a bursary to support them during engineering-related A-levels or vocational and technical qualifications.

The project will work in close collaboration with local STEM providers Engineering Education Scheme Wales (STEM Cymru), See Science and other education and skills partners and will run for a minimum of five years.

The Welsh Valleys project builds on this model and is the first such programme to include a bursary scheme that provides a clear and continuous pathway to local engineering careers through further education.

The project has been made possible by funding from the Panasonic Trust, which has committed to a minimum of five years of support.

The trust has worked in partnership with the Royal Academy to develop the programme, supported by staff working at Panasonic’s operations in Cardiff and Bracknell.

The chairman of the Panasonic Trust, Stephen Huntington OBE and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng), said: “The Panasonic Trust is delighted to have participated, together with the local further education colleges, in developing this scheme with the Royal Academy of Engineering.

“Earlier schemes elsewhere have demonstrated great success in increasing the study of STEM subjects within schools.

“We aim to build on this success in Wales by extending the encouragement of STEM subjects – leading to careers in engineering – through further and higher education, with the participation of local industry.

“Engineering requirements have changed over the decades. We are confident that the Welsh Valleys Engineering Project has the potential to develop a workforce with the skills required to meet these requirements.”