Growing science skills


Science Skills Academy seeks business partnerships to shape region’s STEM skills

The Science Skills Academy (SSA) is an inspiring project that aims to introduce the world of science and technology to primary and secondary pupils in the Highland region.

SSA’s success lies in its innovative approach to STEM education. Accessible to all, it has worked with 98% of local schools in Highland, revolutionising learning by taking 10-14 year old pupils out of the classroom and into specially designed Newton Rooms.

Some young people have visited their local Newton Room multiple times over the years, exploring topics such as salmon farming, renewable energy, and rocket launches. Importantly, they have also had the opportunity to hear from young ambassadors already working in these industries.

Recently, SSA has achieved a significant milestone, exceeding 20,000 engagements with pupils, teachers, and parents. And now, it is actively seeking new partnerships with businesses to expand its impact. Plans include reaching new areas, covering more subjects, and establishing itself as a permanent fixture in the Scottish STEM landscape.

The initiative, essentially a science centre for the north, was initiated by economic development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with support from Highland Council and funding from the Scottish Government through the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. It works closely with the regional university, UHI, to ensure a pipeline of STEM-interested pupils that can access apprenticeships and Further Education.

Morven Fancey, Head of Universities, Education, and Skills at HIE believes there’s a massive opportunity presented by SSA for employers to stimulate interest in their industry and develop skills early. She says: “There are significant investments being made in aquaculture, marine conservation and R&D. To fully capitalise on these opportunities and ensure Scotland’s growth, a skilled workforce is crucial, and the Science Skills Academy plays a vital role in connecting young people with STEM careers and fostering a diverse workforce.”
“We’ve showcased a way forward for STEM by joining up services, improving access, and achieving high uptake. Our young people can see the opportunities for them in emerging industries and their supply chains.”

SSA has recently partnered with the Glasgow Science Centre and has plans to expand into the Northern and Western Isles and Moray, demonstrating its commitment to widening its reach and ensuring a sustainable and effective approach to STEM education in Scotland.

The SSA believes that further investment from industry and the public sector will be key to unlocking Scotland’s STEM potential, fostering the growth of new industries, and nurturing and retaining young talent.

Primary pupil inspecting cells under the microscope

Primary pupil inspecting cells under the microscope

Industry-linked learning
Our Salmon and Aquaculture module is a fantastic introduction to the sector for primary 6 and 7 pupils. In less than a year, 1,500 young people have learned about salmon anatomy up close in the laboratory, re-enacted the many challenges in the lifecycle of Atlantic salmon in the migration game, and researched salmon nutrition – developing and pitching their own salmon pellet products.

Teacher feedback: “The children really enjoy the hands-on practical activities, and the opportunity to use microscopes etc. which aren’t available to them at primary school. It’s a great way for the children to learn about STEM careers.

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