Engineering centre visit inspires students into STEM careers

Students have been inspired to consider careers in engineering after witnessing first-hand the level of innovation and creativity available on their doorstep, as part of a unique education programme.

Year 10 pupils from four secondary schools in West Cumbria chose to spend the first day of their half term holiday visiting Sellafield’s Engineering Centre of Excellence as part of The React Foundation’s ICanToo programme which encourages young people to continue their studies of STEM subjects.

The programme, organised by volunteers at The React Foundation in conjunction with careers guidance and employability skills charity Inspira, provides a range of fun and educational activities and visits away from a classroom environment to inspire young people into engineering and science careers.

Sellafield Ltd’s Engineering Centre of Excellence at Cleator Moor organised a range of practical and technology-based tasks, ranging from drone simulations, 3D printing and circuit making to code breaking and bridge building, and showcased the world first innovations and engineering work which occurs on site every day.

Kiera Ditchburn, a student at Netherhall School, in Maryport, said: “I hadn’t really considered engineering as a possible career but this programme has shown me there are so many opportunities in our area, and it has widened my career prospects.

“I came here today not knowing what to expect and fearing it would be like sitting in a classroom, but all the activities have been great fun. I’ve enjoyed working in a team with people I’ve never met before and it’s been very inspirational as it’s shown how interesting engineering can be.”

Fletcher Knowles, also a student at Netherhall School, said: “I’m really interested in engineering as a career and I’ve really enjoyed the interactive, hands-on activities which were organised as part of the programme. Being able to come here and work on the activities with my friends has really inspired me to pursue a career in industry.”

A total of 40 students from Netherhall, Cockermouth, St Benedict’s (Whitehaven) and West Lakes Academy (Egremont) schools are taking part in the ICanToo programme.

Kirby Johnston, a volunteer at The React Foundation, said: “ICanToo is an inspirational, educational and unique programme designed to motivate young people to reach their potential within science and engineering.

“It is the first time it has been hosted by Sellafield’s Engineering Centre of Excellence, and the students have really been inspired about the amazing work which goes on within this facility and it will make them realise there are a wide variety of excellent opportunities open to them within STEM.”

As part of the programme, Inspira employability specialists mentor the students on an individual basis, set business-related tasks and nurture the young people’s professional and personal development.

Andrew Monaghan, a progression coach at Inspira, has been working with the current cohort and was impressed with the aptitude the young people showed during all the tasks as part of the day’s activities at the Engineering Centre of Excellence.

He said: “A few people in this group had already expressed an interest in engineering so being able to come here and take part in some entertaining activities and meet people who work here will really hit home how interesting this career can be.

“It will also broaden their understanding of the different types of engineering available to them. Being involved in ICanToo and visiting such a great facility which is a hive of innovation will be really beneficial to the young people.”

Kevin Rishworth, Engineering Lead at the Centre of Excellence, led the site tour and praised the enthusiasm and inquisitiveness of the visiting students.

He said: “It’s always good to welcome the next generation into the facility to show them the engineering excellence which happens here on a daily basis, and it’s great to be able to inspire them by highlighting the exciting opportunities which are readily available to them.”