All primary and secondary school pupils in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tudful will soon be able to engage with an exciting range of local science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) employers as part of a new effort to "inspire and encourage more young people into high-skilled STEM careers", the Welsh Government has announced.
The Welsh Valleys Engineering Project (WVEP) is an initiative developed jointly by the Panasonic Trust and the Royal Academy of Engineering that started in 2018, funded by the Trust and delivered by the Academy. Its aim is to create centres of excellence in STEM teaching and improve learning opportunities in the Valleys by bringing real-world engineering practice into schools and colleges.
The programme helps enrich the curriculum, enhances pupil engagement, and provides high-quality learning experiences through additional STEM teaching and engagement with STEM-related companies, raising the aspirations of learners about opportunities available to them. The programme is particularly keen to help increase diversity in STEM careers, engaging with groups that are currently under-represented in engineering.
The WVEP currently works with Coleg Gwent and Merthyr College, along with eight secondary schools and five primary schools in the area. It has so far provided more than 20,000 STEM learning opportunities and has awarded 69 Panasonic Trust Future Engineer bursaries to post-16 students, with 33% of bursaries awarded to women students in academic year 20/21.
Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tudful
The programme will receive £348,377 over four years from the Welsh Government’s Tech Valleys Programme, extending the WVEP’s employer engagement strand to cover all 53 schools in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tudful from the spring term of 2022.
The expansion will help create a sustainable legacy through better-resourced schools, upskilled teachers and closer alignment between the STEM curriculum and the needs of STEM businesses in the area. It will also offer valuable opportunities for social mobility and contribute to the pipeline of highly skilled workers that the Welsh Government’s £100 million Tech Valleys programme aims to facilitate.
Throughout the period of the expanded project, the Panasonic Trust will continue to fund Future Engineer bursaries for students continuing into Further Education, with an extension to funding those continuing yet further into Higher Education.
STEM forms an integral part of the Curriculum for Wales, alongside preparing learners for study, employment and "life in the 21st century".
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “My ambition is to make Wales a place where more young people feel confident in planning their future. My message to them is you don’t have to get out to get on.
“Programmes like this provide a crucial practical part in creating optimism around this vision. It enriches the curriculum, enhances pupil engagement, and inspires students by bringing real-world engineering practice into schools.
“Through Tech Valleys, the Welsh Government is committed to business growth across the south Wales valleys and expanding the base of technology-driven organisations we have in the area. We want to support all businesses to innovate and strive for world-leading technologies.
“We are already a destination of choice for exceptional companies and projects. This programme, through genuine collaboration with local authorities, businesses and schools, is a long-term commitment to creating centres of excellence in STEM learning and fostering the future workforce for these businesses and initiatives to reach even greater heights in the future. It could inform a Wales-wide roll out of the model.”