Sweco Team Sparks Next Generation of North East Engineers
A Redcar engineer has helped inspire the next generation of Teesside’s scientists and engineers after organising, funding and launching a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) club for young students at a local primary school.
Ben Sickling, a principal engineer in the Stockton office of design and engineering consultancy Sweco, delivered a series of three-week long STEM projects for three groups of eight six-year-old students at Zetland Primary School in Redcar.
The club, delivered by Ben in his spare time, gave pupils the chance to learn the basics of electrical circuits.
As part of the activity, the children built their own ‘Buzz Off’ games from kits designed and manufactured by Sunderland-based technology educator Technology Tom. The game challenges players to guide a metal loop around a bent wire without touching the two together and setting off an alarm.
Following the success of the club, Ben is now in discussions with Zetland Primary School to run further initiatives next year for students in Years Five and Six, and is developing a business case to secure funding for future projects.
Ben’s work forms part of his role as a STEM Ambassador – an initiative that sees volunteers from across the UK with STEM backgrounds work to support STEM subject learning and help young people explore the career options available to them across the various sectors.
The STEM Club comes amid a range of outreach activity from Sweco’s Stockton team, designed to raise awareness of the opportunities in – and paths into – the engineering profession.
Members of the Sweco team recently attended Stockton Sixth Form College to offer their advice to students on career options in engineering. Thomas Lee, a Sweco team member who started his engineering career through an apprenticeship, and David Ayre, who joined the business as a graduate engineer from Teesside University, also discussed their own unique paths from growing up in the region to their current engineering roles.
Meanwhile, principal engineer Shimoo Choudhury and technical director Stuart Wilson have been working with Teesside University to support graduates’ entry into engineering jobs. Alumni of the university themselves, Shimoo and Stuart have provided a number of presentations to staff and students on the opportunities available, and their own routes into engineering.
Sweco’s relationship with Teesside University has helped the university renew the accreditation of its engineering courses from the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), who commended it on its links to industry.
Stuart Wilson, technical director, Sweco, said: “STEM knowledge has a central role to play in developing solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges, spanning industries as diverse as transport, energy and healthcare.
“This is why it’s so important that we encourage engagement with these subjects from a young age, as Ben has helped do at Zetland Primary School, and continue to support young people throughout their time in education, showing how exciting a career in STEM can be and highlighting the range of routes that they can take into the sector.
“All of our team are North East locals who have entered the industry through a variety of pathways. Our experience working with a multinational company like Sweco also clearly demonstrates that there are opportunities for our youth to stay locally, but work globally.”
Simon English, headmaster, Zetland Primary School, said: “The STEM club has been a runaway success. Through the activities, I’ve seen childrens’ personalities really come out and we’ve had great reactions from those that took part. Our thanks to Ben and all those involved for their time and effort.”
Sweco currently employs more than 1,340 people and consults on projects across the UK and Ireland via its network of 26 regional offices. It has been named top ten UK civil engineering firm for two years running in the annual NCE100 ranking of the top civil engineering firms, compiled by the official magazine of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The business retained its sixth place position this year, having leapt 40 places in 2018.