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Students at an Ayrshire school found out what it takes to keep the lights on when a local employer paid a visit as part of a new learning programme.

Around 80 National 5 Physics students at Prestwick Academy took part in an illuminating session with Scottish Power Energy Networks at the end of four weeks of learning about energy generation and electricity distribution in the classroom.

Named “Employability Bites”, the new initiative from Skills Development Scotland (SDS), developed by Energy & Utility Skills, features small “bites” of learning in the curriculum, delivered with the help of sector employers.

Engineers from Scottish Power Energy Networks explained how they plan, design, maintain and repair electricity supplies to the local area, and offered information on job opportunities from Modern Apprenticeships to graduate positions.

Margaret Ashton, Principal Teacher of Physics at Prestwick Academy, said: “This allows students to see the application of things they are learning in the classroom.

“It makes physics real. We teach a lot of theory but here they can see the actual, practical use of what they learn and how it relates to them, in this case keeping the lights on.

“They can also see the jobs that are available in a particular area of work they may not have considered.”

Hands-on experience

Among the students keen to find out more was 16-year-old Victoria Parkhamovich.

She said: “It was really helpful for people like me who are interested in working in this area and who want to know more about apprenticeships.

“I want to be an electrical engineer so it was really interesting for me and I enjoyed it a lot and got a lot of useful information from it.”

One of the engineers attending was 20-year-old Chris Scott, a former pupil at Prestwick Academy who enjoyed the chance to offer students the benefit of his experience.

He said: “I wanted to go into electrical engineering and I was better at working hands-on than having my head in a book, so I chose a Modern Apprenticeship over going to university.

“It gave me that hands-on experience, and getting paid for it as well was ideal. It’s been great, and the training is good.

“These students are now at the stage of deciding what sort of career they might want to go into, so it’s good to be giving them some information.”

Finding the best recruits

Elaine Forsyth, Customer Engagement Manager at Scottish Power Energy Networks, added: “One of the benefits of this is engaging with stakeholders, and the pupils here are stakeholders through their families.

“Secondly, we have an ageing workforce, with 20 per cent reaching retirement age in the next 10 years, so we’re looking for the best recruits we can find, and there’s no better way to do that than speaking to school pupils making choices about their future.”

The ‘Employability Bites’ project,developed and supported by Energy & Utility Skills, forms part of SDS’s work with Education Scotland, finding ways for employers and education to work together to support learning of STEM subjects and improve understanding of related careers .

Jane Allan, Sector Manager at SDS, said: “This model of learning offers real benefits for pupils, who get the chance to see how what they learn in the classroom applies to the workplace.

“It’s also very worthwhile for employers, helping them identify future talent and improve understanding of the role they play in local communities.”

Barry Smith, Assessment Director at Energy & Utility Skills, said: “The ‘Employability Bites’ help highlight the importance and relevance of what young people learn in school - particularly in their STEM subjects - for specific careers in the energy and utility sector.

“In working with us to create the ‘Employability Bites’, employers also hope to introduce young people to the range of exciting career and modern apprenticeships opportunities available to them.”

Visit Ourskillsforce to find out more about engaging with education.

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