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Encouraging Teesside young people to learn more about offshore wind energy and the myriad of career opportunities it offers is the aim of two education programmes recently launched by Sofia Offshore Wind Farm, which will soon start its onshore construction in the area.
The team from the RWE-owned project, located 195 kilometres from the North East coast on Dogger Bank in the central North Sea, will engage with both local primary and secondary schools to spread the word about offshore wind.
Sofia’s offshore cable will come to land between Redcar and Marske-by-the-Sea to join a seven-kilometre-long onshore cable that will carry the power to a new onshore converter station to be built adjacent to the Wilton Complex, near the village of Lazenby.
Sofia’s Project Director David Few said: “Offshore wind is a growing sector with thousands of jobs due to be created in the coming decade. Through our work with Teesside schools, we want to ensure young people in the area are aware of the range of opportunities on their doorstep.”
The primary school programme will involve the creation of a series of offshore wind teaching resources, created in partnership with the Tees Valley Education Trust (TVET), a five-school multi-academy trust which includes the primary schools closest to Sofia’s onshore infrastructure – Wilton and Dormanston.
He added: “The students here will be able to see our onshore infrastructure take shape, so we want to help bring it to life by providing them with hands-on experiential learnings days to accompany the teaching resources.”
Katrina Morley, TVET Chief Executive Officer said that the Sofia-education partnership will ensure that local children in areas of high unemployment have an amazing opportunity to broaden their aspirations, understanding and expectations for their future.
“The green energy sector is set to boom in the Tees Valley in the coming years so this is a wonderful opportunity for our children, their communities and the region’s future,” she said.
Once the curriculum materials have been tried and tested, they will be disseminated to a wider network of approximately 20 Teesside primary schools within a catchment area of the onshore infrastructure and online teacher workshops will be provided to support the materials.
The final stage of the programme will see the resources published online via STEM and career networks and organisations to ensure accessibility to schools UK-wide.
Sofia’s second education initiative is the secondary school programme called ‘Sofia Champions for Wind’, focussing on supporting teachers to develop their own subject-specific curriculum materials. Five teachers from Redcar schools have been named as ‘champions’, tasked with designing resources to teach their students – aged from 12 to 18 - about offshore wind and its career opportunities.
The schools taking part are: Outwood Academy Bydales, Sacred Heart Catholic School, St Peter’s Catholic College, Redcar and Cleveland College and Archways Educational Service. The subjects the teachers will cover span engineering, science, English and careers.
Concepts for the teachers’ projects range from the hands-on building of wind-powered appliances and in-depth studies of the technology to running intensive careers programmes and renewables writing workshops to create campaigns to attract people to the sector.
Vicky Wills from Sacred Heart Catholic School said she hopes to: “Raise aspirations and challenge stereotyping in this sector, particularly to encourage our female students to consider offshore wind as a career path.”
"Sofia Champions for Wind" is supported by education professionals who will provide virtual training sessions and access to existing information and resources to enhance the curriculum materials.
Gary Keys from Redcar and Cleveland College said: “I want to help our young people to gain a better understanding of renewable technologies, their applications, and benefits.”
While Antony Foster from St Peter’s Catholic College said: “Through taking part I want to strengthen the connections between industry and education and increase pupils’ knowledge on renewables”.
The programme will be assessed by a team from Teesside University who will manage entrance and exit research of both the teachers and their students, to gauge changes in awareness and attitudes and measure the effectiveness of the scheme.
Work to prepare for the construction of Sofia’s onshore converter station is due get underway on the site near Lazenby Village in March this year, with preliminary works to move a water pipe already being undertaken by Sembcorp in readiness for the construction of the wind farm’s onshore infrastructure.