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Dingwall Newton Room to help narrow science, maths, engineering and technology skills gap

By Scott Maclennan

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Cllr Graham Mackenzie: 'A much-needed and wanted resource'.
Picture: Gary Anthony.
Cllr Graham Mackenzie: 'A much-needed and wanted resource'. Picture: Gary Anthony.

A PROJECT that will breathe fresh life into a landmark at the heart of Dingwall could also be a game-changer in halting the brain drain and nurturing local talent for in-demand, well paid jobs.

Work on a Newton Room – a hands-on resource developed to spark the interest of young people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects – has finally been concluded after progress on the Dingwall project was hindered by the pandemic.

Inspired by a successful Scandinavian model and located within the Town Hall, it forms part of a network being created in the Highlands by the Science Skills Academy (SSA), a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

It is hoped the project will deliver huge educational gains and provide local employers with more candidates with the skills that they need for jobs in sectors such as biotechnology and life sciences.

The conclusion of work – funded by the £315 million Inverness and Highlands City-Region Deal – has been warmly welcomed, though Scottish Government restrictions mean it cannot open just yet.

Councillor Graham Mackenzie (Dingwall and Seaforth) chaired the Newton Room working group and voiced delight at the progress. He said: "It is a much-needed and wanted resource which will benefit thousands of children across our area. It will be state of the art."

He paid tribute to the teams working to deliver the project in challenging circumstances.

He said: “It has been great to see various organisations work together from HIE to the schools and it is testimony to their hard work that they have forged on."

He said that when coronavirus restrictions are lifted, the facility will be "a useful addition that all schools will want to have".

Emma Robertson: 'Excellent resource'.
Emma Robertson: 'Excellent resource'.

Emma Robertson, HIE’s SSA project manager, said: “We very much welcome completion of the Dingwall Newton Room refurbishment work.

“This will be an excellent educational resource for the area that will help inspire more young people into STEM subjects and help meet the future needs of employers. We will shortly begin fitting out the new Newton Room ready to welcome schools from across Ross and Cromarty as soon as Covid-19 restrictions allow.”

Chairwoman of the economy and infrastructure committee Cllr Trish Robertson said: “I am delighted that another part of this City Region Deal project is now complete. As soon as Covid-19 guidelines allow, the Newton Room in Dingwall will further enhance the opportunities for our young people to experience and benefit from careers in the STEM disciplines, which will stand the Highlands in a great position for the future.”

Councillors were told of progress in the project last week.

Related: Dingwall set for STEM centre in bid to narrow skills gap

Dingwall STEM room drop-in session planned

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