Holistic approach pays dividends for pupils and public

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The regeneration of an area is – or should be – a holistic process that looks beyond the creation of square footage of office or industrial space, important though that is. It must also look beyond the employment it helps to create – vital though that is. And at Irvine Bay, our figures on both fronts have been solidly successful.

To be truly sustainable, and to deliver genuine value for any public investment, it is vital that the local population is truly engaged in the process and feel that the opportunities that regeneration can create are there to be shared by them.

That is why, at Irvine Bay Regeneration Company, we decided that some investment in education was a vital component in our activity, engaging with our young people and through them, with the wider population.

Talk Science @ Irvine Bay is a programme of inspirational talks, lectures, workshops and online resources for schools and the public in the Irvine Bay area. The activities focused on topics closely aligned with the regeneration of Irvine Bay, helping to build interest in engineering, science (particularly life sciences), information and communications technology, manufacturing and entrepreneurship. The activities tapped into the knowledge and expertise of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Fellowship and other relevant experts. Those events aimed at school children had strong links to the Curriculum for Excellence.

This was all very relevant, given that our regeneration focus in the area is very much around the development of the growing life and chemical sciences sector in our i3 Enterprise Area, and in engineering.

Working with our partners from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Scotland’s National Academy, we wanted to raise the aspirations of our young people, encourage them to look at science and engineering as a potential career, and through this to deepen the pool of skilled employment that the sectors desperately need. Talk Science @ Irvine Bay also aimed to: 
l Demonstrate to potential inward investors the area’s future labour pool with its historical and ongoing commitment to science and engineering 
l Maximise publicity of the programme in the promotion of Irvine Bay’s holistic approach to regeneration in the life sciences and regeneration sectors, as well as to key stakeholders such as the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise 
Contribute to RSE’s objectives of bringing the work of the National Academy to communities across Scotland 
l Help raise awareness and provide a local people with a greater understanding of the regeneration work that is taking place in the Irvine Bay area and of the potential opportunities that this provides for the community and, particularly, for young people living in the area.

In all, through the school years 2014-16, a total of 143 events took place in our area of North Ayrshire, which is centred on the five towns of Irvine, Kilwinning, Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston. Ten of these were public talks, the remainder took place in local primary and secondary schools. More than 10,000 people attended the talks in total.

Each activity was evaluated, as was the programme on its completion. The results have been overwhelmingly positive:
l 83 per cent of local secondary schools took part in the programme, with 19 events in total
l 67 per cent of primary schools participated, with 37 events in total
l All schools that requested an event hosted at least one
100 per cent said the events met expectations
l 100 per cent described the events as good, very good, or excellent
l 100 per cent said the events made a positive impact
l Around 65 per cent said the events gave them a better understanding of the work of Irvine Bay
l Well-known speakers included author Ian Rankin, geologist and TV presenter, Professor Iain Stewart and RSE President Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the world-renowned astrophysicist.

Talk Science @ Irvine Bay has demonstrated that an education programme can be closely and successfully aligned with regeneration activity, helping to build interest in key topics – in our case engineering, science, IT and communications technologies, manufacturing and entrepreneurship.

Tapping into expert knowledge and expertise, and creating a wide-ranging programme of genuine interest, can help inspire our young people to be excited about work that is happening within their communities, and to be a real part of that work now and into the future.
Patrick Wiggins, Chief Executive, Irvine Bay Regeneration Company