On 4 February, sixth form students from across Northern Ireland learned about careers in engineering during site visits to Belfast Waterfront and to SONI, which runs Northern Ireland's electricity grid. The visits were part of Engineering Our Future, a day in which more than 100 sixth formers convene at Methodist College Belfast to learn about different career paths.
Richard Kirk, Regional Director of ICE Northern Ireland, was one of the organisers of Engineering Our Future. He explained that in school it can be difficult for pupils to see the relevance of subjects like maths and science.
"Engineering Our Future is about making these subjects come alive and showing students the positive impact they could have on Northern Ireland by going into these careers," he said.
During the first half of Engineering Our Future, students listened to lectures and presentations by Ed McCann (Expedition Engineering), Karen Higgins (BE Aerospace), Lauren Gracey (Graham) and Jonny Pollock (NIE Networks).There was also the opportunity for the students to hear from several UK universities about the options available to them after A Levels.
In the afternoon, they then had the chance to see the tangible outcomes that maths and science can have. A group at the Belfast Waterfront learned about the site's £29.5 million expansion, which will generate a £100 million return for Belfast over a five year period and create more than 1,500 new hospitality and retail jobs.
Jacqui Owens, Operations Director at Belfast Waterfront, was delighted to welcome the first group of students to the new Waterfront.
"We have a number of close working relationships with the education sector and hope to continue this in the future," Jacqui said. "Today's visit will hopefully inspire our next generation of construction industry professionals."
Another group of students visited SONI, the System Operator for Northern Ireland, to see how Northern Ireland's electricity makes its way from power stations, wind farms and other sources through the electricity grid, right across the region.
Robin McCormick, General Manager of SONI welcomed the students as the 'bright sparks' of the future, adding that now is an exciting time to be involved in the energy and electricity industry.
"Technology is transforming the sector and in years to come we expect that change to accelerate," he said. "We are delighted to have students with us, who have a genuine passion for STEM and we hope to inspire their future career choices."