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The government has announced funding for a new science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) centre in Wales, alongside investment in six science centres across the UK to help educate people about Stem.
The government will give £3m to existing science centre Techniquest near Cardiff Bay to develop a new Stem hub designed to reach a more diverse audience and deliver new content to teach people more about science and technology.
This is part of £13m that will be invested in six science centres across the UK – covering locations in Scotland, Wales and England – to help them attract new visitors to teach them about Stem.
After visiting Techniquest, secretary of state for Wales, Alun Cairns, said: “The centre is home to many fond memories of children and adults in south Wales and further afield, who were perhaps taking an interest in science and technology for the first time.
“This funding will allow Techniquest to leap forward in developing cutting-edge Stem technology, attracting some of Wales’ sharpest science minds to take a lead role in developing our future society.”
Other centres receiving funding include Catalyst in Widnes, the Dundee Science Centre, Eureka! in Mersey, the Glasgow Science Centre and the National Space Centre in Leicester.
The aim of investing in these centres is not only to inspire people with Stem, but to help them to build business models that will allow them to reach more people and keep delivering programmes and content that will inspire and create interest in Stem.
Each of these centres, as well as Techniquest, have been chosen after presenting plans about how to connect with audiences and communities who may not visit centres of this kind or have access to Stem-based learning.
This audience development will be achieved through creating new activities and improving their facilities.
Techniquest’s plan for this includes developing its new content with businesses and education providers from Welsh Stem fields to show how Stem and the future of technology will effect society.
Collaboration between industry, education providers and the government has often been cited as the most effective way to address the UK’s growing skills gap.
Funding for these science centres is part of the Inspiring Science Fund, a joint venture from Wellcome and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which was developed with the aim of educating more people from underprivileged or under-represented backgrounds to learn more about science.
The UK’s Industrial Strategy highlighted an investment in technologies, as well as a fund to improve the UK’s digital skills, to make the UK the “most innovative nation” by the year 2030.
But there have been concerns over the UK’s technology skills market since the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU), with many believing a focus on growing the UK’s own skills is the only way to ensure tech talent will be readily available after Brexit.
Funding for these six science centres, along with other initiatives such as changes to rules surrounding apprenticeships and funds for the training of computing teachers, are part of the government’s plan to address the Stem skills shortage.