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The ticking time bomb

The Cool Science initiative aims to address the skills shortage by attracting new blood to the industry, starting with its attendance at The Big Bang engineering fair, says Chris Vallis

Engineering turnover has grown 2.2 per cent over the past four years to £1.1tn, nearly 25 per cent of all UK turnover, employing more than five million people. Britain is great at engineering, but we need more engineers.

It is projected that we need to double the number of engineering-related apprentices and graduates coming out of colleges and universities.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has written a specific policy to try and address this (Engaging the public in science and engineering). Its recent review of engineering skills endorses the view that it would benefit the economy to substantially increase the supply of engineers entering the labour market.

The cooling industry simply suffers the same fate as engineering does as a whole – whether more acutely or not is the real debate.

Having been involved in the IOR youth engagement team, I came across The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair (the UK’s largest youth event) through general research and saw it as a great platform to reach out to young engineers.

I wrote to The Big Bang Fair in May 2014 suggesting the concept of Cool Science as a simple brand message to communicate the core theory behind refrigeration to a young audience.

In October, The Big Bang Fair organisers confirmed their working group liked the idea and invited me to facilitate an activity stand at the event, which is 11 to 14 March 2015 at the NEC.

Using the Big Bang Fair and showcasing the cooling industry using Cool Science is an effort to attract young people into cooling in an inspiring way.

I believe it would benefit the engineering industry and economy to substantially increase the influx of young talent to engineering.

Doing so would add flexibility and resilience, and enable more people to tap into new opportunities during this exciting time of rapid technological change in the RACHP industry.

It is critical to future development to inspire younger members and attract young people from different backgrounds.

Campaigns such as Cool Science are vital. Industry leaders must take a view on the long-term health of engineering in the UK.

Industry support

In 2014 I established a graduate scheme, and recruited three fantastic industry starters from a broad engineering background, to learn from and add value. I can highly recommend this approach.

In broader terms, everyone I’ve spoken to likes the concept of Cool Science and agrees with its objectives.

Those that were able to find some funds to generously donate have been very keen to do so. Current support is from ourselves (AB Group), IoR, BRA, Carel UK, GEA Searle, Space, Danfoss, Harp and Dean & Wood.

More than five other companies are also near to confirming financial support and becoming Youth Engagement Supporters. A logo has been generated for use by supporting companies.

However, we need volunteers to be on the stand, engage the 7- to 19-year-olds and help out.

We’re looking for enthusiastic industry members to answer questions about refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps and talk about their job, the industry, and basic theory and practice.

Any industry member or company keen to support Cool Science can also do so by donating time and equipment (email address below), or further financial donations (via IoR).

Further and sustained financial support from industry will mean we can maintain momentum and continue Cool Science at future events, create teaching aids and lesson plans to enable the message to be widely spread after the event and to an even wider audience.

As I write, the Cool Science stand is shaping up well.

Attractions in development are two-bicycle powered refrigeration systems, trained actors to interact in mini dry ice experiments, an iPad wall for a refrigeration quiz, a slush-ice drink giveaway, frosted pipework as the logo of Cool Science, thermal imaging camera displayed on a video wall and a refrigeration system demo unit with glass pipework.

This should create an engaging and memorable event, bolstering the importance of STEM subjects and raising the profile of refrigeration with a young audience.

Pending its success at The Big Bang Fair, the plan for Cool Science is to be ‘packaged’ and a light version delivered at some of the regional Big Bang events around the country throughout 2015. 

We would also like to work with EngineeringUK on its other initiative, Tomorrow’s Engineers, a UK-wide school engagement programme.

There is also the possibility to apply for funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘Ingenious’ grant scheme for public engagement (next round opens mid-2015).

Look out for our website coming soon: www.coolscience.org.uk

Chris Vallis is the founder of Cool Science - contact chris.vallis@abgroup.com

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