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Tony Quinn is an Enterprise Adviser and a Director at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the UK’s national renewable energy centre, based Northumberland. To help celebrate British Science Week, Tony has blogged about being an Enterprise Adviser and promoting STEM careers.

In 2017, I was privileged to be asked to be an Enterprise Adviser for Ashington-based Duke’s Secondary School.

It provided me with an opportunity to combine my experience and business network with my passion for raising the aspirations of young people in the region, contributing to positive pathways from education into STEM careers.

I am also a firm believer in the foundation upon which the Enterprise Adviser Network was founded - Sir John Holman’s Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Career Guidance – and I am delighted that we continue to contribute to its objectives.

Our industry – offshore renewable energy – is presenting significant career opportunities as the UK leads the way, particularly within offshore wind. Indeed, the offshore wind industry is growing dramatically and is hugely ambitious, with current plans to invest £48bn over the next 10 years, creating 27,000 high skilled jobs as a result.

The future of offshore wind: turbine technology

The rapid progression of renewables has accelerated the development of the next generation of wind turbines with power ratings of 10MW and over. To put this into context, offshore wind turbines are now set to be 260m high; almost twice the height of the London Eye and not far off the Eiffel Tower, with the blades alone over 100m in length.

And offshore wind turbines don’t have the luxury of being located on dry land. Instead, they operate up to 100 miles offshore in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, which is both a huge engineering and logistical challenge. In addition, to operate and maintain such colossal machines we need to invest in robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence (AI) such as drones and self-driving service vessels.

Why careers in science matter

So how is this relevant to careers in science, and the science curriculum? In our industry alone, to design, manufacture, test, install and operate offshore wind turbines of this scale, requires a great deal of specialist knowledge and expertise.

Our transition to a low carbon economy will bring about a paradigm shift in the way we generate, distribute and consume all forms of energy.  In combination with the continued evolution of digitisation it presents a huge opportunity for the UK where we are world renowned as a nation of innovators.  This transition will be driven by technicians, engineers of all disciplines, researchers and other professionals all of whom have a background in science.

Through my Enterprise Adviser role, there are two benchmarks that we prioritise: Encounters with employers (Gatsby Benchmark 5) and Experiences of the workplace (Gatsby Benchmark 6). In my small corner of South East Northumberland there are some incredible companies doing incredible work in the areas of robotics, automation, subsea engineering and satellite technology.

To encourage careers in science, we need to support the science curriculum, to expose students to the amazing work being carried out on their doorstep and in so doing inspire our next generation of engineers.

At ORE Catapult, we do this by supporting the science teachers directly, listening to their needs, and working to deliver work place visits and practical lessons that bring meaning to what a science-based career can look like.

There is no better time to highlight the exciting career opportunities in science than during British Science Week.

Find out more about becoming an Enterprise Adviser and about ORE Catapult