Inverness company LifeScan Scotland Ltd has been voted the best in the UK at encouraging youngsters' interest in science subjects.
The accolade was for one of four awarded annually by STEMNET (the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) – a national initiative which aims to stimulate young people's interest in these subjects. Among other activities it recruits those in related industries to become STEM 'ambassadors' promoting science subjects at schools and clubs.
In the Highlands and Islands the STEM programme is administered and supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). There are more than 340 ambassadors in the Highlands and Islands from 101 businesses.
At this week's award ceremony held at the House of Lords in London, it was announced that LifeScan had beaten five other UK nominees including global companies such as British Petroleum, Atkins Ltd and AstraZeneca, to STEMNET's title of Most Dedicated Employer.
Part of multi-national company Johnson and Johnson, LifeScan Scotland Ltd has made a huge commitment to the STEM Ambassadors programme with 55 employees, ranging from apprentices right up to the Executive Director of Quality Assurance, promoting the value of science and engineering to young people.
The company actively encourages its staff to participate and work with local schools, ensuring that they are properly prepared by first undertaking the STEM ambassadors training. LifeScan's ambassadors are given paid time off to attend the induction and undertake activities with schools. These have ranged from designing and building a wind turbine to creating a new diabetes meter.
Lorraine Dick, Community Relations Specialist with LifeScan, said: “This is a stellar award for LifeScan. It represents many of the company's core values – encouraging engagement and ambition among the next generation; stimulating interest in scientific exploration and supporting employees' enthusiasm for community involvement. HIE has been a first-class partner in helping us to achieve our role in the STEM programme which is a highly valued aspect of our activities.”
Donna Chisholm HIE's head of Innovation and Skills said that the agency was delighted that the national award had gone to a company in the Highlands and Islands. “We are determined to continue building on the advantages this region holds in the life science and energy sectors so the STEM programme holds particular value for us. Our young people are the science and technology workforce of the future. It's fantastic to have such a progressive and committed private sector partner as LifeScan working with us and I am delighted that their dedication and the value this brings to the region and the UK, has been recognised in this way.”
In addition to LifeScan's success, Martyn Crawshaw, teacher at Millburn Academy in Inverness, was a finalist in the Most Dedicated Teacher award category and received an award at the House of Lords event.
Yvonne Baker, STEMNET Chief Executive said: “Encouraging all young people to achieve their potential in science, maths, technology and engineering is key, both for their future and the future of the UK as a whole. Everyone has a role to play – schools, teachers, parents, volunteers and employers. The STEMNET Awards highlight some of the very best examples of people working together to enthuse young people with the excitement and possibilities to which these subjects, and associated careers, can lead.”
The winners of the four awards were: Most Dedicated STEM Ambassador Award: Sam Whitmarsh, AstraZeneca, Bristol and Bath. Most Dedicated Employer Award: LifeScan Scotland Ltd. Most Dedicated Teacher Award: Rebekah Hodson, Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College. Most Dedicated STEM Club Award: Bungay High School (Suffolk).
Picture caption: STEMNET Awards 2010, London
L-R Janice Wallace, Stem Ambassador Co-ordinator HIE, Lorraine Dick Community Relations Specialist and David McMillan, Executive Director of Quality Assurance both of LifeScan Scotland Ltd- winners of the most dedicated employer award.