Dingwall has been selected as the location for the UK’s third Scandinavian-style learning centre, following the opening of two Newton Rooms in Thurso and Fort William earlier this year.
The centres aim to encourage young people in local areas to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
In Norway, a network of centres works with schools and local employers to provide education in STEM subjects for some of the most isolated rural areas of the country. Alongside Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Science Skills Academy (SSA) is building a similar network of Newton Rooms across the Highland region with £3 million in Scottish Government support.
This forms part of the £315 million Inverness and Highlands City Region Deal, which is funded by the Scottish and UK Governments.
FIRST Scandinavia, which develops and owns the Newton concept, has been chosen by HIE to support the creation of the room at Dingwall Town Hall. Part of the building will be renovated and turned into the learning centre, which will be made available to school groups across Ross-shire. SSA hopes to have the Dingwall Newton Room in place by the end of the year.
Andrew Johnston, HIE’s director for the Science Skills Academy, said the centre will help address shortages in STEM skills and that HIE is considering additional sites across the region for new centres.
“This new facility for Ross-shire will address the shortage of skills relating to science, technology, engineering and maths to help us meet current and future needs of the STEM labour market,” he said.
“We’re delighted to confirm the third Newton Room in the Highlands and we are exploring options for other potential sites in the region for the benefit of all young people.”
Modules available at the Newton Room will complement the school curriculum and STEM sectors in the region, HIE said, while collaboration with other STEM activity providers such as Aberdeen Science Centre will offer a broad range of activities.
Infrastructure Secretary Michael Matheson underlined the benefits of the Newton Room for the people of Dingwall and the surrounding area, which will open up opportunities for young people across the region.
“This project, which is being supported by Scottish Government funding through the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, will benefit young people living in rural communities by opening up more opportunities to access STEM education, benefiting them now, as well as inspiring them to consider future career opportunities in the STEM industries,” he said.
“This investment is just part of the £135 million we are investing in the Inverness and Highland area through the City Region Deal, bringing benefits to local people and communities in the area.”