Dr Stan Higgins with children on the Children Challenging Industry programme
CIEC were delighted to hear that Dr Stan Higgins, recently retired Chief Executive of North East Process Industries Cluster (NEPIC, has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours and has received an OBE. Stan has supported CIEC’s Children Challenging Industry (CCI) programme for many years and he took time to chat to us about why he considers their work so important and why he firmly believes CCI is such an effective model.
Stan, who is an alumni and honorary fellow of the University of York, explained that when he first took on the role of Chief Executive, fifteen years ago, the previous organisation already invested time and money in working with school children. At the time CCI was one of a number of educational projects they supported, as well as two mobile laboratories that visited both primary and secondary schools.
Reduced funding resulted in CCI being the only remaining NEPIC supported project. As Stan points out, research shows that CCI is an incredibly effective way for companies to invest in their future workforce. Stan believes that this is for three main reasons. Firstly, CCI targets primary school children when they are beginning to form ideas about their future careers; it is consequently able to raise young people’s awareness of STEM careers at the start of this decision-making process. Secondly, it employs specialist teachers who are able to deliver engaging and effective lessons which link closely to the school curriculum. Thirdly, it supports class teachers to teach the curriculum in a way which helps children to understand the importance of industry as a future career choice. CCI also leaves teachers with well-written and relevant resources. Stan suggests that when industry works directly with local schools, without this specialist support, it is often little more than ‘a nice day’ for both children and staff, and is unlikely to have a long term impact on young people’s aspirations.
Over the years Stan has been impressed by the excellent behaviour of school children that he has met through CCI. “I was not that well behaved when I was at school” he laughed! He has been particularly impressed by the attitudes of disadvantaged children who are clearly excited by the science that they do with CCI and are able to persist when faced with challenges. Going forward, he would like to see CCI delivered to as many primary school children as possible as he believes that this would have the best impact for industry. As he explained, CCI not only puts STEM subjects into context for primary school children but it lets them know that there is a place for everyone in industry.
Top left Stan with his ‘European Cluster Manager of the Year’ 2014 and right with a lifetime achievement award from the Chemical Industries Association