Reach the Heights is a major investment in the future of our young people. This innovative programme will provide support and encouragement to enable young people to acquire practical skills and develop career opportunities. This investment is just part of our commitment to helping young people develop their full potential and in turn, make a valuable contribution to the Welsh economy - Ieuan Wyn Jones AM, Deputy First Minister
Reach the Heights is a £49 million initiative to help around 30,000 young people in Wales improve their career opportunities.
The Reach the Heights projects have been awarded £27 million of European Social Fund resources plus match funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and associated sponsors to take forward the programme in Wales. It aims to target 11 – 19 year-olds across West Wales and the Valleys to help them build a brighter future and prevent them from becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
This funding for Reach the Heights will support two individual projects: First Footholds and Routes to the Summit. First Footholds focuses on those who are most at risk of leaving school and becoming economically inactive whilst Routes to the Summit aims to raise the skills and aspirations of young people, giving them the best possible chance of future career development and expanding opportunities to gain work related skills.
Both programmes will use a range of innovative practices such as training, workshops, taster sessions, mentoring, advice, support and work related experiences, so that young people in Wales have the necessary skills for future education and employment. The programmes will play a key role in sharing, learning and good practice across the local authorities and wider stakeholders in Wales.
Routes to the Summit will target support specific to local areas to improve confidence, decision-making and basic skills so that young people can make better progress in school and move into higher education and employment more readily.
Both projects will be delivered collaboratively with a range of joint sponsors which includes the Arts Council, Children in Wales, Funky Dragon, Save the Children, Community Music Wales, Techniquest, SNAP Cymru and Urdd Gobaith Cymru.
Techniquest’s role in Reach the Heights
Techniquest’s project has been designed to develop and deliver a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM)-based engagement programme that will benefit young people aged 11-19 years old across Wales, who face or who are at risk of disadvantage or under-achievement.
The constituent parts of the project will be designed to link together to offer holistic support for students from year seven onwards. It will comprise innovative, accessible and highly motivational programmes to engage young people to participate in STEM-based subjects, to raise their aspirations and enhance the skills needed to prepare them for continuing education and employment.
The project will be delivered across the convergence areas through seven regional hubs targeting young people living within disadvantaged communities. Two of these regional hubs are already established in Cardiff and Wrexham. The remaining five will be developed through an open procurement process. The hubs will provide a link to local schools, colleges, agencies and communities, with Techniquest providing support and programming. This combines the advantages of economies of scale with a close understanding of the catchment area. It is proposed that the additional 5 hubs will be situated in the following locations: Ceredigion, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil or Blaenau Gwent, Pembrokeshire or Carmarthenshire, and Swansea. Techniquest’s programmes cover outreach for young people in the convergence areas, with the hubs in Cardiff and Wrexham serving the convergence communities in close proximity to them.
The project is designed to increase young people's engagement in STEM-based subjects through interactive workshops, a programme of work-related experience, contemporary science debates and the opportunity to engage in workshops related to STEM-based degrees. The project will motivate and enthuse young people to be engaged in STEM-based education, training and employment.
This is an holistic programme that builds opportunities for learners aged 11-19 years old over five stages:
Initial STEM engagement programmes (11-14 year olds and underachievers aged 14-19 years old)
These programmes will be designed to engage underachievers and those young people who have previously been turned off STEM-based subjects, and motivate them to re-engage in learning. Each will comprise an interactive workshop and pre- and post-visit resource materials for teachers. They will be delivered under the core themes of Sustainability, Maths, Financial literacy, Human body and Astronomy.
14-19 work-related experience
This element of the project will focus on enhanced opportunities for 14-19 year olds to increase their engagement in STEM-based careers, to gain an understanding of the careers options available in STEM and to consider and address some of the issues that STEM companies face. The aim will be to feature local businesses. Techniquest will work with the businesses to develop a programme that:
- highlights how the businesses apply science in their work
- provides the young people with a case study highlighting a particular problem that the company has faced for the participants to solve.
The programme will support young people in achieving level 2 and level 3 qualifications and will have direct links with GCSE Science, A-Level, Welsh Baccalaureate, GNVQ, NVQ and BTEC specifications.
Contemporary Science Discussions
Techniquest will further engage large numbers of young people through innovative and participatory discussions on the social and ethical issues associated with contemporary science to:
- highlight the relevance of the application of science to their everyday lives
- give them the opportunity to make their opinions heard on topics that have direct relevance to them and to their lives.
The debate subjects could include: climate change, alternative fuels, nanotechnology, DNA databases and stem cells. Video conferencing will be used to enable young people across the convergence areas to come together in discussion and to learn from one another. This will be facilitated by working with partners including the Welsh Video Network, Funky Dragon and Welsh universities. Pre- and post-debate materials for teachers, youth-workers and trainers will support the programme.
Engaging young people into university
The project culminates in innovative approaches to help raise young people's aspirations and awareness of the benefits of higher education, particularly amongst those from disadvantaged groups and those who might not have considered university. To do this Techniquest will work with Welsh universities to develop and deliver workshops that will give the participants the opportunity to engage in science experiments that they would be unable to carry out in school or college due to time, costs or Health and Safety constraints, but which are part of the post-16 specifications. The workshops will complement A-Level and Welsh Baccalaureate specifications in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Engineering and Psychology.
Teacher Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
All organisations that refer young people will have the opportunity to participate in CPD. Techniquest will provide teachers with pre-and post -visit materials and train them in their use. It will highlight links to the learning objectives of the programme.
An online forum, the Virtual Network, will support the Outreach programmes for teachers and other professionals. The two-way virtual network will encourage and consolidate teacher feedback, and promote teacher/teacher and teacher/Techniquest discussions to complement the programmes. Supplementary resources for the programme will also be available on the network.