World Youth Skills Day was established by the United Nations in 2014 to promote greater awareness of the importance of technical, vocational education, training and the development of practical new skills.
The event was launched against a backdrop of a growing global shortfall in the number of qualified professionals in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). This is a big concern for the burgeoning electric vehicle market, which needs talented engineers to design, develop and produce the next generation of sustainable transport.
On World Youth Skills Day, we talk to Laura Horsfall, Head of Marketing and Communications at Greenpower, a charity aiming to advance education in the subjects of sustainable engineering and technology, and who are producing the next generation of Formula E technicians.
What is the aim of Greenpower?
Greenpower Education Trust is a UK based charity which gets young people enthusiastic about science and engineering by challenging them to design, build and race an electric car.
The aim of the Greenpower challenge is to use the excitement of motorsport to inspire young people to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and consider Engineering as a career choice.
How do young people learn about the technology behind electric vehicles?
The young people that participate in Greenpower learn about the technology behind electric vehicles in the best way; by gaining hands on experience. They take part in the project design, before building and racing their very own electric single seat vehicle at motor circuits and airfields all around the UK.
In all of our categories, IET Formula Goblin (for ages 9-11), IET Formula 24 (For ages 11-16) and IET Formula 24+ (for ages 16-25) each vehicle the three competitions use a standard motor and batteries. Abiding by technical and sporting regulations, each team has the opportunity to design and build an electric car. During the design process research is extremely important, research into subjects such as aerodynamics is actively encouraged.
As all teams are on is on a level playing field when it comes to powertrain, it’s important for teams to understand how the motors and batteries work, to be able to maximise efficiency and gain a competitive edge.
We are supported by some major industry leaders when it comes to electric vehicles and sustainable mobility, in the form of BMW i and Siemens.
Highlighting brands such as BMW i and Siemens to our competitors increases the awareness of electric vehicle and sustainable mobility, as well as future career choices in the field of sustainable engineering.
How many young people do you work with?
In the UK we currently work with around 15,000 young people a year and 600 Schools and organisations.
Due to global demand, with countries worldwide facing similar issues with a shortage of engineers, the Greenpower programme has been licensed to organisations in Poland, USA, China and India. Young people all over the global are now benefiting from the global growth of the Greenpower project.
What are the major challenges in getting young people engaged with sustainable engineering and technology?
Although we are occasionally able to offer small grant funds to teams in certain geographical locations, we’re not able to offer funding to all of our teams to participate. We do find that funding the project can be a barrier when trying to engage young people from different organisations especially when internal budgets for so many organisations are being squeezed.
Teams do find alternative ways to raise money through different methods, like bake sales, writing letters to local companies and national companies, which in itself brings a new element to the project, improving soft skills as well as engaging them in STEM subjects.
What is the significance of World Youth Skills Day for your work?
World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) is important to us as a charity, as it completely supports our ethos.
WYSD has the inclusive view that ‘everyone should have the opportunity to discover and develop their talents.’ We believe that our project helps young people between the ages of 9 – 25 to do just that.
Our project is extremely inclusive, our competitor base is form of Private schools, State Schools, Academy’s, Youth Groups, SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) schools, and also NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training).
The Engineering sector requires 182,000 engineers by 2022. Initiatives such as WYSD highlight STEM subjects to young people in an attempt to ignite passion, and potentially lead them into an Engineering career.
Is Formula E an inspiration for the Young people involved with Greenpower?
Formula E is most definitely an inspiration for our young people. With the practical, hands on engineering, team management and communication skills competitors develop when competing in Greenpower, along with further education and experience in the field, they have the potential become Formula E technicians of the future.
How can people get in touch with Greenpower?