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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Inspiring the engineers of the future

A WEST Cumbrian engineering charity has marked ten years of inspiring young people in the region.

The React Foundation, set up by Cleator Moor firm React Engineering in 2004, kicked off celebrations with a seminar on inspiring young people into science, technology, engineering and maths careers.

The Engage and Inspire seminar, held at the Samuel Lindow Building, Westlakes Science Park, earlier this month, discussed ways local companies can work with young people from the area.

Speakers included science and engineering ambassador Dominic Rhodes, of the National Nuclear Laboratory, Mike Priestley, of Inspira, Tom Pritt, of Atkins, and Pete Woolaghan, of React Engineering and chairman of the foundation.

The celebrations continued into the evening with a gala dinner and charity auction at Whitehaven Golf Club.

Students, teachers and the region’s industry leaders enjoyed entertainment, networking opportunities. Guest speaker was David Kendall, of Barclays Bank.

The foundation was originally set up to mark React Engineering’s own tenth anniversary in 2004, and its ethos of inspiring young people in the region has seen it work with more than 8,000 young people.

Its work with young people doesn’t stop there, however. It also runs the Year in Industry scheme, giving young people an opportunity to try out a 12-month period working on real projects at the firm.

In addition, each year it hands over almost £9,000 through its annual bursary and year 11 cash awards, which help young people in their goal of studying at both university and sixth form.

As a result of its work in inspiring the next generation of West Cumbrian engineers and scientists, React has picked up accolades from the Royal Academy of Engineering and has even been branded a “beacon of excellence” and the national STEM programme’s “most dedicated company in the UK” for its work with young people.

Pete Woolaghan, React Engineering director, said some of the young team members who have started through the foundation’s schemes have gone on to build successful careers at the firm and its sister companies.

He said: “Ten years after React was set up we marked the anniversary by establishing the React Foundation which was aimed at encouraging and educating the younger generation into science and engineering subjects.

“We hoped to change the stereotypes of the industry and set more young people on course to following a career in the sector.”

The charity was born of the company’s same strong ethos. React Engineering was set up in 1994 by Pete, Steve Knight and Trevor Craig, all of whom originally worked in the nuclear industry and saw an opportunity to start a new venture providing innovative solutions to nuclear clean-up problems.

In that time it has focussed on expertise and entrepreneurship, serving the nuclear industry and cultivating home-grown innovation that is taking the international market by storm.

Over the years the business has won countless awards for its work in developing excellence and enterprising ideals.

Pete added: “Whenever we have recruited for the company it has always been for the element of creativity. We pay a lot of attention in recruiting graduates and younger employees – they bring new ideas and a fresh look on the business and are generally more creative young minds.”

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