The University of Cumbria is pleased to announce that the second phase development of its science laboratories at its Fusehill Street campus has been completed on schedule, in time for students starting the new academic year.

Together, with funding from the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, the county’s strategic economic body, the university has invested £3.5 million in science teaching and research laboratories to respond to a national shortage of graduates with specific science skills, to support regional industry requiring skilled staff and to create more opportunities for young people to participate in science subjects in the local area.

Pro Vice Chancellor Sandra Booth said:

“It’s our ambition to become the lead provider of Higher Level STEM courses in this region.  These bespoke teaching and research facilities have been created in direct response to that skill-gap, and in particular, the increased need for biosciences graduates in Cumbria and an increase in demand from Sellafield for analytical scientists.

"These facilities will also enable the university to enhance our current science curriculum offer, and allow us to expand our science portfolio by offering degree-level qualifications in chemistry and biomedical science as well as providing a high quality space for teaching, research and consultancy; creating a true centre of collaboration and learning for science in Carlisle and the region.”

Recent research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills shows that: “43% of vacancies in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) roles are hard to fill due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills – almost double the UK average of 24%”; in engineering, this is apparent for almost 60% of vacancies.

Sandra continues:

“In the next 10 years, Cumbria will attract over £25 billion of inward investment in sectors such as advance manufacturing, nuclear and biopharmaceuticals. This will create a huge local demand for science graduates, and people with science skills. STEM is therefore a major priority for the university and this is reflected in the Academic Strategy as an area of growth for the institution.  The development of the university’s new science, engineering and mathematics portfolio is in direct response to local industry needs and graduate employment feedback. The skills and knowledge students acquire from studying degrees in STEM subjects at the university, together with professional body accreditation, will enhance their employability prospects and create a wider pool of skilled graduates providing a significant long-term boost to Cumbria’s economy.”

Graham Haywood, Director of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, which has contributed £784,000 to the project, said:

“This is an important investment in skills development for STEM subjects within the county and will help provide local business and industry with graduates equipped with specific science skills.

“The facility will help make a significant contribution to Cumbria’s economy.  Our aim is to ‘upskill’ the local population so we can meet future employment needs as much as possible with home grown talent.  The county is set to offer 80,000 new job opportunities over the next five years.  As our economy rapidly diversifies, our local workforce must increase and have the requisite set of skills to fulfil those new roles.  The University of Cumbria’s new facility will help build capacity, provide graduate career opportunities in STEM disciplines and give our local businesses access to the skilled workforce they need.” 

Earlier this year, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership published an ambitious Skills Investment Plan to improve skill levels, increase the county’s workforce and assist employers.  A full copy can be downloaded from the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership’s website