The Welsh Valleys Engineering Project (WVEP) is an engineering education programme, established by the Royal Academy of Engineering that delivers STEM education support for students and teachers, and provides opportunities and career guidance beyond the classroom. The project plays an integral role in transforming local communities, by raising young peoples’ aspirations and improving social mobility in the Welsh Valleys, a region of severe socio-economic deprivation.
The Welsh Valleys have a long history of engineering, and the Academy is keen to build on that heritage, supporting the untapped engineering potential within students in this area and building a skills base that will support many of the new engineering companies that are investing in South Wales.
What We Offer
We work collaboratively with primary and secondary schools, and further education (FE) colleges in Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, to inspire and encourage students to take up science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects in post-16 education, enabling them to access engineering career pathways.
Our programme enriches the curriculum, enhances pupil engagement, and increases attainment outcomes by bringing real-world engineering practice into schools. A further (and principal) aim of the project is to encourage women and under-represented groups to progress towards professional engineering roles within local industry.
The project provides support for schools and FE colleges, including:
- A local project coordinator, who facilitates termly network meetings and fosters partnerships between schools, local employers and industry
- Teacher training and free STEM resources kits (engineering-themed STEM boxes) to enhance and add context to the curriculum
- 5 year annual grant scheme for 5 primary schools, 8 secondary schools and 2 FE colleges to develop a library of resources and experiences for students, enhancing the ‘E’ in STEM and celebrating national events such as Tomorrow’s Engineers Week and British Science Week
- Panasonic Trust Future Engineering bursary awards for students wishing to study STEM focused Level 3 & 4 qualifications at further and higher education.
School and employer engagement
The employer engagement strand was launched in 2021, pairing schools with STEM businesses to collaboratively develop an extended STEM challenge. Challenge are delivered in school with support from the STEM business and focuses on building careers awareness and employability skills. We are delighted that Welsh Government have generously supported the strand to extend employer engagement to all 54 schools in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil, from November 2021 to July 2024.
Students are given real world challenges, contextualising their learning and providing them with opportunities to gain a greater understanding and insight into STEM careers.
Five schools work in regional clusters and are paired with businesses to develop a challenge linked to their industry. Subsequent challenges are then delivered on a rotational basis for each school each cluster. All schools receive up to £250 per term to support them in the delivery of the Employer Engagement Strand challenge
Current businesses supporting WVEP schools
Panasonic, Nexperia, Safran Seats, Continental Teves, Concrete Canvas, General Dynamics, Thales/National Digital Exploitation Centre, Zimmer Biomet, Tata Steel, Morgan Sindall, Peter Jones (ILG) with JC Moulding and Atkins with Future Valleys Construction.
What impact is WVEP having?
Since the project was launched in 2018, more than 15,000 young learners have participated in at least one engineering experience. 78% of the total primary student population and 52% of the total secondary student population have taken part in one or more STEM activities during the past five years.
There has been approximately 3,000 engineering experiences at college level using WVEP funded resources and 65 Panasonic Trust Future Engineers bursaries awarded. 12 businesses have so far been recruited for the employer engagement strand and 400 primary and secondary school students have participated in STEM challenge projects.
This has resulted in improved links between secondary and feeder primary schools, increased interest in STEM and computing subjects and raising numbers of students opting for engineering-related subjects at FE Colleges. Students perception and understanding of engineering and broader interpretation of engineering career routes has also grown.
WVEP is improving aspirations and motivation of young people for selecting careers in engineering and developing student ambassadorial roles through Future Engineer awards and employer engagement projects.
The Academy has over ten years’ experience of delivering high impact regional support programmes. We have also run multiple highly successful Engineering Education Projects in Barrow-in-Furness, Stoke-on-Trent, and Lowestoft, Suffolk which have seen more than 100,000 STEM learning opportunities being provided for young people since their launch.