Science and Industry Collaboration Still Going Strong

North East based chemical manufacturing firm Thomas Swan & Co. Ltd. are celebrating a 23-year partnership with the Centre for Industry Education Collaboration (CIEC). Housed in the Chemistry Department in the University of York and initiated with the Chemical Industries Association as partner; the CIEC provide effective support to both industry and schools to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

CIEC, who celebrated their 30th year in 2018, produce publications that help primary teachers translate the National Curriculum for Science into exciting, practical classroom investigations and experiments, whilst also learning about the relevance of this science to industry and the associated STEM careers.

The partnership between the two organisations started back in 1996 when the late Tom Swan who was Managing Director of Thomas Swan at the time, funded a three-year programme, which initiated Children Challenging Industry (CCI) in County Durham. Tom went on to fund a longitudinal study into the impact of CCI, which was published in 2003. Since then, Thomas Swan have provided core funding to the Children Challenging Industry programme. Tom chaired the CIEC for many years before Harry Swan, Tom’s son and current CEO of Thomas Swan became Chair. In 2018, Harry committed to funding the development of a sustainability resource, plus associated continuous personal development for teachers which is still on going.

Harry Swan commented “Long term skills development for our industry is vital. CIEC is perfectly placed to engage children with STEM and industry and I’m proud that Thomas Swan has partnered with them for so long. We will continue to support them and would encourage others to do the same”.

Since the CCI programme began in 1996, 11,500 teachers and 600 industry personnel have been trained from 1,600 schools and 145 companies. 47,000 children have made 1,000 site visits to companies in the UK, mainly in the North East, North West, Humber, Yorkshire and Hertfordshire regions. The programme has resulted in double the number of children thinking of becoming scientists (28%), with 85% enjoying science more than they did before taking part, and 95% of children appreciating the role of women in science and engineering.

In the words of three children taking part recently:

  • ‘It taught me that I can do things in science and that science is not as complex as it first seems.’
  • ‘I enjoyed the parts where we got involved and when we got to do experiments… When you don’t get to have a go, you get less understanding and it’s not as fun.’
  • ‘The whole experience has made me want to be an electrical engineer!’

The programme has also resulted in young people wishing to take up sciences at University, and to go on to careers in industry:

  • ‘From that [CCI programme] it kind of sparked the interest and I came back to the company on a work experience and it led to a full-time job, so they have done something right.’
  • ‘If I hadn’t been on the scheme [including CCI] I would have been a doctor or a nurse and my family, although supportive would have encouraged this and been unaware of the options. They certainly would not have thought that it was ‘normal’ for a girl to be an engineer.’

Joy Parvin, Director at CIEC said “Partner companies like Thomas Swan are crucial in ensuring that our youngest children are inspired by the science they see in industry, and the relevance it has to their daily lives, their science at school, and potential careers. All too often, children think science is great fun, but not ‘for people like me’. We turn this impression around, and have a big impact on children’s views, thanks to collaboration with our colleagues in industry. We welcome all companies to contact us, to become one of the growing number in the North East that are involved in creating this change.”

With the continuing support of Companies like Thomas Swan, CIEC hope to continue to offer these experiences to young people, and train teachers, scientists and engineers for another 30 years; ensuring that the UK’s industry recruits motivated and skilled individuals, helping to fill the skills gap.

CIEC relies on the support of industry. For more information of how your company can become involved, please contact