Rolls-Royce quality improvement technician Nikki Cusworth has scooped the UK's first Inspirational Technician Award.
Miss Cusworth received the award from Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable and former Science Minister Lord Sainsbury at a ceremony held this week at the House of Lords, sponsored by charity STEMNET and Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby Foundation.
She won the award in recognition of her work mentoring local school girls interested in technical careers, and introducing primary school children to fun engineering related projects and paper bridge-building exercises in the classroom.
“If I am successful in encouraging others to follow in my footsteps it is because I get excited when I talk about my job,” Miss Cusworth said.
“As a technician you are really valued by your employers and I hope that by working with young people, I can inspire them to find a rewarding career which they will love as much as I do.”
The introduction of the Inspirational Technician Award follows recognition from government of a shortage of technicians, particularly in STEM areas in the UK.
Last year’s National Strategic Skills Audit described the role of technicians as a “high priority area of critical importance to the economy”.
STEMNET and Gatsby say they want the award to help improve public perceptions of a profession in high demand by employers.
The award is one of five categories within The National STEMNET Awards 2011, sponsored by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
The prizes celebrate the achievements of thousands individuals, schools and businesses in inspiring young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
“STEMNET aims to address the employer demand for technical skills and support young people in understanding their value," said STEMNET chief executive Kirsten Bodley.
“We plan to do this by providing support for schools and other youth organisations trying to demonstrate the career paths into these key jobs.
“Our activities benefit more than 600,000 young people every year and leverage over £7m per annum into STEM support for schools and colleges through in-kind support from employers and volunteers.
“We hope that through this award, we can add to this work and encourage a change in how the public, and young people in particular, view a career as a technician.”
Other winners, who all received an exclusive visit to CERN as part of their prize, included:
• Rhys Phillips, who won the STEM Ambassador award for his work within EADS Innovation Works UK as a research engineer in the Lighting, Electrostatics & EMH group.
Phillips sits on the South West Wales Network of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and broadcasts a weekly STEM radio show on Radio Cardiff.
• Lancashire-based engineering company NIS integrated engineering Ltd, who picked up the STEM Employer award for their commitment to supporting the innovation and skills supply critical to the sustainability of their sector.
• The STEM Club at Framwellgate School Durham, which encourages pupils to compete at national events including The Big Bang.
• Head of Science James Murphy at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk, who won the STEM Teacher award for his work in coordinating over forty enriching STEM activities for his students, involving local STEM Ambassadors.
“The UK benefits from a huge network of people dedicated to inspiring young people in STEM," said Lord Sainsbury.
“Their commitment and hard work is paying dividends - in the last 5 years the numbers taking Physics and Chemistry A-levels have increased by around 20 per cent, and perhaps most significantly Maths A-level is up by nearly 50 per cent.
"The prizes awarded today recognise the most inspirational individuals and organisations for the ways in which they have been motivating young people in STEM, enabling them to access new skills and hopefully get better paid and more exciting jobs when they enter the world of work.”