Whickham School in Newcastle has been awarded £1,000 to support its Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) club activities, thanks to the North East Automotive Alliance’s (NEAA) annual awards and one of its winning companies, Aspire Technology Solutions.

The NEAA is an industry-led cluster group, established to support the economic, sustainable growth and competitiveness of the automotive sector in the region. Launched in March 2015, now with over 330 cluster participants, the NEAA is the largest automotive cluster in the UK.

Aspire Technology Solutions is one of the fastest growing IT managed service and cyber security providers in the UK and was launched 17 years ago by CEO, Chris Fraser. The company now has multiple offices in locations including Gateshead, London and Stockton-on-Tees, and employs more than 250 people.

The NEAA Awards 2023, which took place in March, honoured the brightest talent and outstanding achievements of companies and future leaders shaping the North East automotive industry. Initiated in 2018 to support future generations within the sector, build sector attractiveness and to recognise talent, the awards are supported by some of the region’s most dynamic, forward-looking and successful automotive companies that, to date, have donated over £60,000 towards future talent within the industry.

Company winners received a cheque to donate to a STEM engagement programme or local school in support of an automotive or STEM related project, which helps to promote and drive forward careers within the automotive sector.

Paul Butler, CEO, of the NEAA, said: “When setting up the NEAA awards we wanted to ensure we could use this event to not only recognise industry achievements but to give back to schools and our future talent. Thanks to the generosity of NEAA members and sponsors of our awards, in 2023 we have been, yet again, in a position to support local schools.

“STEM-based education teaches children more than science and mathematics concepts. The focus on hands-on learning with real-world applications helps develop a variety of skills, including creativity and 21st century problem solving. STEM-related learning is important in schools and at home, as it provides an opportunity for children to learn about topics and disciplines that will serve them well in later life, particularly for in-demand new job roles.”

Winning the SME Sustainability Award, Aspire Technology Solutions chose Whickham School as the beneficiary of its £1,000 award after having an existing relationship with the school. This will go towards the school’s STEM club which is open to all students and takes place every Thursday. The club offers practical, thought-provoking learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with some recent examples including learning about terrariums and hydrogen power.

Steve Watson, strategic engagement lead at Aspire Technology Solutions who presented the cheque said: “It was an honour to win the SME sustainability award at the NEAA awards and an even greater honour to be able to support a school local to our company. Science and Technology is key in the race to Net Zero, with technology playing a crucial role in everything from battery Gigafactories to green data centres through to the generation of renewable energy.

“Investing in our future Science and Technology talent is so vital to build a pipeline of future workforce and skills to win that race. As a technology company, we are delighted to play our part in this.”

Debbie Ross, KS5 Achievement, careers lead & guidance practitioner at Whickham School said: “It was lovely to meet the NEAA and Aspire, and the students thoroughly enjoyed the experience, having the opportunity to hear about their roles and career pathways. They particularly loved showing off their research and achievements. We really appreciate the donation, and our students are already building a shortlist of potential projects for their funding!”