All 20 teams of apprentices – including some from Forth Valley College - completing the inaugural Fuel Change Challenge and appearing at a successful National Showcase online event, were judged to be so impressive that they have all been given the go ahead to develop their ideas.
A judging panel consisting of industry experts had a tough job agreeing on a way forward after the long list of 20 groups, who had made it through the previous Sprint 3 stage, were showcased at the presentation event which took place on the evening of Wednesday 3 March - during Scottish Apprenticeship Week (1-5 March).
Keynote speaker on the night was Sacha Dench – an Australian biologist, conservationist, UN Ambassador and adventurer who has embraced her ‘Human Swan‘ nickname, after she followed a black swan on a paraglider across 11 countries and 7,000km on a migration survey.
MC for the evening was BBC presenter Amy Irons and Forth Valley College’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development Jennifer Tempany, spoke on how the Fuel Change programme originated, as more than 300 viewers watched on. But the real stars of the event were the Apprentices.
Whilst all of the teams may still be involved going forward, a number of them have been invited to combine, especially around the challenge involving decommissioning of aircraft. The standard of presentation was extremely high as the teams developed and detailed their low carbon solutions to industry set challenges.
However there were a number of submissions which truly stood out and were defined as the ‘Judges Highlights’. They now hope to transform their industries with solutions to help towards Scotland’s net-zero target and they include:
The Collins Aerospace team in Prestwick, for their true ingenuity and enterprise in manufacturing clocks from discarded aircraft fuselage making everything from large ‘art’ pieces for T5 at Heathrow right through to small clocks for aviation enthusiasts. They also created a dummy company and each apprentice took on a role. They have already taken orders for the clocks at £1,400 per clock!
The team from BSW Timber in Fort William actually came up with four solutions and by meeting other businesses in the town, as well as the chamber of commerce, they have started a movement in Fort William which is already gathering pace. They defined changes at their workplace which will not only move towards net zero but will save the company money. For good measure they developed the concept of Eco-wheels, a transport sharing collaboration tool which if developed well could be rolled out to any number of rural towns.
The Glasgow based apprentices from BAE systems were on top of their game from the outset with both ambition and diversity of thought shining through. Their concept of small wind turbines made from decommissioned aircraft, which would be located along highways to catch the gusts of passing traffic has true potential.
The General Electric Caledonian Oxygen Savers team from Ayrshire delivered an impressive well thought through presentation which set out the benefits of mass seaweed farming. At the one end they will be developing the absorptive CO2 qualities of seaweed making a difference, with the potential of biofuels from the harvested product at the other end. A real team event, well told and well researched – with the potential of a global market.
Both of the apprenticeship teams from science based company DSM were also worthy of special mention. As they went way out of their comfort zone and capabilities to tackle complex issues. The level of consideration by them was described by their judges as ‘awesome’ as they researched and developed their way to a point of entirely conceivable solutions. Their solutions are also scalable, which could convert both in carbon and business terms to the type of outcomes Fuel Change wants to deliver.
Viktoryia Parkhamovich, a MA with General Electric Caledonian, Prestwick (GE Caledonian), worked on developing and idea around the remarkable CO2 absorption qualities of seaweed. She said: “Seaweed absorbs 20 times more CO2 than any land tree and it gives me goosebumps to be chosen to progress our to development and see where it goes.
“Our idea could potentially make a difference to the world and our excitement levels are over the moon. My message to the next cohort of Fuel Change apprentices would be to go for it, think outside the box and do everything possible to prove it can be done. Our Fuel Change idea started as a dream and if you have the opportunity to do it you will love it!”
Connor Henderson from BAE Systems, who was part of an apprenticeship team who want to take parts from end of life aircraft to make small wind turbines, said: “We did not really expect our idea to have the capabilities that might be possible, but as the Fuel Change Challenge has gone on, it has really grown arms and legs and we have all started to believe in it and have become quite passionate about it.
“I know we have been combining a full-time job, studying at college as well as the challenge and it is a busy, busy time, but my advice to those coming next would be that you will really enjoy and love it. The highlight for me has been the progression from round to round, growing your own core skills and it has become a truly rewarding process for us. Don’t hesitate to go for it as it takes you out of your comfort zone, expands your knowledge, broadens your horizons and you develop yourself.”
David Reid, Chief Executive at Fuel Change, said: “Our vision in Fuel Change was to demonstrate the talent of the next generation to design their own low carbon future and the results exceeded expectations. Our determination now is to maintain the momentum created by these young problem solvers and convert their solutions into skills and jobs for the future.”
Lead judge on the panel, Paul Winstanley, CEO at CENSIS, said: “The quality of the teams involved in Fuel Change demonstrates the skills and expertise we have across Scotland to help combat climate change in a variety of different ways. It is particularly encouraging to see the initiative already produce some entirely conceivable solutions, which could truly tackle the challenges that come with the climate crisis.
“All six areas could result in projects and there is a real prospect of creating an array of new skills and jobs once the next stage has been completed – a fantastic outcome for such an early stage. I very much look forward to seeing how these will be developed in partnership with sponsoring organisations in the weeks and months ahead.”
Established to provide a unique platform for our next generation to create a low carbon future, Fuel Change - who are funded by Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council – are now looking to attract even more Graduate, Modern and Foundation Apprenticeship teams to apply for the second Fuel Change Challenge for 2021/22.
The Fuel Change Programme has proved to be so successful that organisers are already being approached by new teams of MAs and FAs and their employers – from all industries across Scotland, not just construction and engineering - to register their interest for the 2021/22 challenge. Register your interest at www.fuelchange.co.uk
The main aim of the project is to hit the target of a low carbon Scotland and create real, practical solutions which can not only be implemented by the partner companies, but potentially be implemented across the world and make a real difference to climate change. Another aim of the project now includes the subsequent identification of new skills and jobs for the future, which will be needed as a result of the new initiatives that are implemented by industry.
Challenges are focused around barriers to a low carbon economy or opportunities to create a product or service, which could develop a low carbon market offering.
More information can be found at: www.fuelchange.co.uk