One Small Step for Vocational Education ..: Fe News

Article excerpt

... but engineering course is a giant leap for space industry.

We may not be about to put a man or woman on the moon, but a shortage of engineers for Britain's booming space industry has prompted the creation of the first vocational course in space engineering.

Taught by Loughborough College with the National Space Academy, the space engineering course combines maths and physics A levels with a BTEC in engineering, all of which use examples from space to illustrate underlying concepts or to support project work.

The first 11 students started in September, and the National Space Academy - a joint venture between the UK and European space agencies, as well as industry backers - hopes to expand to other colleges and schools. It is also creating higher apprenticeships with Loughborough College, hoped to launch next year.

Loughborough has a key advantage in delivering the course: it is located near the space academy in Leicester. Students are taught maths and engineering at the college and travel to the academy, based at the National Space Centre, to learn physics surrounded by rockets, satellites, a replica space shuttle and a recreation of the surface of Mars. They also have the chance of work experience in the UK space industry and will work with established space scientists.

The government has announced an extra Pounds 300 million of investment in the UK Space Agency over the next five years, partly because it is one industry that has shown consistent growth of about 8 per cent each year. It employs 29,000 people and is worth more than Pounds 9.1 billion to the UK economy.

Britain leads the way in some parts of the space industry, such as the manufacture of satellites to observe the earth for the effects of global warming or for telecommunications, according to Anu Ohja, director of education and space communications at the National Space Academy. …