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Duncan explains how, with Shared Assets, Par Bay Big Local are supporting MPower Cornwall to create a STEM skills training centre which aims to develop a work-ready local labour force and ultimately transform this community’s economic future.

“As a 12-year-old I became a volunteer at a local steam railway. This introduced me to the fascinating world of heavy engineering. I knew from this experience that I wanted to have a practical, rather than a purely academic engineering career and went on to an engineer officer cadetship in the Merchant Navy.

A volunteering opportunity at a local railway inspired Duncan’s career and a passion for other young people to be given the same opportunity.

After 23 years I have worked on all kinds of ships and been lucky enough to have travelled the world. I am now working as a Chief Engineer Officer in the oil and gas industry. Looking back, I realise the company that first employed me recognised my basic practical skills would give me a good head-start. I am very passionate about young people today being given similar opportunities into STEM based careers.

Cornwall is now regarded by many as a superb holiday destination. However some people don’t realise that it was once at the cutting edge of the engineering industry in the 19th century. Did you know it was a Cornishman who built the first ever self-propelled machines, the fore-runners of the cars and trains we take for granted today? Par Bay, our part of Cornwall, exported machinery to every continent and in the 1830’s and was home to the world’s most powerful engine! Much of the infrastructure remains, including the local railway network, mining relics, the harbour and the Roundhouse railway engine shed and turntable.

“Our community not only values the beauty of our local heritage, we also see the enormous potential it holds.”

Our dream is to use this illustrious heritage to inspire young people about engineering and train them in practical engineering and construction skills. These skills will be learned through hands on experience restoring historic machines and buildings to their former glory. MPower Cornwall Ltd, a social enterprise, was set up to achieve this goal.

This is where Shared Assets comes in.

A feasibility study funded by the Coastal Communities Fund identified we’d need big investment to get a training centre up and running.

With Local Trust, Par Bay Big Local provided seed funding so we could employ specialist consultants with social enterprise experience.

“Applying for funding on this level was an entirely new process for us and Shared Assets had the expertise and skills to put our ideas into action.”

They helped us with wording on the application, giving the right level of detail to people without bombarding them with engineering jargon. They made sure our application described the impact project could have on people’s lives and our community’s future.

Big Local areas can access specialist support from Shared Assets and 3 more partnerships up until 2021.

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As well as providing STEM training, the project will provide technical, transport and logistical services to the area. We believe this can generate sufficient commercial income to fund the training and heritage aspects of the business in the long term.

Shared Assets are supporting us to produce a commercial business model and to build relationships with sympathetic businesses local education providers. They have many business connections which are helping to open so many doors to us.

With the support Shared Assets has given our Big Local, I truly believe we are getting closer to making our dream a reality.”