PUPILS were challenged to think about our future energy needs at a conference designed to open their eyes to the issue of power generation.

Redcar and Cleveland College played host to over 80 Year 9 pupils at the Trust4Learning event, which involved 14-year-olds from five secondary schools across the borough.

Representatives from a number of power generation and distribution businesses spoke to the teenagers about the variety of energy choices on offer, as well as career opportunities.

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The conference then concluded with an energy debate, during which pupils split into groups to decide whether they believed the UK’s future energy needs should be met with fossil fuels, nuclear power or by renewable means.

Pat Hibbert, chair of directors of the Trust4Learning group and headteacher of Sacred Heart School in Redcar, said the annual conference was designed to make pupils think about very real issues, while also educating them on job prospects and the qualifications required.

“It was a great day,” said Pat. “The pupils were enthused about the subject and really got into the pros and cons of each of the power options available to the UK.

“They came away with knowledge and understanding of economic and sustainability issues and the technical challenges and environmental factors specific to each of the energy generation options.

Pupil Caitlin Hutchinson, from Sacred Heart School, said: “Theconference has been a great way of learning about renewable futures.

Student Jack Stalker, from Rye Hills School in Redcar, said: “The wind farm information is so important as this is happening on our doorstep. We see it every day and we take for granted what is going on, how it is built and the impact it has locally.”

Businesses involved in the day included Sembcorp Utilities UK, Parsons Brinckerhoff, DeepOcean, Humberside Engineering Training Association and Peter Gardner from Sacred Heart School.

Redcar and Cleveland College principal, Gary Groom, said the college was proud to be a member of the Trust4Learning group, which also includes Bydales, Sacred Heart, Rye Hills, Kirkleatham Hall and Laurence Jackson schools, Redcar Academy, Zetland, Castleton and Glaisdale primary schools and Prior Pursglove College.

He said: “We hope the event has given the students an insight into the energy sector and an interest to develop a great career in power generation and distribution. It is a growing industry in the North East, so the opportunities out there are huge.

“As a college, we recognise the importance of this industry in our region and are continuing to invest heavily to ensure we provide the most up-to-date and relevant training and qualifications. Our facilities, sponsored by Viessmann, are both unique within the college workshops and also in our live Greenhouse, which is a real house on our campus fitted with a whole range of renewable technology, which we use for training purposes.”