Hundreds of schoolchildren in Sunderland are being given the opportunity to visit the biggest construction project in the North East.
Schools in the city have been invited to take groups of pupilsto the site of the New Wear Crossing to learn more about the new bridge project, the benefits it will bring, and the different skills and professions involved.
So far, more than 1,400 children have visited the site, where they spent time in the conference room understanding the project, before going outside onto the viewing platform to watch the site at work.
The visits are designed to be educational and interactive, whilst also being fun. Crucially, they aim to encourage children to think about how the bridge may benefit them in the years to come, and the kind of career options available to them.
Nicholas Charlton, a teacher at Diamond Hall Junior Academy, in Pallion, said: “As one of the closest schools to the New Wear Crossing, we jumped at the chance to take some of our pupils to the construction site because it will have a huge impact on their lives in the future.
“It was a great opportunity for them to learn about the new bridge and the construction processes involved, and to soak up the atmosphere of what it would be like to work on a project like that. All of our children came back buzzing with the opportunities available to them on their doorstep, and all had a new future career in mind. I would highly recommend it.”
The school visits began in March this year and are set to continue until early next year, with hundreds more pupils expected to visit the site before the new bridge opens in spring 2018.
Every secondary, primary and special needs school in Sunderland has been invited to take some pupils to the site, however, the number of sessions are limited and are available on a first come, first served basis. Bookings are now being taken for January and February next year.
Gemma Hogg, Assistant Headteacher of St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland, said: “The visit to the New Wear Crossing not only gave the students the background, history and vision of the project, but also allowed them to understand the vast number of individuals and companies involved in its construction, including those local to the area and the North East, and those from further afield. It really is a local project, but with world-wide expertise.
“This was the perfect opportunity to explore a range of career opportunities available to us. We are looking forward to seeing the finished product.”
Sunderland City Council launched the school visit programme in conjunction with Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, which formed FVB joint venture to deliver the new bridge on behalf of the council.
Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Secretary Mel Speding, said: “The construction of Sunderland’s new bridge is a momentous occasion and will become a significant part of this city’s future, as well as its history.
“The impact it will have on the lives of our young people cannot be over-estimated, so it’s important they appreciate the value it will bring to Sunderland, and feel informed and a part of the construction process.
“With so many of the STEM and construction industries crying out for young talent, it’s also a great opportunity to enthuse students about some of the career opportunities waiting for them out there. We hope they find the visits inspirational.”
Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director of FVB, said: “The New Wear Crossing is the biggest infrastructure project in the North East, and we are all very proud to be involved and working on it.
“Projects of this size, nature and complexity don’t come along very often, so it really is a wonderful opportunity to enthuse young people about engineering, construction and the creation of new structures like this, and to educate them about the skills and planning involved.
“The team working on the new bridge appreciates how special this project is and I think we will always remember it. It’s important that young people share in that excitement, too. I hope children that visit the site remember it for the rest of their lives, and think about it when considering career options in the future.”
Work began on the New Wear Crossing – Sunderland’s first bridge across the River Wear in more than 40 years – in May 2015. It is on track to open in the Spring of 2018.
The new bridge will open up land for regeneration along the south side of the river, help to create jobs, and reduce congestion around the city.
To book a school visit to the site of the New Wear Crossing, call Karen Westcott on 07545 210067.