WITH hard work and dedication, the potential of what you can achieve is out of this world.
That was the inspiring message astronaut Tim Peake shared with pupils at UTC Portsmouth as he officially launched the institution yesterday.
Hundreds of learners, teachers and dignitaries packed into the STEM college’s atrium where the Chichester-born spaceman gave a speech and unveiled a commemorative plaque.
Addressing the college’s 143 pupils and scores of guests, Mr Peake – a University of Portsmouth graduate – said: ‘It’s so important to give young people the chance to explore and be inspired by STEM subjects and that is why I’m delighted to be here today to open this fabulous new college.
‘Choosing STEM subjects at school not only satisfied my desire to learn about the world around me, but it ultimately opened the door to becoming an astronaut with the European Space Agency.
‘Perhaps some of you here today will follow a similar path as I did – maybe I could be talking to the first person who is going to set foot on Mars.
‘But wherever your journey takes you, I know the staff here at UTC Portsmouth will endeavour to give you the best start to your career.’
Specialising in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based subjects to 14-19-year-olds, UTC Portsmouth welcomed its first cohort of students in September.
Youngsters at the state-funded college got the chance to meet Mr Peake as he took a walking tour of its classrooms.
Among them was 15-year-old Year 10 pupil Freddie Willoughby, who studies engineering, computer science and design technology.
He said: ‘Meeting Tim Peake was an inspiration and is a dream I’ve had since he went to space. To have him here in our classroom was so amazing.
‘We’re used to being visited by a teacher, a headteacher or maybe even a governor – but never someone as famous as Tim Peake.’
His enthusiasm was shared by Year 10 peer Lauren McAuley, who said: ‘It was an incredible honour to be able to meet Tim – he has experienced some amazing things that hopefully one day we will be able to do.’
Mr Peake declared UTC Portsmouth open after guests enjoyed a glamourous reception, complete with canapes and live jazz.
Speaking about his joy at welcoming the astronaut to the college, UTC Portsmouth principal, Ciaran O’Dowda, said: ‘This is someone who has orbited the Earth thousands of times – he’s a hero of mine.
‘Tim doesn’t just represent success in STEM education, but the skills we’re trying to embed in our young learners – including resilience and creative problem-solving. I’m proud to say he was top of the list of people we wanted to officially open UTC Portsmouth and it’s a real pleasure to have him here.’
To learn more about UTC Portsmouth – which is taking on sixth form pupils – visit utcportsmouth.org.
DEFENCE EMPLOYER’S COULD REAP REWARDS FROM COLLEGE GRADUATES
BOSSES are confident pupils at UTC Portsmouth could soon become the skilled workforce of the city’s future.
Attending the college’s official opening yesterday, councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘The brilliant thing about the UTC is that it has been specifically sponsored by some of the largest employers on the south coast – Airbus, the Royal Navy, the University of Portsmouth, BAE Systems and Babcock.
‘People who want to work in defence – particularly with the arrival of our new carrier [HMS Queen Elizabeth] – really should be considering coming to this college to progress their careers.’
David Joyce is a captain in the Royal Navy and is UTC Portsmouth’s team leader.
Speaking about how the navy could benefit from the talents of students graduating from the college in the future, he said: ‘We, like many other large employers, really feel the national shortage of engineers we have at the moment.
‘For that reason, it makes sense for us to invest time and effort to make sure UTCs – especially this one in Portsmouth – are successful.
‘The pupils that will soon graduate from this college will help us, our industrial partners and the prosperity of the country as a whole with their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
‘This is a very exciting time.’