The Earl of Wessex has spent the day in Derbyshire, where he opened the University of Derby’s new STEM centre, visited CHICKS charity, St Oswald’s church, and Trent College.
The University visit was one of four engagements the Prince carried out whilst in Derbyshire.
The Centre, based at the University’s Markeaton Street site, cost £12 million with £5 million funded by a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The STEM centre (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is designed to improve practical teaching in mechanical, motorsport, manufacturing and civil engineering to support the University’s new programmes, while upgrading and extending facilities for electrical and electronics engineering and computer networking.
Prince Edward was given a tour of the building, meeting staff, students and representatives from industry before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the opening. The culinary arts and hospitality students from the University provided catering for the event.
Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby, said: “We are delighted that HRH The Earl of Wessex was able to open our new STEM Centre, which was built in response to the needs of industry in the region and is designed to provide our students with the best possible environment in which to study STEM subjects. Closing the skills gap is a key part of the Midlands Engine strategy and this is something we are committed to playing a major part in. This new Centre will equip our graduates with the knowledge and skills required to make a significant long-term contribution to industry.”
The opening of the Derby centre comes just days after Prince Edward’s sister, The Princess Royal, also opened a STEM centre at the University of Cumbria in Carlisle. The government has provided funding of £204 million for universities to improve the skills gap in STEM subject areas – particularly engineering.
The Queen’s youngest son also visited charity CHICKS at their Daleside retreat. CHICKS provides children who have faced significant challenges, such as caring for sick relatives or have been victims of bullying, fun respite breaks during the school holidays. CHICKS has two other locations around the country and has helped over 14,000 children since 1992.
Edward watched the youngsters enjoy the facilities, before getting stuck in at a painting class. The Prince painted a plate in the craft barn that will be displayed to commemorate the visit, before unveiling a plaque to celebrate the charity’s 25th anniversary.
Next, St Oswald’s Church, Ashbourne welcomed the Earl where he viewed the exhibition – Ashbourne’s Treasures – depicting the town’s intriguing history. The exhibition includes medieval heraldic shields and the tomb of Penelope Boothby, sculpted by Thomas Bank in 1791. The church is said to date back to 1210.
The Royal got to speak with volunteers at the church too.
Prince Edward’s final engagement of the day was at Trent College, Long Eaton. The college is marking its 150th anniversary and the Earl unveiled a plaque to mark this milestone in the institution’s history. An independent school with 1,300 students, it first opened its doors in April 1868, with just 53 male students.
A patron of the Duke of Edinburgh awards, and a Gold Award holder himself, Prince Edward observed pupils taking part in DoE award activities and chatted to some of those taking part.
Year 12 student, Hannah Goddard told the Nottingham Post: “He asked me about what I was doing for each section of my DofE and was interested in the volunteering I’m doing for it as a Brownie unit leader at 2nd Aston and Weston Brownies. He was lovely to chat to.”
Lawrence Ellis, who is in Year 13, also chatted with the royal guest about his Gold Award expedition last summer. He said: “He was really relaxed and wanted to know about our expedition experiences and if we got lost!
“He also said he would see us at St James’ Palace when he presents us with our Gold Awards, so that’s something to look forward to.”
Headteacher Bil Penty said: “It is a great honour to have welcomed His Royal Highness, The Earl of Wessex, to Trent College to launch our 150th anniversary celebrations. He’s a man after my own heart; he took a real interest in our students and you could only be inspired by that.
“It was a pleasure to see so many students, staff and friends of the school at this landmark event. Over the years, so many people have helped shape the school to become what it is today; an inspiring learning environment where academic, physical and creative achievements are made possible and celebrated.”
The Earl of Wessex ended his visit by officially opening the school’s new Food and Nutrition Suite.
Photos: Royal Family twitter page.