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Offaly County Council wins Best Communications / Innovation Award at LAMA Awards

Chief Executive Anna Marie Delaney is delighted to announce that Offaly County Council wins in the Collaboration and Leadership Initiative at the recent LAMA Awards (which recognise excellence by Ireland’s County Councils). The Best Communications Initiative/Innovation Award was presented to Offaly County Council for our ‘STEAMing Ahead: How Offaly’s Kids are Shaping our Rural Future’ and which recognises and celebrates community and councils working together.

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths and this type of education will equip our young people with essential skills that make them more employable and adaptable to the ever-evolving job market. It fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, innovation, and prepares students for a wide range of careers.

Speaking about the win, Chief Executive of Offaly County Council, Anna Marie Delaney said that Offaly County Council “is innovating and transforming through a range of business, community, and educational initiatives and the VEX Robotics Competition is just one of these initiatives.    Offaly, like other midland counties, has been impacted by the move away from peat production and electricity generation from peat. This transition has posed challenges for local communities, especially those employed in peat-related industries. However, this award-winning programme combines hands-on learning, competition, and STEAM education to inspire the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. Students receive a new challenge annually where they must design, build, code, program, and drive a robot to tackle the challenge to the best of their abilities. Every year we bring all the schools together to compete in the VEX Robotics Competition. This is an exciting annual event where students have fun, and they really enjoy it.  It is in all primary and secondary schools in Offaly and each year over 2,000 students compete in the VEX Robotics Competition.  Offaly County Council is investing in future generations by giving them the skills required for jobs, which may not be considered yet. Students who are developing their STEAM skills are more likely to invent, build, drive, and innovate future technologies that can benefit their lives and communities.”

Jobs and employment opportunities are changing in Offaly, and primary school students are at the perfect age to begin their STEAM education. STEAM is key to unlocking a better, smarter, and more resilient future for Offaly. The success of the primary and secondary schools programme allows students to continue their STEAM education as they move from primary to secondary school.

Ray Bell, Broadband / Digital Officer, and STEAM innovator with Offaly County Council said: “A gender divide persists in STEAM education, and female interests in STEAM lags their male counterparts. All schools that participate ensure that girls and boys are equally represented on the school teams where possible. This year for example, we have more girls involved compared to boys. Empowering girls in STEAM activities is not just about equality; it is about driving progress, innovation, and sustainable development.”

After parents, teachers are usually the most influential adults in children’s lives and working with teachers on this programme gives them the support they require to develop resilience in our students. Teachers are innovators and they are increasing the digital literacy with our young people which is very important for rural communities.

“Our Council’s STEAM led education programme, the first in the midlands, sees students engage with companies who use robotics in their business, and it builds on Offaly’s strong heritage in science and engineering. Our STEAM Educational Officer, Dean Hodge, works with all our schools and we are delighted to be the first Local Authority to have someone working fulltime in this role” added Ray.

Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick acknowledged the support received in delivering this initiative noting: “No matter how hard you try to predict the future, it will always be uncertain. Technology is at the forefront of such innovations. Students who start school today will eventually work at jobs that don’t exist today. STEAM led education will help prepare our children and communities for future jobs.”

The project collaborates with industry, education, and government to support Digital education and training to ensure greater citizen engagement and inclusion, which is required to prepare our students for future jobs. “We are delighted to have support in delivering this programme in collaboration with Munster Technological University, Local Enterprise Office Offaly, Offaly County Council Library Service, and Engineering and Information Technology Departments.  Other partners include Primary and Post Primary Schools in Offaly, Department of Rural and Community Development, Department of Education and Skills, Just Transition Fund, Offaly Local Development Company, Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board, as well as Athlone and Laois Education Centres” concluded Cllr Fitzpatrick”

The children involved in our STEAM initiatives will drive the Offaly economy for the next 50 years and will sustain rural communities.

Ms Delaney concluded: “Innovation 2020, Ireland’s strategy for Research and Development, Science and Technology, highlights the critical importance of excellence in STEAM Education to ensure the continuous development of a pipeline of talent to support both Foreign Direct Investment and an active ecosystem for indigenous start-ups.

Offaly County Council is future proofing the county and its students in an exciting and engaging way. This project will undoubtedly ensure that today’s students are qualified for the jobs of tomorrow.

Offaly County Council wins LAMA Award for Best Communications Initiative / Innovation. Receiving the award were (LR) Cllr Michael Anglim Chair of LAMA with Offaly County Council staff including David Spain, A/Head ICT, Jackie McIntyre, Senior Executive Librarian, Marty Whelan, MC of LAMA Awards, Megan Cronly, Offaly County Council Libraries, Minister Kieran O’Donnell Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Cllr John Clendennen, Cathaoirleach of Birr Municipal District, Ray Bell, Head of Broadband / STEAM Innovator, and Dean Hodge, STEM Educational Officer, Offaly County Council.