Wind farm giants pitch in to support East Anglian training academy for industry
Employer-led training to ensure a pipeline of workers for multibillion pound offshore wind farms around the East Anglian coast is set to start next month.
The new East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre is being led by 3sun Group with Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm and East Coast College, at whose Great Yarmouth campus the centre will be based.
Developers, operators and supply chain companies will support the cost of training places, including developer of the East Anglia ONE wind farm ScottishPower Renewables, which has invested £55,000 to sponsor up to 13 places.
Businesses have also committed up to £500,000 worth of equipment including wind turbine generators and blades.
It was officially launched at the East of England Energy Group’s (EEEGR) SNS2018 event near Norwich, where offshore wind featured heavily in the second day’s the conference programme.
Starting with 60 places, the centre will offer a three-week course for people with engineering backgrounds and a 12-week course for recent education leavers and jobseekers.
Training will be delivered by Petans, East Coast College, 3sun Academy and national Wind Farm Training Centres.
The centre’s creation has been supported by a £1.1m grant from the New Anglia Skills Deal Programme, provided by Norfolk County Council, Suffolk local authorities and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
Other companies supporting the initiative include Vattenfall and James Fisher Marine Services.
Graham Hacon, chief executive of 3sun Group, said: “The big barrier for people in this area to get into offshore wind is the enormous cost of the technical wind-related training. This provides the funding to remove this barrier.
“We are looking for more companies to be involved. The more that join, the greater benefit to the company when it is looking for skilled technicians.”
Stuart Rimmer, principal and chief executive of East Coast College, said people from Norfolk and Suffolk, primarily Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, were being targeted, with up to 12 people in each cohort.
“East Coast College is delighted to be a key partner and host to the East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre which will provide a pool of candidates with the most relevant up-to-date skills and qualifications who can be recruited based on their performance and who are work-ready. In turn, this reduces recruitment costs and training costs to employers,” he said.
The 18-month programme is a precursor to next year’s launch of the £11.3m Energy and Engineering Skills Centre at East Coast College’s Lowestoft campus, funded by the New Anglia LEP.
Mr Rimmer added: “For the college, it’s all about creating a pool of skilled individuals.”
LEP chief executive Chris Starkie said: “With the world’s largest wind farms in development off our coast, it is vital the region offers the training to ensure local people can take advantage of the opportunities this growing sector offers over the next 25 years.”
Victoria Sinclair, supply chain strategy manager at Scottish Power Renewables, said: “East Anglia is one of the most relevant areas in the global offshore wind sector and this investment reaffirms the longevity of our commitment to the region and to addressing the skills gap. The centre will be an important asset in enabling the next generation, and those who would like to retrain in renewables, to access the array of jobs available on our East Anglia projects in the region, the UK and across the world.”
Michael Wilder, general manager of safety training company Petans, said: “Bringing new blood into the industry is key because this is such a fast-growing industry in this area and there needs to be a route into jobs in it.”
Gemma Head, programme manager for the East of England Energy Group’s (EEEGR) Skills for Energy, said the course was an ideal opportunity to retrain people made redundant in the oil and gas industry or for people looking for a career change.
The first three-week course starts at the end of the month with the 12-week course launching in July.