Career opportunities for young people in East Anglia's burgeoning renewable energy industry are hampered because further education colleges are "operating with one arm behind their backs", an MP has warned.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous warned colleges are facing their "worst staffing crisis in two decades" and called for the government to invest more money in further education.

He said that would mean colleges such as East Coast College, which has campuses in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, can do even more to teach students skills which will be essential to Norfolk and Suffolk's economic future.

Eastern Daily Press: Waveney MP Peter AldousWaveney MP Peter Aldous (Image: UK Parliament)

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on further education, Mr Aldous warned colleges were struggling to recruit and keep staff - at a time when the skills they teach young people are increasingly needed.

Eastern Daily Press: Opportunities for jobs in the wind farm industry must be seized, says MP Peter AldousOpportunities for jobs in the wind farm industry must be seized, says MP Peter Aldous (Image: Mike Page)

Conservative Mr Aldous said: "My interest is as an MP serving a coastal constituency where there are exciting opportunities emerging in such sectors as renewable energy, sustainable fishing, and maritime and ports.

"East Coast College is doing great work in preparing people for those exciting careers.

Eastern Daily Press: East Coast College's Energy Skills Centre in LowestoftEast Coast College's Energy Skills Centre in Lowestoft (Image: East Coast College)

"However, despite significant investment by the college and government in new facilities, such as the Energy Skills Centre in Lowestoft and the Eastern Civil Engineering Construction Campus in Lound, it feels that it is operating with one arm behind its back."

Mr Aldous said the number of 16 and 17-year-olds is rising rapidly, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant "years of learning" had been lost.

Eastern Daily Press: Apprentices at East Coast CollegeApprentices at East Coast College (Image: East Coast College)

But he said East Anglia has "significant opportunities" for young people to work in the wind farm industry, at Sizewell C and, potentially, in hydrogen and carbon capture.

READ MORE: £1.3bn hydrogen energy project for north Norfolk revealed

However, he warned colleges were struggling to recruit and keep staff and "are facing their worst staffing crisis for two decades".

He added: "The case for investment in colleges and further education is compelling."

Eastern Daily Press: Education minister Robert HalfonEducation minister Robert Halfon (Image: UK Parliament)

Robert Halfon, education minister, said: "We are investing in further education and skills in difficult circumstances.

"I absolutely recognise the pressure on resources, and will do everything I can to champion resources with the Treasury and elsewhere."