Education is key to helping the East’s energy sector thrive

Two engineers working on main fuel-pump

Two engineers working on main fuel-pump - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The future prospects for East Anglia's energy industry will rely on forging links with academic institutions and teaching the right skills to the next generation.

The SNS 2016 Offshore Energy conference at the Norfolk Showground. Simon Gray, chief executive EEEGR

The SNS 2016 Offshore Energy conference at the Norfolk Showground. Simon Gray, chief executive EEEGR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

This is the view of an industry leader ahead of the largest-ever energy conference to be held in the region.

More than 1,000 delegates from all energy sectors will descend on the Norfolk Showground today for the East of England Energy Group's (EEEGR) annual conference and exhibition – an increase of almost 50% on last year's attendance.

The two-day event, which has the theme of 'opportunities in energy transition', will feature speakers from the oil and gas industry, nuclear and offshore wind representatives as well as onshore and offshore contractors.

During the conference students from institutions such as the UEA will have a chance to question the speakers, who will include chief executive of Oil & Gas UK Deirdre Michie, chief executive of the Oil & Gas Authority Andy Samuel, and Perenco general manager Brian James.

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Simon Gray, EEEGR chief executive, said the industry's future prosperity in the east could only be assured if colleges and universities were offering the right courses to encourage careers in the energy sector.

'We are deliberately showcasing some of the skilled people we have for the future who are starting to come forward,' he said.

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'At EEEGR we work with the local universities and colleges to ensure we have a workforce that is fit for the future.

'We act as a bridge between industry and academia to make sure we have the correct courses in place to ensure we have the right students coming through for the industries.'

Mr Gray estimated that large-scale energy projects in the east – such as the East Anglia ONE and Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind farms and the Sizewell C and Bradwell nuclear developments – were worth 'in the order of £40bn to £50bn'.

'Hopefully there will be quite a lot of highly skilled and highly paid jobs for the region there,' he said.

'We are in a unique position in the East of England. No other region has the diversity of industries that we do. People do not realise the unique opportunities we have.'

He added that balance remained important to the energy industry, with supplies coming from 'several methods of generation'.

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