A new college for wind energy in the UK

ClickGreen writes about the plans to develop a national college for wind energy, providing a hub for skills, training and education.


Government unveils plans for UK’s first renewable energy college

The Government has announced plans to develop a National College for Wind Energy, the UK’s first further education centre dedicated to renewable energy.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the national college will be based in the Humber area and will provide a ‘hub’ for skills, training and education initiatives. In addition, there will be a network of partners providing education and training across the UK.

The primary focus of the Humber ‘hub’ will be offshore wind, where a large growth in skills is needed. The National College will also provide capability to support onshore wind and marine renewables.

The launch of the college is the result of a proposal to Government led by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and RenewableUK, the project is seen as crucial in capitalising on the enormous potential that offshore wind plays in the Humber region and elsewhere in the UK.

It is envisaged that the college will open its doors in late 2016, and will award new and mature students with professional qualifications and short courses (post A-level equivalent) in addition to bespoke programmes as directed and sponsored by employers.

Wind Energy is a boom industry with increased employment opportunities leading to greater demand for professional engineers, technicians, and a multitude of other roles, across the UK.

Significant investment is needed to develop these skills to ensure the sector is able to meet its requirements. Recent research provides evidence that employers are already experiencing skills gaps across wind and marine energy technologies, with 37% experiencing hard-to-fill vacancies. A National College for Wind Energy will provide the long-term strategic focus to address these shortages.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Helping young people acquire advanced technical skills for the industries of the future is vitally important. National Colleges are an essential part of our long term economic plan. The Humber is the natural choice for the HQ of the new National College for Wind Energy.

“Through the College, Government and industry are investing in the people who will create local jobs and prosperity for the region. By arming people with the skills they need to be energy specialists we can provide career opportunities for thousands of young Britons, boost the competitiveness of British firms and help the UK economy remain strong for the future.”

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffrey, said: “This is an exciting day for wind energy in this country and a cause for celebration. This unique college will provide cutting edge training for a generation of young people looking for a springboard into renewable energy.

“We need to ensure we maximise the extraordinary rise of green jobs in the UK; the growth in much-needed wind projects onshore and offshore has created a real demand for new skills and training as the sector goes from strength to strength. The college’s launch means we are one step closer to ensuring our global lead in offshore wind is reflected in home-grown skills as well”.

Lord Haskins, Chair of the Humber LEP commented: “It is excellent news for the region that our bid to establish a National College for Wind Energy in the Humber has been successful. This is a major step forward in achieving the ambition we set out in March for the Humber to be the national centre of excellence for energy skills, and builds on the other investments we are making training facilities.

“We worked closely with Government, industry and education to develop the National College proposal which will focus on delivering excellence in teaching, learning and assessment, underpinned by quality standards set by employers to reflect the sector’s skills needs.”

Mike Parker, Chair of the Humber LEP Employment and Skills Board added: “The Humber is already recognised as the Energy Estuary with twenty five percent of the UK’s energy generation connected to the area.

“Our economy is growing; building on their Grimsby presence, Siemens are set to locate in Hull, Eon, Centrica, Vestas and Dong Energy have chosen the south bank of the Estuary as their preferred sites. Supporting the generation companies is a growing supply chain of maintenance and facilities management.

“Wind Energy generation is still relatively new and demands higher level skilled employees, the lack of an able qualified workforce has led to the sector facing a serious challenge in filling vacancies. Having a dedicated National College will be a major step forward in helping the UK to bridge that gap.”

The Co-Chair of Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), and Head of Asset Management at DONG Energy Wind Power, Benj Sykes, said: “The Offshore Wind Industry Council fully supports the development of the National College for Wind Energy. This is a great example of industry and government working in partnership with the Humber LEP to ensure that education and training routes are providing the skills our industry needs.

“Initiatives such as this will ensure that thousands of young people, as well as experienced workers making the transition from other sectors, will find employment in the UK’s offshore wind industry in the years ahead”.

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