Training academies of the future
A global focus on climate change, clean air and renewable energy and the recent confirmation of the long-awaited Offshore Wind Sector Deal brings the promise of continued investment and growth to the industry, including the creation of more jobs
Yet, given current political and economic uncertainties, it remains crucial that the industry does not become complacent and continues to prepare as much as possible for any potential impact of government change and leaving the European Union.
In the North East, the energy sector is a key asset for the region and has seen rapid expansion over the past five years. Its prime North Sea location and exceptional infrastructure, including five ports, has attracted investment from around the world.
Already supporting more than 15,000 jobs in the region, the North East energy sector has been identified as a focus area for growth, to help safeguard the future of the regional economy. With similar growth plans for the sector across the country, it is clear that skills and training providers should be aligning themselves to this target, to avoid a widening skills gap as jobs increase.
That is why Newcastle College’s Energy Academy is positioning itself as the number one training provider for the offshore and renewable energy sector in the North East. The Energy Academy’s aim is to be the first choice for employers in the industry and for individuals hoping to pursue a career in energy or engineering.
The academy has developed in partnership with major employers, local authorities, Sector Skills Councils and strategic stakeholders in the sector, so that an understanding of exactly what was needed from a training academy for the industry. It is located amongst employers in the heart of industry, with facilities which reflect their own, so that students are immersed in the sector from their first day.
Since opening in 2012, the Academy has trained thousands of talented engineers and continues to develop its facilities, which cover everything from welding bays, fabrication equipment, MMA, MIG and TIG welding to plasma cutting and engineering workshops. There is also equipment for the testing of wind turbines and solar panels as well as Computer Aided Design (CAD) facilities.
In January, the world’s most advanced ‘Immersive Hybrid Reality’ (iHR) training system for the offshore wind industry was installed at the Academy, thanks to the College’s partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.
Developed by ORE Catapult and Annimersion VR, the unique tool gives trainees virtual access to a full scale 7.5MW offshore wind turbine, replicating the working conditions experienced by wind turbine engineers operating on offshore windfarms. The system gives users a realistic but safe environment in which trainee engineers must find, diagnose and repair faults, allowing them to develop the vital skills they need for the job.
As the only provider with access to this state-of-the-art equipment, it puts Newcastle College Energy Academy at the forefront of skills training for the sector.
Ensuring current and future needs
One of the most important tasks the academy ensures are the skills they teach are meeting the current and future needs of employers within the energy sector. That’s why relationships with industry leaders such as ORE Catapult are so important and why they have recently launched an Employer Partnership Initiative.
The programme asks local energy and engineering firms to partner with the academy and provide their insight into the industry, help identify skills gaps and develop degree level curriculum around these, as well as create bespoke tailored training relevant to their own needs, so that they are able to benefit directly from a workforce trained through the academy. ORE Catapult was one of the first employers to sign up to the programme.
Partnerships such as these are what lead to innovative developments. The academy have recently announced a ground-breaking partnership with the Port of Blyth, working together to deliver training with direct pathways into the offshore wind industry, through technical training and apprenticeships.
Students will be based either at the Port (or with their employer if they are on an apprenticeship) to undertake practical and on-the-job training. They’ll have access to real Port facilities, including a fully functional wind turbine nacelle and fully erected wind turbine training asset but will be transported to the Energy Academy each week to access our facilities and learn from expert teaching staff.
The programmes and apprenticeships have been created to meet the needs of local offshore companies and will offer young people in the region direct routes into employment in a growing sector.
Plans are already being developed to expand the partnership with further qualifications and employer relationships – which are vital to help train and develop the next generation of offshore engineers and wind turbine technicians in and around the North East.
Offshore and renewable energy is only set to grow, so the academy encourages every business in the sector to reach out to your local training provider and consider how you can work together to develop much-needed training for the industry.
Director of Business Partnerships
Newcastle College Energy Academy