3sun Group leads pioneering training for flow of skilled offshore wind workers

13th May, 2019

Pioneering employer-led training to ensure a pipeline of skilled workers for the multi-billion-pound offshore wind farms off the east coast is to start next month.

The new East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre will provide technician training for local people to work in the growing wind farm industry off the Energy Coast.

A successful application by lead employer 3sun Group, joined by Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm and East Coast College, has led to the development of The East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre to be based at East Coast College Great Yarmouth campus.

It has been made possible by a £1.1 million grant from the New Anglia Skills Deal Programme, provided by Norfolk County Council, Suffolk local authorities and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

3sun Group is leading the employer engagement to launch the first 60 places to build “an increasing pool” of skilled technicians.

Developers, operators and supply chain companies across the industry are supporting the cost of training places to ensure a flow of skilled new entrants to this fast-growing industry.
Developers of the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm and the wider East Anglia zone, ScottishPower Renewables, has invested £55,000 to sponsor up to 13 places.

Up to £500,000 worth of equipment, including wind turbine generators, blades and hydraulics, has already been committed by companies. It includes:
• more than £100,000 worth of hydraulics training equipment by Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm Ltd
• a training turbine and components, including a generator, by ScottishPower Renewables
• hydraulic rigs and other equipment by 3sun Group
• seats on transfer vessels for people on the 12-week programme to spend half a day offshore by Dalby Offshore.

Vattenfall, developers of Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas, are also supporting the programme.

Two courses have initially been designed for the centre, a refurbished building on the Great Yarmouth campus. A three-week transition course will target people with engineering backgrounds in allied industries and other related sectors, and a 12-week course is for jobseekers and recent education leavers.

Employers will also support individuals’ entry into the industry with work experience, job interviews and feedback on applications.

Investment generated from employers will fund the development of more industry-relevant courses.

Training content has been shaped by employers to ensure the most relevant skills for today’s industry in installation, construction, commissioning and operations and maintenance. Delivery will be by local training partners, Petans, East Coast College, 3sun Academy and National Wind Farm Training Centres.

Graham Hacon, CEO of 3sun Group, said the “fantastic” funding would ensure opportunities for local people in the newest industry on the east coast.

“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. Up to 12 people would be 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.

“Employers will be able to look at the candidates coming through and give them the opportunity to go for a trial and, if they don’t get a job with them, they are well-placed to get a job in the supply chain.”

The 18-month programme is a precursor to next year’s launch of the £11.3m Energy & Engineering Skills Centre at East Coast College’s Lowestoft campus, also funded by the LEP.

“The Offshore Wind Skills Centre builds upon East Coast College’s long-standing relationship with the Energy Coast. For the college, it’s all about creating a pool of skilled individuals. We envisage some companies might sponsor candidates with a view to taking someone from the programme onto their books when the time is right for them,” Mr Rimmer said.

LEP Chief Executive Chris Starkie said: “The Energy Coast, particularly centred around Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, is at the centre of the world’s largest market for offshore wind.

“With the world’s largest windfarms 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.”

ScottishPower Renewables has committed to sponsor ten places on the three-week course and three on the 12-week programme.

Victoria Sinclair, Supply Chain Strategy Manager, said: “Supporting businesses in East Anglia to train a workforce for the future of the industry is a key part of our Skills Strategy for East Anglia ONE, so we are proud to collaborate with East Coast College and 3sun on the new Offshore Wind Skills Centre.

“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.”

Simon Gray, CEO of the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), said the 12-week programme provided an ideal pathway for students completing the Energy Skills Foundation Programme at East Coast College.

“The timings work perfectly for our candidates completing the course next month. I will be promoting sponsorship of the course among our members.”

Gemma Head, Programme Manager for EEEGR’s Skills for Energy, said the course was an ideal opportunity to retrain people made redundant in the oil & gas industry or for people looking for a career change.

It also provides a pathway into employment from other full-time engineering-based college courses including the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board’s (ECITB) Introduction to Engineering Construction (ITEC), a one-year level three course delivered by East Coast College.

The first three-week course starts at the end of the month with the 12-week course launching in July.

A portal is being created for people to access the training.