Our east coast is the beating heart of the UK’s energy sector and thanks to LEP funding a training centre will help ensure it has a pipeline of skilled workers into the future.
East Coast Energy Training Academy is located at East Coast College’s Lowestoft campus and combines cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art facilities to support the development of higher-level technical skills and expertise in the energy, maritime and engineering sectors.
A regional centre of excellence with national and international specialisms, it supports the development of higher-level technical skills and professional expertise, specifically in the energy, engineering, maritime and offshore industries.
Developed with £10m investment from the LEP, it was officially opened in November 2019 and promises to play a significant role in supplying the skills demanded by major energy projects in the region such as Sizewell C.
The college has joined with Sizewell and Inspire Suffolk to offer people aged between 16 and 25 and not in education or employment training opportunities which could lead to jobs at the proposed twin reactor nuclear power station.
For those already in training, Doosan Babcock, Hinkley Point C contractor and member of the Sizewell C consortium, is taking on East Coast College students for its apprenticeship scheme in welding, rigging, pipe fitting and project controls.
Among the first cohort is 21-year-old Cody Lucas from Great Yarmouth, who is taking a Level 3 qualification in welding at the Lowestoft campus. He will start his training at Hinkley Point C (HPC) and then return to Suffolk to work at Sizewell C.
Cody commented: “This is an opportunity of a lifetime to work at HPC and then come back home to Suffolk as a qualified welder to work at Sizewell C. I was over the moon when I got the phone call to say I got on the apprenticeship and I can’t wait to start.”
Energy Skills Centre – a year of achievements:
• 12 new job opportunities, including training associates in energy
• 546 students and 213 apprentices accessing world-class facilities
• Two new partnerships with Maersk and Total Solutions
• 621 delegates on short courses
• 179 different companies visited the Energy Skills Centre
• Hosted 13 regional events, including EEEGR’s Skills for Energy event, which saw more than 600 young people from Norfolk and Suffolk attend a range of interactive activities with employers
• Engaged with 29 new companies to provide training support
• Provided 19 new courses to support energy, engineering and marine sectors, including AEC1 engine course, mental health awareness, behavioural safety, engineering fitter apprenticeship and apprenticeship selection days.
• Hosted the energy skills event for EEEGR which saw over 600 young people from Norfolk and Suffolk attend a range of interactive activities with employers.
Jasmine Allen began an Energy Skills programme at the college’s Lowestoft campus after leaving school at 16. She was named Student of the Year for Engineering in 2019 and offered an apprenticeship with SSE Renewables as a wind turbine technician in Lowestoft having been inspired by her grandfather.
“I’ve been really impressed with everyone I’ve spoken to in the business and the high standards they set,” said Jasmine. “It really is great to think I’ll be working on the future of energy in renewables, in a challenging and hands-on environment.
Aaron Kern achieved a Level 2 and Level 3 Mechanical qualification and after a short period of unemployment, he signed up for Cohort 5 of the Transition to Offshore course. That led to Aaron being employed by Fairwind and he has worked in Norway on the Siemens site. He has since been upskilled: in lifts inside wind turbines, low voltage cables and general safety.
“This course changed my life one hundred per cent!” he said. It gave me the qualifications and a really good starting salary because the company did not need to pay for my training. The on-job experience is brilliant, I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I’m learning really quickly.”
Ben Kirchall was out of work when he applied for the Level 2 Diploma in safe Working Practice in the Wind Turbine Industry course and was enrolled on Cohort 2. On completing the course, Ben joined 3sun Group which upskilled him in a range of areas. He has worked on the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm, off the Suffolk coast, Links Windfarm in Grimsby and Burbo Bank Windfarm in Liverpool.
Ben commented: “The Diploma changed my life – I met lots of people and we all became good friends. My first time out on a windfarm was eye-opening and very exciting. I was out there in the real world putting into practice what I had learned. I am set for life in this career and I’m very grateful for the opportunity the Offshore Wind Skills centre gave me.”
Jack Hurren was feeling unfulfilled in his career after graduating from university and decided to enrol on Cohort 1 of the Transition to Offshore course. After completing the programme, he was recruited by 3sun Group and worked on the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm. He was then offered a job by ScottishPower and is now working on the East Anglia ONE Wind Farm.
“I can see myself working on wind farms for the rest of my life,” said Jack. “I really love it and enjoy being offshore. It’s been life-changing for me; I feel I have really landed on my feet. The course got me out there and I learned how massive the wind industry is. It truly opened my eyes.”
Jovita and Hope lead the way for women in renewables sector
Energy Skills Centre students Jovita Beeston, 18, and Hope Reynolds, 17, have become the first ever offshore wind apprentices recruited by ScottishPower Renewables.
The mechatronics maintenance apprentice technicians landed the opportunity despite 150 people applying and will be based at the £2.5bn, 102-turbine wind farm off the Suffolk coast for their three-year training programme.
They will receive on-the-job learning and work experience combined with classroom studies at East Coast College, where they are the only women on the course.
Jovita, from Norwich, who previously studied engineering at University Technical College Norfolk, said: “It’s going to be a really intense programme, but I’m relishing the chance to show what I’ve got to offer. My family are really impressed by what I’m doing and can see just how much I’m enjoying it already. I would definitely encourage other young people to get into this industry as they will go places.”
Hope, who hails from Lowestoft, commented: “Having seen how much other people enjoy working in the industry and the real variety it offers in terms of job roles and career progression, I knew this was for me. It’s really exciting to get started and know that what we’ll be doing will be helping create a brighter and better future for everyone.”
Steven Hodger, principal site manager for East Anglia ONE at ScottishPower Renewables, said: “These roles are at the very heart of the UK’s net-zero ambition as well as the green economic recovery. We’re delighted to welcome Jovita and Hope into the East Anglia ONE team and I look forward to watching them carve out a successful career in such a clean, green, growing industry.”
East Anglia ONE provides enough power for nearly 600,000 homes and 100 jobs have been created at the £25m operations and maintenance base in Lowestoft.