East of England sets standard of excellence for energy transition training


Multi-billion-pound offshore wind investment in the East of England can only happen with enough highly trained people. Today, we focus on how the East of England is setting the standard as a centre of training excellence, developing a homegrown workforce to embrace the energy transition.

With more than 10% of the predicted 69,000 UK offshore wind jobs by 2026 being located in the East of England, the region has been visionary in working with developers, the supply chain, colleges, schools and universities to shape and deliver the right training and people to fill the roles.

Mapping future jobs and nurturing local talent to build, operate and maintain existing and future offshore wind for decades is keeping the region ahead of the curve.

Each wind farm workforce can have more than 100 different job titles, with many more support roles across the supply chain. On top of the more obvious electrical and mechanical engineers and turbine technicians, roles include project managers, software designers, component manufacturers, logistics experts, welders, drone operators, boat crews, marine biologists and environmental scientists. There are also helicopter pilots, surveyors, data analysts and digital specialists in onshore as well as offshore roles.

With a predicted £60 billion private investment in UK offshore wind in the next five years – £10.1 billion a year – specialist industry-standard centres of training excellence have been built in the last three years, including the £11.6 million Energy Skills Centre at East Coast College, Lowestoft, and its Offshore Wind Skills Centre at Great Yarmouth, Productivity East at the University of East Anglia, and the £8 million STEM Innovation Campus at West Suffolk College, all supported by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

The standard is set by pioneering industry-education partnerships like Danish giant Maersk Training working with East Coast College to deliver Global Wind Organisation (GWO) courses. The college’s maritime courses use state-of-the-art ship’s bridge simulator suites, offshore emergency response suites and sea survival training in its world-renowned survival pool.

The region’s vast oil and gas workforces bring a wealth of offshore expertise as they make their own energy transition to join offshore wind.

And the 15,000 highly trained people that leave the Armed Forces every year are a crucial resource bringing relevant skills, attitude and experience. Increasingly, businesses are committing to the Armed Forces Covenant to employ ex-service people.

The Skills for Energy programme, run by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), has long worked with industry and educators to create an unrivalled skills infrastructure to support the acceleration of the industry, with programmes for young people and older career changers.

Apprenticeship programmes are a growth area, making up 1.8% of the workforce, with the industry committed to reaching 2.5% as soon as possible.

Celia Anderson, Norfolk-based people and skills director of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, said the industry was working closely with the government to ensure the right training and support is in place.

“For example, we’re developing an offshore energy passporting system to ensure that all parts of the energy sector recognise transferable skills and training, to enable offshore workers to move seamlessly between renewables and other technologies.”

Ian Pease, of GENERATE, said the East of England was home to a multitude of ambitious skills-focused businesses, like Hexis Training, part of Great Yarmouth-based Stowen Group, which is driving standardised training, assessment and qualifications across the wind industry onshore and offshore.

Denise Hone, head of training and development, said: “Hexis has invested £250,000 in development and equipment in the last few months to focus on new training.”

The company’s acquisition by STAR capital in early October will lead to further investment for the Lowestoft centre to become one of the group’s centres of excellence, she said.

Four new standards for statutory inspection and maintenance have been developed and will be piloted in November at the Energy Skills Centre in Lowestoft, addressing capabilities where no standardised training and competence assessment exist.