Wind careers kickstarted by college solution for global wind leaders

TMS Media

Two new careers in the fast-growing offshore wind industry are being launched by a global offshore wind business’ pioneering apprenticeship programme on the east coast.

Alfie Leonard, 19, and Ethan Talbot, 17, are Global Wind Service UK’s first turbine technician apprentices on a specially-tailored programme created by East Coast College (ECC) after Swedish energy group Vattenfall brought the company and college together.

Alfie and Ethan applied for more than 30 apprenticeships and jobs. Receiving only three replies each, they were beginning to lose hope.

But then, they were invited for interview for Global Wind Service UK’s (GWS) first apprenticeship place. They were so impressive, the Lowestoft-based operation decided to offer them both three-years’ training for the fast-growing industry. 

GWS, which employs 1000 wind technicians worldwide, sought advice from Vattenfall on setting up its own apprenticeship scheme at one of the energy group’s supply chain events in Norfolk.

Vattenfall has been organising supply chain meetings in Norfolk for more than a year, supporting local companies to prepare for the opportunities that multi-billion-pound projects, like its Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farm projects, can bring.

Listening to GWS’ unique needs, college tutors adapted its Level 3 course for Alfie and Ethan so they could condense two years into one intensive four-day-a-week college course, to be followed by a year industry among GWS’ 150 UK-based technicians.  Their third year will be spent at at ECC’s new £11.7m Energy Skills Centre at its Lowestoft campus. 

Mrs Falch-Lovesey, Vattenfall’s Local Liaison Officer and Skills Champion, said: “Apprenticeships help students to develop practical expertise while building their work-related skills and confidence.

“This active partnership between the business community and colleges is vital if we want to be part of young people's successful futures.

"It is wonderful to work together with Global Wind and ECC, on a bespoke programme aimed at developing a pipeline of qualified offshore wind technicians for the burgeoning industry off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.”

Chris Varley, GWS resource manager, said: “We need a pipeline of trained people so introducing an apprenticeship programme is such a positive step for us as we plan to expand and take on more work. To be growing our own personnel to the standard that we would like them to be makes perfect sense.”

Sarah Bransby, GWS HR business partner for offshore, said: “East Coast College has been really good about developing the apprenticeship to suit our needs.

Alfie and Ethan are learning engineering and assembly skills and the four elements of turbine workings, mechanical, electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic.

Alfie, from Gorleston, Norfolk, completed level 2 and 3 electrical installation at East Coast College. Ethan, from Beccles, Suffolk gained a level 2 in electrical installation.

Alfie said: “I’ve always wanted to work offshore. Offshore wind is such a growing industry here.”

Ethan said: “The opportunities to travel the world with your skills are growing all the time.”

Stuart Rimmer, ECC principal and chief executive, said: "This is a brilliant example of how collective endeavour through close supply chain working leads to opportunities for local people into high skilled, high paid work"
GWS works all over the world and installed the first wind turbine in the US at Block Island, with projects across Europe, Taiwan and Asia

Its latest work on the east coast has been working on the preassembly of the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm turbines at Great Yarmouth Outer Harbour site with Siemens.