East Anglia: Energy sector bosses highlight skills challenges

Blair Ainslie at the People: Powering the Future conference at the John Innes Centre

Blair Ainslie at the People: Powering the Future conference at the John Innes Centre - Credit: Archant © 2013

An energy industry leader has restated the need to create more skilled workers in the region if the East is to play a key role in keeping the country’s lights on.

The managing director of Seajacks, Blair Ainslie, said there was still a lack of highly-qualified engineers, despite the East being at the centre of “huge” energy projects creating jobs.

But he welcomed the announcement that progress was being made on a proposed £11million training facility in Great Yarmouth, which aims to increase employment and deliver skilled workers from within the region.

Speaking at the Skills for Energy People: Powering The Future Skills Conference held at the Norwich’s John Innes Centre, Mr Ainslie said: “Despite times of austerity, the energy industry has remained buoyant.

“And although it is not bomb-proof, the security of our supply remains vital and we happen to be in a position locally that means we are at the centre of huge projects that create jobs. But we need the people at the right level.”

The conference, organised by Skills for Energy in partnership with the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), featured a forum where businesses could discuss the challenges they are facing and how to tackle them.

Sessions included key speeches on skills within oil and gas, construction, offshore wind and new nuclear.

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And there was also a session devoted to the proposed Yarmouth-based training facility the EPISCentre, which is hoping to save firms money and boost skills, once the funding and the specific location in South Denes is secured.

Simon Gray, chief executive of EEEGR, said: “It is essential that we create skilled jobs for the energy industry and we will also have to bring those skilled jobs into the region as well.

“Anywhere you go around the world you hear Norfolk and Suffolk accents because of the energy sector and the expertise we have here – and we need to keep developing that.”