East Anglia: Skills for Energy campaign still has “a long way to go”

Blair Ainslie, chairman of Skills for Energy and chief executive of Seajacks

Blair Ainslie, chairman of Skills for Energy and chief executive of Seajacks - Credit: Archant

A region-wide campaign to generate the skills required within the East of England energy sector is starting to bear fruit but still has much to do, according to the chairman of the initiative.

Blair Ainslie pointed to the recent completion by 30 students of the Energy Skills Foundation Programme (ESFP) one-year pre-apprenticeship course, which was designed by industry and has been running for four years at Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth colleges.

And Mr Ainslie, chairman of the Skills for Energy partnership, which hosts the pre-apprenticeship course, said his own company, Seajacks, was focusing on local recruitment, having employed two students from the ESFP and given a permanent role to a graduate from the University of East Anglia’s Energy in Engineering Masters programme.

However, with demand for skilled workers rising dramatically – through the extended life of the Southern North Sea gas industry, the prospect of a new nuclear power station at Sizewell, the emergence of off-shore wind farms and decommissioning projects across the industry – he said that there was still “a long way to go”.

The skills issue is now set to come under the spotlight at a conference being staged by the partnership in Norwich next month.

About 200 delegates are expected at the conference, representing businesses, training providers, academia, and the military.

“Our Skills for Energy conference – People: Powering the Future, at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, on July 4 – has extra significance for assessing where we are, how we can progress and how we must secure our future in this multi-billion pound industry,” said Mr Ainslie.

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Celia Anderson, executive director for the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), added: “The conference will be a fantastic opportunity to link all the work being done in this region by both the Skills for Energy programme and the companies involved. This industry is growing and we will need more skilled people coming into it. So how can we make it more accessible?”

The conference will begin with industry overviews from the engineering, nuclear, oil and gas, construction and offshore wind sectors, followed by seminar sessions covering subjects including the proposed EPISCentre skills and education centre, helping young people in their choice of career, transferring military skills into energy and graduates in the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) sector.

Alongside the main conference and seminars, there will also be an exhibition of companies and organisations involved in skills in the energy industry. For further details or to book a place at the conference, call EEEGR at 01493 446535 or visit its website at www.eeegr.com .