East Anglia: Work on new £11m EPISCentre energy skills hub set to start next year

An artist's impression of the EPISCentre energy skills hub planned in Great Yarmouth

An artist's impression of the EPISCentre energy skills hub planned in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Archant

Work could start next spring on a flagship £11million centre to provide urgently needed energy skills training for businesses across the East of England.

Business leaders want the EPISCentre project to move forward quickly, to prove the region’s long-term commitment to producing skilled workers for the energy industry.

They believe it could prove vital in influencing major international companies thinking of investing billions of pounds into the offshore wind, gas and new nuclear industries.

First mooted two years ago, the EPISCentre (Energy Production Innovation Skills Centre) in Great Yarmouth is expected to cost £6m to build and will house £5m worth of equipment, alongside conference, classroom and workshop facilities.

Blair Ainslie, chief executive of Seajacks UK and chairman of the Skills for Energy partnership, part of EEEGR (the East of England Energy Group), said: “The ultimate goal is for local people to be trained locally for careers in a local industry.”

“The centre will co-ordinate skills training for all energy sectors and encourage and inspire individuals, schools and other interested parties to find out more about opportunities in the industry. We expect it to become a national centre of excellence for energy industry skills.”

Mr Ainslie stressed that EPISCentre would complement and support existing training providers and academic and education centres, not duplicate them.

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“It will be a hub at the centre of all the spokes. It is something that industry leaders are driving and we must keep up the momentum and reassure potential investors that we mean business,” he added.

Although the centre will be in Great Yarmouth, the exact site has yet to be revealed. The target is to commission the complex later this year in time to start building next spring. Both private and public funding will be used for its construction.

In the meantime Skills for Energy has commissioned local consultants Nautilus Associates to review existing training provision in the region and the industry’s potential needs for the future.

EPISCentre will be a nucleus for information, advice and guidance, making it easier for people to find out more about the energy industry’s careers and training. It will also provide specialist courses or allow access to equipment that other trainers or colleges may not have.

Stephen Rose, head of offshore wind generation at SSE, said: “The East of England has benefited from the construction of Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm, which has an operations base in Lowestoft, and there will be further opportunities for local employment and suppliers through an extension, known as Galloper.

“The announcement of the EPISCentre to help support training and development of the next generation of workers for the offshore energy industry is a further step forward for the region.”

The news of progress on the EPISCentre project coincides with a major Skills for Energy conference being staged at the John Innes Centre in Norwich today to address the skills challenges facing the sector.