Powering your future: Education and upskilling essential for transition to offshore wind

Trainee wind technicians in a pool practicing survival techniques

The Environmental Survival Tank at East Coast College's Lowestoft campus - Credit: East Coast College

This week, we will be running a series of "Powering Your Future" stories focused on the fantastic career opportunities in East Anglia's exciting offshore wind industry. East Coast College assistant principal Rachel Bunn explains how education and retraining will be vital in the transition to a renewable future.  

On the horizon, a green future is starting to materialise – but an effective education provision will be absolutely critical to make that vision a reality.  

“It is a very exciting time for East Anglia,” says East Coast College assistant principal Rachel Bunn.

The offshore wind sector is growing and there are significant developments in clean projects within the region. This is needed to meet the government target of net-zero carbon by 2050, while also providing opportunity and sustainable employment.”   

Educating the next generation of workers and reskilling the existing workforce will be vital in hitting that target.  

East Coast College enrols more than 1,500 16-18 year-olds and 750 apprentices across its three campuses in Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Lowestoft Sixth Form College. It is also home to 100 higher education students completing degrees with the University of Suffolk, with another 3,000 adults enrolled in full or part-time courses. 

East Coast College’s Energy Skills Centre in Lowestoft and the Offshore Wind Centre in Great Yarmouth are critical centres of gravity from which to mobilise East Anglia’s transition into offshore wind. 

Woman in red scarf standing in front of green background

Rachel Bunn, assistant principal, apprenticeships and employer engagement lead at East Coast College - Credit: East Coast College

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“Engineering students may branch off into manufacturing, electrical maintenance or machining, but all elements are embedded around the renewable energy sector,” Rachel says. 

The college runs commercial courses with partner MAERSK whereby students can achieve their GWO Certificates, including Sea Survival, Working at Height, Manual Handling, First Aid and Fire Awareness, while guest speakers from key employers such as ScottishPower Renewables are invited on campus to inspire the future workforce. 

East Coast College was also the first UK college to be approved as a gateway provider for the government’s new Kickstart Scheme. The initiative helps businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk access funding to employ 16 to 24-year-olds and is designed to develop work opportunities and employability skills for those who are at risk of long-term unemployment. 

Wind technician students in life jackets

Students preparing to practice emergency evacuation in the Environmental Survival Tank - Credit: East Coast College

“This year, we are supporting eight apprentices from the wind sector in addition to 88 vacancies for young people on Universal Credit to get a paid job placement for six months,” Rachel explains.  

“The region is now firmly on the map for clean energy and I would ask that every employer makes a pledge to engage with education to ensure we raise aspirations, showcase opportunities and support work experience, employer-led projects or masterclasses to re-energise the heart and mind of local communities and regional opportunities.” 

Front cover of the Powering Your Future supplement

Powering Your Future: How offshore wind is creating new careers in East Anglia - Credit: Archant

Find out more about getting your foot in the door and helping generate the clean green energy we all need for a greener, zero-carbon future that will benefit future generations for years to come in the Powering Your Future supplement, produced in partnership with ScottishPower Renewables.