Harwich: MP voices concerns over wind energy skills

Bernard Jenkin

Bernard Jenkin - Credit: Archant

AN MP has spoken of his concern that a multi-million pound training scheme will not deliver the skills employers in north Essex need.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on Monday evening, member for Harwich and north Essex, Bernard Jenkin, highlighted some of the problems he sees with the so-called ‘Energising Harwich’ training pilot-scheme launched last year. The scheme is aimed at developing the skills of people and businesses, so they are well-placed to take advantage of the commercial opportunities expected to come from the growing wind energy industry on the East Anglian coast.

The government has pledged to inject £875,000 over two years into the scheme, which is being delivered by Colchester Institute in conjunction with up to 40 small and medium-sized engineering firms in the area.

Under the terms of the agreement employers will be expected to contribute up to £3 million to the project.

Mr Jenkin, whose concerns come during National Apprenticeship Week, said he wanted to prevent the scheme ending up like other Government training initiatives where people “finish up with qualifications, but find that they are of little relevance to the requirements of local employers”.

He added: “The key to the success of this pilot will be the ability of local employers to train people in the particular skills for the particular jobs they have on offer; otherwise it will prove a waste of time and money.

“Success depends on a breadth and depth of understanding between employers and the Colchester Institute. Employers are having to adjust, because the scheme requires companies, who may well be competitors, to co-operate and to deliver it. They need to understand the constraints attached to public money.

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“Culturally, it is also hard for traditional training providers, such as Colchester Institute, to adjust to allow commercialism to lead the allocation of the funds available, but they must be supported in doing so.”

At Harwich-based marine engineering company, AJ Woods, managing director Tony Woods said he hoped there could be more flexibility in the agreement to help employers pay for the mandatory training required so employers are accredited to work offshore.

He added: “Although we have done a good job in delivering this money, it has become clear in the project’s early days that the business’s involved would like to manoeuvre more and we are anxious that the government maximise opportunities for the small and medium-sized businesses.”

At Colchester Institute, funding development and operations manager, Brian Cairns, said the Energising Harwich project has “flexibility built in to it”.

He added: “The bid was developed with a massive amount of employer input, with a clear identification of skills needs and training requirements to assist local businesses.

“This flexibility allows support for each employer partner to identify their future direction and the skills needed in their workforce to achieve this.”