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Business & Economy

Newcastle College and Port of Blyth bridging skills gap in North East’s energy sector

Newcastle College and the Port of Blyth have announced a visionary partnership which will open up major career opportunities for young people in the region.

In a skills first approach, Newcastle College and Port Training Services (PTS), the Port’s award winning training arm, are joining forces to develop and deliver training programmes with direct pathways into the offshore energy sector, the North East’s fastest growing industry.

Marc McPake, director of business partnerships said: “The North East region is a UK hub for the energy sector, with many key employers based here.

“The industry has grown more than 60% since 2010 and it is no surprise that it is seen as a priority growth area for both the North East and the UK as a whole.

“With the industry expected to employ 27,000 people by 2030, it’s important there are enough skilled workers being trained to fill those roles and a partnership between Newcastle College and Port Training Services will ensure that young people living in the region can benefit from those opportunities.”

Newcastle College already offers a number of training courses, apprenticeships and degrees for those looking for a career within the industry. Its Energy Academy, a centre of innovation and training for the sector, opened in 2012 and has trained over 1,200 technicians and engineers from its location in Wallsend.

The partnership will now extend that offering further into the region, combining the technical expertise of the Energy Academy with the industry insight and working environment of Port Training Services, to develop highly vocational offshore, marine, subsea and port related training.

“Blyth is a key area for offshore employers and with Port Training Services and Port of Blyth, known as one of the UK’s leading offshore energy support bases, coming on board with the College, more people will now have access to skills training normally only available in the centre of Newcastle.

“Our vision with this partnership is to create a significant route into employment in an important sector for the North East,” says Marc.

In a unique set-up for the College, students will be based at the PTS complex in Blyth, benefitting from both PTS’ first class teaching accommodation and the real-working facilities of the Port of Blyth, including a fully functional wind turbine nacelle and a fully erected wind turbine training asset, to be completed in the summer of 2019.

Students will benefit from attending the College’s Energy Academy in Wallsend where they’ll learn from expert teaching staff and have access to specialist equipment, such as the world’s most advanced immersive Hybrid Reality (iHR) system for offshore wind training.

With the first intake of students expected in September, two initial programmes are being created. These will include a two-year Level 3 engineering qualification, with focus on offshore energy and subsea engineering, as well as the Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician (MOET) apprenticeship, which can be tailored to suit the needs of employers.

On completion, the courses will offer routes directly into employment or into higher education within Newcastle College University Centre, with both being designed to meet the skills needs of offshore companies in the area. Plans are already being developed to expand the partnership with further qualifications and employer relationships – which are vital to provide work experience opportunities in and around the Port of Blyth.

“Our partnership aligns itself to the strategic priorities of both the North East LEP, particularly its current focus on the growth of the energy sector and the education & training to provide the skills required by the industry, and the North of Tyne devolution arrangement” continues Marc.

Port of Blyth chief executive Martin Lawlor said: “This partnership offers excellent outcomes for both offshore energy related businesses based in the region and young people keen to get into an industry with excellent prospects.

“Through the unique opportunity this partnership will provide, students will not only benefit from high quality training but will also gain access to both real world facilities and employers actively searching for the talented workforce of the future.

“For some time, PTS has been at the forefront of tackling the skills challenge in the port and marine sector and through this partnership with Newcastle College, we’re delighted that the team at PTS will be able to utilise their skills and experience directly in an offshore energy training environment.”