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Business & Economy

Newcastle College launches world-leading virtual reality training for energy sector

North East leaders, employers and educators gathered at Newcastle College’s Energy Academy last month (17 January) to find out how virtual reality will change the future of training for the North East’s energy sector.

The world’s most advanced Immersive Hybrid Reality (iHR) offshore wind training facility, a virtual reality system commissioned for the Great Exhibition of the North, has been installed at the Academy in Wallsend to help train future engineers.

Delivered by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the UK’s leading technology innovation and research centre  for offshore renewables, in partnership with Scotland’s Energy Skills Partnership, Heriot Watt University and Animmersion VR, the state-of-the-art system replicates working conditions experienced by wind turbine engineers operating on offshore wind farms.

The technology allows users to virtually find and diagnose faults, in a realistic but safe environment which helps them to develop the vital skills they need to work in the wind industry.

Tony Quinn, ORE Catapult Operations Director, said “The immersive Hybrid Reality installation at Newcastle College is a huge, innovative step in training and skills development for the next generation of offshore wind technicians. We are delighted to see this project come to fruition as a dedicated training facility, provided by a high-quality education and skills provider here in the North East.”

The innovative technology will allow Newcastle College to support the region’s growing energy sector, as part of the UK’s aim to create 27,000 skilled jobs in the industry by 2030.

Speaking at the event, Director of Business Partnerships Marc McPake said: “Newcastle College has always been aligned to North East LEP priorities and our training and development here at the Energy Academy is centred around the skills required by industry.

“Collaboration with employers is at the centre of everything we do and our partnership with ORE Catapult is a fantastic example of a relationship which will benefit our students and an entire industry.

“Technology and innovation are changing the future of education and training and we hope that this facility will create a lasting legacy by supporting the creation of highly skilled jobs and employment for our region.”

Carol Bell, Executive Director of Great Exhibition of the North, which featured the training system as part of its Innovation Trail, also spoke at the event to talk about how the legacy of GET North continues to contribute to the local economy.

“Our long term objective in supporting this project was that it would be used moving forward to train future engineers from the North East”, she said.

“We are delighted to see that it has been installed so quickly in Newcastle College’s training facilities to support talent in the region. This is a great legacy from Great Exhibition of the North and one that we should all be proud of.”

Future engineers at the Energy Academy will start training with the new system immediately, giving a unique edge to their future employability in the sector. The Energy Academy has trained over 1,200 students since it opened in 2012 and works with industry stakeholders to deliver courses, degrees and apprenticeships for subsea and renewable energy.