Shaping the next generation

February 4, 2019

Newcastle College is helping to secure the future skills of offshore and renewables in the North thanks to its Energy Academy

Newcastle College’s Energy Academy – a centre of innovation, training and development for the North East’s energy sector – sits among its industry partners in the heart of Wallsend.

The academy opened in 2012 in response to skills gaps and demand from regional employers within the sector. It was developed as a multi- partner collaboration between Newcastle College, sector employers, local authorities and sector skills councils, in recognition of the need for more skilled workers at every level.

It has since trained more than 1200 students for a career in renewable energy – a sector highlighted as one of the UK’s fastest growing, and unsurprisingly as one of the North East LEP’s immediate priorities for growth.

Marc McPake, director of business partnerships at Newcastle College, says that the specialist training offered at facilities such as the Energy Academy is about up-skilling those living in the region specifically for the jobs available here.

“As a skills provider, we’re instrumental to the development of a skilled workforce for local employers,” he says.

“We align ourselves very closely with North East LEP priorities and work closely with employers within those industries to help identify skills gaps and develop training and solutions to address them.”

The renewable energy sector is one which is currently experiencing huge growth and therefore suffering skills shortages across the country – but it is the North East which sees the most rapid expansion.

It has been officially recognised by the government as a National Centre for Offshore Renewable Energy (CORE) and is home to the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult testing facility and the National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering.

Its prime location, exceptional infrastructure and access to the UK’s largest wind farm has attracted investment from around the globe, and it is vital that the region can provide skills training to support the rapid growth in this area.

Newcastle College is well placed to offer that training and, through its Energy Academy, delivers courses from Level 2 to honours degrees, as well as apprenticeships and bespoke training for companies in subsea, renewable energy technologies and fabrication and welding.

“Skills are the beating heart of the North East economy, especially within thriving, innovative industries such as renewable energy,” Marc continues.

“It is the college’s role to help continue that talent pipeline, but it is also our role to work with employers and help them take advantage of other opportunities which can help them tackle skills shortages, such as utilising their Apprenticeship Levy or creating a bespoke programme to upskill and develop their existing workforce.

“Facilities such as our Energy Academy are where we can really provide that kind of support to an industry. We’re on their doorstep and can deliver training at every level an employer might need – all within an environment which replicates their own.”

Already a state-of-the-art facility, as of January the academy now houses the world’s most advanced ‘Immersive Hybrid Reality’ (iHR) training system for the offshore wind industry. Developed by Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and partners, this unique tool replicates the working conditions experienced by wind turbine engineers operating on offshore wind farms.

Using a direct animation from ORE Catapult’s 7MW Demonstration turbine, the system gives users a realistic but safe training environment in which trainee engineers must find, diagnose and repair faults, allowing them to develop the vital skills they need for the job.

The equipment is so advanced that it formed part of the Great Exhibition of the North’s ‘Innovation Trail’ and now resides at the Energy Academy to help train and develop the next generation of offshore engineers – putting Newcastle College at the forefront of skills training for the industry and setting the bar high for the future of vocational education.

The donation, and the relationship between the Energy Academy and ORE Catapult, is just one example of how the college works in partnership with industry to secure the future of skills within the renewable energy sector.

The vision when launching the Energy Academy was always for the College to be recognised by employers as the North East’s leading training provider for their needs. By placing itself at the heart of industry and forging relationships with key employers, it ensures that its facilities, courses and training programmes are fit for purpose and offering the right skills needed for the industry.

As well as ORE Catapult, the College enjoys relationships with other leading energy employers in the region, including Maersk and Wellstream,
which help to shape the courses.

By becoming a partner of the Energy Academy, employers support students by informing the curriculum and are assured that graduates have the skills needed to work for them.

“Employers shape everything we offer – whether that’s further or higher education, apprenticeships or courses specifically to up-skill those already working in industry – and the Energy Academy is no exception,” says Marc.

“Our relationships with employers are vital to the success of our students and ORE Catapult’s iHR equipment is a fantastic example of how those partnerships can simultaneously help to secure the future of skills training for an industry in the North East, while improving our student’s future employability, which is really our ultimate goal.”

Newcastle College

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