Champions of East of England offshore wind must invest in the industry’s future by offering work placements and internships now to secure longevity for developing wind farms.
More than 200 “local champions” of the multi-billion pound industry developing off the east coast were challenged to embrace students into their organisations at the only event outside London to celebrate Offshore Wind Week.
Sixth-formers, undergraduates and pre-apprentices spoke passionately from the stage at the Offshore Wind Week event at OrbisEnergy, Lowestoft, organised by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) about the need for opportunities within businesses to shape their future careers.
Stuart Rimmer, principal and CEO of Great Yarmouth College and principal and CEO designate of East Coast College, the proposed merger between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft colleges, appealed to companies to look to the future and support young people in local education now.
“The future skills pipeline is vital to make the industry work,” he told the event at OrbisEnergy, Lowestoft, which included speakers from ScottishPower Renewables, Associated British Ports (ABP), Innogy SE, Green Investment Bank, Vattenfall and Statoil.
“What a hugely talented group of individuals we have in colleges and training providers right here within a few miles. We need to back them with your commitment to help them take that leap of faith into the industry by providing work placements.
“Let’s keep doing this together. We’ve heard today of the longevity of these projects – and 40 years into the future it will pay us back for years to come.”
Before the young people spoke in the Skills for Energy session, Julian Brown, chair of RenewableUK, told the conference: “We have to remind ourselves how far this industry has come in a relatively short space of time. Offshore wind is generating 5% of our UK electricity, soon to be 10%.
“We want MPs and other stakeholders to understand the success of what we are doing – to shout about the jobs that have been created.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous congratulated the “local champions” of the offshore wind industry for building the East of England reputation.
Government clarity was needed for confidence for investors and the industry needed to look for greater collaboration “to bring wholesale benefits to the people of the area,” he said.
“There is the opportunity to make Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth the global centre for marine renewables – a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“The most important thing is the people in Suffolk, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth.”
The UK taxpayer needed to see a return on the investment, with the target of 50% UK content of offshore wind farms driven up to 70-75%, he said.
“We want those turbines out there to be stamped “Made in Britain.”
A level students at Lowestoft Sixth Form College Joel Pointon and Richard Hindes described their four-week summer internships organised through the East Coast Energy Internship programme.
Joel worked with the Galloper Offshore Wind Farm construction team in Lowestoft, using his maths skills to calculate fuel requirements for crew transfer vessels.
Richard did his placement with Eon at the Scroby Sands wind farm, completing research on its visitor centre.
“Interns do proper projects and work alongside industry professionals. It shows some real faith that businesses are willing to go out of their way to support people like me.
“There is a massive shortage of STEM graduates. It was a vote of confidence from the companies in the area to accommodate people like us.”
John Best, of Best Proactive, who works with companies to organise internships for the scheme, established by The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Ogden Trust and Suffolk County Council in association with Waveney District Council, said:
“We placed five interns this year and we are looking to place 20 next year, so are looking for 20 companies. It is beneficial to the employer as well as for young people.”
Lennox Laws and Kyle Hacon, spoke about their 40-hour weeks on the 3sun pre-apprenticeship course and Esmee Thornton, a MSc Energy Engineering with Environmental Management postgraduate at the University of East Anglia with the ScottishPower Foundation Scholarship Programme said: “Having students in the work place isn’t just good for our learning but also for their learning.”
Sponsors of the event were ABP (Associated British Ports), Green Investment Bank, Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables, Statoil and Vattenfall