Humber has wind in its sails with National College

Last week’s announcement that the UK’s first National College for Wind Energy will be based on the Humber Estuary underlines the strategic national importance of wind energy and reinforces the case for the Humber to be at the heart of the renewable industry and offers a very positive future for the area.

Full of energy: The Humber region is a crucial player in the UKs energy sector.

The Humber is already a national energy hub, currently supplying, either directly or through its ports, about 25 per cent of the UK’s energy needs, yet 70 per cent of the country’s renewable energy comes from overseas.

Renewable energy generation is still relatively new and demands a workforce with new and evolving skills, which is a challenge for the sector.

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Wind energy is one of a limited number of sectors identified by Government for a National College, and offers a tremendous opportunity to the Humber for economic growth and position the area as a world leader for the renewable industry.

When Government issued its call for engagement to develop national colleges based on sector need, the Humber offered the ideal location.

It has a unique geographical location combined with a marine heritage and established off-shore sector developments, as well as a critical mass of workers and recognised capacity for growth.

The bid to locate the new National College for Wind Energy was led by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership with RenewableUK, the trade body which represents the offshore industry, pledging to support the winning bid. From its inception, the Humber LEP identified a major priority as bridging the local skills gap.

As the economy evolves, emerging industry requires new and updated skills training solutions and there is a need for higher level technical skills and in some areas the UK compares poorly with international competitors.

The National College proposes to reverse the trend, offering an aspirational choice, which will send a clear message to young people and employers that there is scope to progress to a higher level by following a vocational route and achieve a successful career in the renewable energy industries.

The college will operate on a ‘hub and spoke’ model with the Humber as the ‘hub’ for skills, training and education initiatives.

Spanning from this ‘hub’ there will be a network of partners providing education and training across the UK.

Whilst this clearly caters for a pan-Humber skills network, the National College will provide the capacity for a national and international reach, attracting students from across the UK and beyond.

Students will be at the heart of the college with the emphasis on high quality teaching, learning and assessment.

However, this will all be underpinned by existing and new quality frameworks driven by employers, with a curriculum which specialises in wind energy along with employability training.

To facilitate this, the leadership approach will be highly integrated with national employers contributing to the strategic vision, delivery and destination of graduate students.

Staff will be expected to undergo extensive professional development to ensure their teaching and learning is current and reflects contemporary best practice in industry. The National College will foster a performance culture to drive academic achievement and create a positive work ethic.

The proposal presents a unique opportunity for partnership between the offshore industry, educationalists and students and is a major step forward in achieving the ambition set out by the Humber LEP earlier this year.

The LEP Strategic Economic Plan states an ambition for the Humber to become the national centre of excellence for energy skills, building on many of the other investments we are making in training facilities and in developing a range of supportive skills services for business.

In addition to up-skilling the renewable workforce for the future, it will create jobs directly and indirectly.

It is envisaged that the college will open its doors to the first students towards the end of 2016. Thousands of students will benefit from their experience at the National College.

We can predict that the college will have a knock-on effect for the whole region, developing its own supply chain and therefore boosting the local job market generally.

These are exciting times and a time for celebration as securing the National College of Wind Energy in our area takes us a step closer to ensuring our global lead in offshore wind is reflected in home-grown skills as well.