UK's Northumberland College at the forefront of renewable energy skills training

Learners from as far afield as India, Sri Lanka and Australia are choosing the UK’s Northumberland College to improve their knowledge of the renewable energy industry due to its internationally-recognised Level 3 BZEE Wind Turbine Service Engineering course.

Northumberland College is one of only a handful of global educational and training establishments to offer the German-based qualification as part of its wider STEM provision to prepare students with the correct vocational skills for employment and ultimately, engage with existing and potential new employers looking for suitable candidates.

Open to learners aged 18 and over with a Level 2 qualification in electrical or mechanical engineering, or alternatively, a renewable energy qualification, the course, based at the College’s Port of Blyth facility in Northumberland, includes academic and hands-on operational training such as mechanical and electrical engineering, rotor blade technology, hydraulics, sea survival, aerodynamics and health & safety. Delivered over an 18 week period, the level 3 qualification is recognised within wind power and renewable energy sectors and gives students the potential to find employment worldwide. 

There are currently two overseas students enrolled on the programme including Andrew Basford (52) from Melbourne, Australia. As an A-grade electrician with a varied career background including a lighting and rigging crew member for TV and international concerts, and being part of the technical team building and operating 75m lighting towers at the 2016 Commonwealth Games, Andrew has built a head for heights and is now aiming to become a fully qualified wind turbine technician.

He commented, “After qualifying as an A-grade electrician back in Australia and given my previous roles, I began to consider the renewables industry, in particular the offshore wind farm and energy sectors, and how my skills could be put to better use in the future. I carried out a lot of research to find courses that met my requirements, some of which were based in America and Canada, but all were cost prohibitive. BZEE, based in Germany, put me in touch with Northumberland College and its new renewable energy facility, and within a few weeks of making initial contact, I enrolled onto the course and a few months later, I was on my way to the UK.

“Some might say it was a natural choice given the extreme heights I have worked at but maintaining and servicing wind turbines is a demanding role regardless of the 75m climb made every few days in all weather conditions. The course covers all aspects from the actual technology to sea safety procedures and being offered real, practical experience as part of the training is also a real bonus. It’s a good foundation from which to progress and I’m very open minded about opportunities moving forward.”

Northumberland College successfully launched its Wind and Renewables Energy Hub 18 months ago and in late 2017, successfully bid for funding to enable the purchase of specialist offshore equipment including a turbine tower, a nacelle and blades, crane, lifting gear and tractor. The project, which uses grant funding from the Coastal Communities Fund, is being supported by the Port of Blyth in partnership with other training providers.

The hub, which also includes a pontoon with direct water access, is a unique commercial facility that fully trains students in the construction of turbines, subsea equipment and the technologies used on land and waterborne supply vessels.

Furthermore, in order to meet specific needs, the BZEE Wind Turbine course is one of many STEM courses that can be tailored by the College to support enterprise, especially here in the region given Blyth, Northumberland, has become one of the UK’s leading ‘hubs’ for offshore, marine and energy companies. It works closely with regional, national and international organisations operating within offshore, marine and renewable energy industries including Nordex and EWT, and this further supports current Government initiatives to encourage more roles in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

Programme delivery coordinator at Northumberland College, Ian Palmer, explained, “Andrew is a great example of how the College’s STEM facilities are helping learners of all ages receive the best possible training and obtain the correct vocational skills, qualifications and knowledge to succeed in the renewables and offshore industries. Many of our students have come from different work backgrounds and are looking to re-train in order to find new employment, whilst others are already employed within the sector and are looking to improve their knowledge in a specialist area of expertise. Either way, the employers that we work closely in partnership with have a direct link to the most suitable candidates for employment.”

Northumberland College works with over 1,000 regional employers from diverse sectors to improve skills and training opportunities for young people and employees. For more details about programmes available, go to www.northumberland.ac.uk  or t: 01670 841200.

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