UK wind apprenticeship scheme aims to bridge skills gap

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The UK’s Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) - the national body responsible for developing and benchmarking standards and skills in the power sector - recently launched its Wind Turbine Installation and Commissioning Apprenticeship.

The second part of the UK's first wind power-dedicated apprenticeship, it's designed to develop skills of new recruits to the sector, funnelling new talent through to a career in renewables.

The scheme is dedicated to wind turbine installation and commissioning with the aim of feeding what is a burgeoning sector.

Installation engineers
With as many as 70,000 new renewables roles needing to be filled in the next ten years, the Apprenticeship is one of two Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) developed with industry to offer recruits a way into the sector. And to-date, 183 students have already qualified or are studying the courses, running in colleges throughout the UK.

The Advanced Level Apprenticeships in Wind Turbine Operations and Maintenance and Wind Turbine Installation and Commissioning – the latter launched in late 2013 – are helping the UK meet Government targets to generate 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Neil Robertson, Chief Executive of EU Skills, the employer-led organisation responsible for benchmarking and developing skills in the sector, said: “The power industry employs more than 87,000 people, but faces losing 80 per cent of its existing workforce in the next 10 years, mainly due to retirement of an ageing workforce.

“This loss in employee numbers, exacerbated by the need for low carbon energy solutions that utilise new technologies and techniques, means we are seeing a skills gap open up. In addition, an increase in demand for power means this industry must shift to play its part in maintaining the wellbeing of the UK economy.”

By 2024, EU Skills figures show that the power industry needs to recruit 45,000 to 55,000 new employees. Meanwhile its recent study with RenewableUK, ‘Working for a Green Britain and Northern Ireland 2013-2023’, revealed that In the last two years, direct jobs have increased by 74 per cent, to just under 18,500, with a further 16,000 people in related positions.

What’s more, depending on whether high or low growth predictions surrounding the wind and wave power boom occur, between 16,443 and 55,683 direct jobs could be created in that ten-year period.

Mr Robertson added: “These Apprenticeships are so important for supplying competent people that are able to develop, maintain and enhance the industry for the future. Without a workforce equipped with the skills to manage a changing renewable landscape, we risk being unable to keep the lights on in the future.”

Both Wind Turbine Apprenticeships offer a skills development programme that is designed in partnership with employers, offering technical knowledge and practical experience.

Among employers with apprentices currently on courses are Siemens, with 92 and RWE, with 10. On the technician route, DONG Energy has eight students on the full Apprenticeship, while 35 of its technicians have passed and 35 are soon to start the competence-based qualification (CBQ) created for the Apprenticeship, demonstrating competence in the field. These Apprenticeships are being delivered in colleges around the UK, including Newcastle, Kent, Lincoln, Fife and North Wales.

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