Offshore wind will lose out on future workers unless businesses invest time in working with schools, an east coast industry leader warns.
More than 6000 jobs are expected to be created in Norfolk and Suffolk by 2032 but the message will only get into schools if the industry makes time to work with them, he said.
This summer, Graham Hacon, Chief Executive of technician and inspection leaders 3sun Group, offered five local secondary schools in the Great Yarmouth area structured week-long work experience for 14 to 15-year-olds.
More than 20 young people discovered the different roles it takes to run a supply chain company, spent time with team managers, visited the base of an operating offshore wind farm and experienced working at height and some of the basic training.
“Offshore wind is the fastest-growing industry on the east coast promising decades of new careers for young people as its investment regenerates our coastal communities,” he said. “But we can’t rely on schools to pass on this message. It is down to industry to do our bit and work with schools and the young people to show what is out there for them. Otherwise we will lose them to other sectors.
“If young people don’t know what jobs there are, they don’t know what to aim for. What they learn in our work experience programme is that there is more to the industry than the technical side. Our business needs people who build careers in HR, accounts, marketing, IT and so much more.”
Norfolk and Suffolk are at the epicentre of UK offshore wind development with some of the largest wind farms off its coast. The industry is in the vanguard of the latest technology and innovation and offers the prospect of travel.
Mr Hacon’s ethos is providing jobs for local people and raising aspirations in his local area. 3sun Group teams of technicians and engineers have worked on all the major wind farms off the coast of the UK and northern Europe.
Year 10 students had tastes of working high up a turbine tower, visited a transition piece at the SSE’s Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm off Lowestoft, where 3sun Group teams have worked throughout its history and learned how safety is at the core of the industry.
Zak Brown, 15, who takes his GCSEs at Cliff Park Ormiston Academy, Gorleston, next year, discovered he was interested in a career in human resources. “It was something I had never thought about until I heard what they did here.”
James Murray, 15, is now setting his sights on a career as a Turbine Technician. “I enjoyed working at height and am attracted to the opportunities the career involves because I want something practical, hands-on with challenges. I am looking for an outdoor career and working on turbines offshore offers what I am really interested in, especially now that I know what is involved and the opportunities ahead.”
3sun Group Apprenticeships Coordinator Colin Drewitt, said: “We offer real work experience. They learn the different jobs needed to run a business in offshore wind.
On the last day, they spot issues on an on-site inspection and work with the health and safety team about how to remedy them.” 3sun Group presented each student with a certificate to add their experience to their CVs.