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Case Study

3sun Group - An Employer-led East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre

Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

The pioneering employer-led East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre launched in June 2018 offering transition courses to ensure a pipeline of skilled workers for the multi-billion-pound offshore wind farm investment off the east coast.

The Great Yarmouth-based centre was set up to address the skills gap in one of the most relevant areas in the global offshore wind sector to provide technician training for local people as investment in the industry grows and helps to regenerate the coastal communities of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

Lead employer 3sun Group, leading provider of services to the offshore wind industry, was joined by Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm and East Coast College to develop the skills centre based at East Coast College made possible by a £1.1 million grant from the New Anglia Skills Deal Programme, provided by Norfolk County Council, Suffolk local authorities and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

3sun Group, which has more than 200 turbine technicians and inspection engineers, led the employer engagement to launch the first 60 places.

The East of England is one of the most relevant areas in the global offshore wind sector and this investment reaffirms the longevity of our commitment to the region and to addressing the skills gap. The centre will be an important asset in enabling the next generation, and those who would like to retrain in renewables, to access the array of jobs available on our East Anglia projects in the region, the UK and across the world.

CEO Graham Hacon worked with developers, operators and supply chain companies to support the cost of training places. ScottishPower Renewables, developers of the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm and the wider East Anglia zone invested £55,000 to sponsor up to 13 places.

Up to £500,000 worth of equipment, including wind turbine generators, blades and hydraulics, was donated by companies, including more than £100,000 worth of hydraulics training equipment by Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm Ltd, a training turbine and components, including a generator, by ScottishPower Renewables, hydraulic rigs and other equipment by 3sun Group, and seats on transfer vessels for people on the 12-week programme to spend half a day offshore by Dalby Offshore.

The centre, in a refurbished building on the Great Yarmouth campus building, offers a three-week transition course targeting people with engineering backgrounds in allied industries and other related sectors, and a 12-week course for jobseekers and recent education leavers.

Training content was shaped by employers to ensure the most relevant skills for  installation, construction, commissioning and operations and maintenance. Delivery is by local training partners, Petans, East Coast College, 3sun Academy and National Wind Farm Training Centres.

The centre is an important asset in enabling the next generation, and those who would like to retrain in renewables, to access the array of jobs available on projects in the east of England, the UK and across the world.

Mr Hacon said: “The big barrier for people in this area to get into offshore wind is the enormous cost of the technical wind-related training. This provides the funding to remove this barrier.

“We are looking for more companies to be involved. The more that join, the greater benefit to the company when it is looking for skilled technicians.”

The 18-month programme is a precursor to next year’s launch of the £11.3m Energy & Engineering Skills Centre at East Coast College’s Lowestoft campus, also funded by the LEP.

Michael forges new career after wind skills transition course

Father-of-two Michael Montgomery had started a new career as an offshore wind turbine site technician within two days of completing the transition course at the East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre.

The 39-year-old applied to 3sun Group at the end of the three-week course and is now part of its team working on the East Anglian ONE project for ScottishPower Renewables.

The course meant that he could fulfil his ambition to return to his engineering training of 20 years ago and join the offshore wind industry.

Michael’s role was one of up to 30 new jobs created by Great Yarmouth-based 3sun Group to service the four work-package contract, forming an essential part of the 50% UK content for the £2.5bn EAONE project, and bringing real economic benefits to coastal communities that have suffered with the downturn in oil & gas and loss of fishing, boat building and manufacturing industries.

Michael said the course was his “final shot” to get into the industry.

“I can’t believe it. My college qualification 20 years ago was in engineering, fabrication, assembly and manufacturing with an initial plan of working offshore, but it didn’t work out then and I ended up in technical field sales and business development.

Michael, who lives at Stalham with his wife and 11-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter, “enjoyed every minute” of the three-week transition course.

“The last eight years have been spent in the maritime industry attending vessels, checking data and systems so I have technical experience offshore but the course set up to find people to work on the future projects has taken me where I want and need to be.”

“We are looking for more companies to be involved. The more that join, the greater benefit to the company when it is looking for skilled technicians.” – Graham Hacon, CEO, 3Sun Group