Skills from steel could thrive in offshore wind

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 15 Dec 2015

EMERGING offshore training giant AIS has vowed to work with the steel sector and the wider community to ensure northern Lincolnshire's work force is ready for opportunities blowing this way.

A £4 million investment in a training village at HCF Catch is ramping up, with the next 12 months to see a transformative expansion of the Stallingborough base to incorporate vital sea survival skills.

Land alongside the 10-year-old facility is being purchased to enable world class award-winning facilities at North Shields to be replicated.

David Bowyer, director of training and education at AIS, is excited by the prospects for the area, and it is not just training to be mirrored, but the approach to a beleagured existing industry too.

He said: "It is about trying to raise awareness in the community, around the opportunities the energy sector can offer. In wind, we've seen Round One and Two, and the real potential of Round Three, and there's oil and gas as well. It is something we need, and people need educating.

"There is a need for people who want to start to construct their career, so they are ready when the big boys come in and create the jobs, and we are available for companies and individuals.

"We look at SSI in Redcar, Tata Steel in Scunthorope, and these types of backgrounds, the experience they hold, and this type of training can have a really positive impact.

"We went to the SSI careers fair in Middlesborough, and talked to people about their skills sets. They are exactly the right type of people we want."

With funding available for stricken workers through local authority schemes and private redundancy packages, the financial case is there. Demand will follow soon too, with the likes of Dong Energy and RWE Innogy requiring hundreds of permanent employees before the decade is out following a commitment to offshore wind from Government this past month.

Mr Bowyer, who joined AIS 12 months ago, said: "We have had a fantastic response for what we have created in North Shields, and it is exactly the type of thing we are to replicate in Grimsby now. There is no reason why we cannot work with Tata there and create a really positive story.

"We will be able to offer the full package, everything, and the real strength of Catch is some of its partners.

"We know we can provide a course and a service, equally as well as certified refreshers. This type of programme is for the local community, and it is important to get the region behind us. If we can support the successful employment into the energy sector, it releases that potential."

Launched in 2007, 2,000 people have found jobs after passing through the doors of the £10 million training village that has been built up in that period. And that career ladder is as important as being able to open the doors to the blue chip operators.

"The results of this industry emerging will be very tangible in places like Grimsby, where it is right on the doorstep.

"We are fortunate that we have a cracking relationship with all partners. We hope in the next 12 months we will be providing the delegate accommodation and full survival experience, as well as the working at height and lifting facilities that are already in place."

AIS is a holder of the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise, having received the honour just weeks before Grimsby MP Melanie Onn cut the ribbon at Kiln Lane. As Business Telegraph paid a visit to North Shields, managing director Paul Stonebanks was being honoured by the British Chambers of Commerce.

"We have grown over the last seven years 100 per cent year-on-year," said Mr Bowyer. "The last 12 months has seen us double the size of the workforce. We have expanded in to Aberdeen and Grimsby, there is a lot to shout about.

"We pride ourselves on recruiting and retaining great staff and the feedback we receive is outstanding. Our goal is to provide a world class experience.

"We talk about training, we read about it, but unless you experience it fully, you don't know if you can jump into a pool or climb a ladder," Mr Bowyer added. "We openly encourage people to come in and have a look around, as that could be the starting point."

This article first appeared in December's Business Telegraph, a 28-page edition free with today's Grimsby Telegraph. Find out what happened when our business editor experienced the training on offer!

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