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Welsh Assembly to assist energy sector

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UK based skills development specialist, Appropriate Training, is managing a new project funded by the Welsh Assembly, designed to identify and address skills gaps within the energy industry. Running until December 2008, the project is able to offer a free training needs analysis to businesses working in any sector related to energy.

Supported by the Energy Institute and the Sector Skills Council, the project seeks to identify the skills requirements of energy businesses in Wales and its neighbouring countries and to help them to access sources of public funding such as the Workforce Development Discretionary Training Grant.

The free service has been established in recognition of the widespread changes that are taking place within the energy sector supply chain. Cleaner modern technologies, changing patterns of customer demand and many other factors are all driving a need for the adoption of new techniques and expertise and, says Cath Whelan, Managing Director of Appropriate Training, formal recognition of these skills is essential if standards, clarity and business competitiveness are to be maintained.

“The sector is witnessing fast changing demand for skills and a real diversification in terms of how customers obtain their energy,” she explains. “At an individual level, for example, many electricians are now having to learn new skills such as installing solar panels, while on a larger scale, we are seeing new technologies in power stations and a growing emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainability. Right across the industry, similar things are happening, such as the resurgence of small coal mines – around two hundred of which have recently re-opened – and all of these developments create a demand for new skills.

“In consequence, qualifications and other, non-accredited programmes need to be identified or developed so that people with relevant capabilities can be properly recognised and so that companies that need to develop new skills within their workforce know exactly how to go about getting them. This project is about assessing demand, researching what qualifications and courses are already out there, identifying the providers and, if there are any gaps in provision, looking at ways of introducing suitable new qualifications and specialist programmes. In essence, it’s about establishing real demand-led learning.

“The Welsh Assembly have been very much forward thinkers, in that they realise that companies need the skills support now, so they have also made funds available to cover non-accredited specialist programmes as well as more formal qualifications.”

The scope of the project will extend not only to activities such as re-skilling for employees in the mining, petrochemical and nuclear industries, but will also engage with supply chain business such as manufacturers of energy related products including low energy lighting systems, photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.

In addition to providing a free training needs analysis, Appropriate Training will also help eligible companies to identify relevant training grants and other publicly funded sources of business support. To assist those wishing to benefit from the new service, the company has launched a telephone helpline whereby UK businesses can call an adviser to discuss their skills development needs and to obtain help with accessing potential sources of funding.

For Welsh businesses that require additional training, the Welsh Assembly may be able to provide funding support of up to £10,000 as a contribution to the costs of commissioning the relevant services. Objective 1 funding from the Welsh European office has also been obtained to provide additional support for the project.

Further details about the new programme’s eligibility criteria and how to register for support can be obtained from the Appropriate Training website – www.appropriatetraining.co.uk

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