Ayr College students are being given a unique insight into the UK’s largest onshore windfarm. The 12 students are studying to become wind turbine technicians through a specially-devised diploma launched in March that is supported and part-funded by Whitelee Windfarm operator ScottishPower Renewables.
Angela Constance MSP, Minister for Youth Employment, met with the students to hear about the course and discuss their ambitions to establish a career in renewable energy. Scottish Power Renewables engineers also took the students on a tour of the site, giving them an opportunity to learn more about the operations at Whitelee as well as having the chance to ask any questions they had about the windfarm or working in their chosen industry.
For over two years ScottishPower Renewables has been part of a working group seeking to develop an industry recognised Wind Turbine Technician training course in both Dumfries & Galloway and Ayr colleges. As well as the recently launched course at Ayr College, Dumfries & Galloway College aim to launch a further course later this year. The overall ambition is to encourage more local employment opportunities in renewable energy for people living in the South West of Scotland, a region which has seen substantial investment in renewable energy over the last decade.
The working group was created with ScottishPower Renewables, Dumfries and Galloway College, Ayr College and The Energy Skills Partnership. In addition, ScottishPower Renewables has also provided funding towards the course, has helped to ensure the qualifications are relevant to the skills needs of the industry, and has donated a range of decommissioned turbine parts and equipment to ensure that students gain realistic hands on experience.
Simon Christian, UK Managing Director at ScottishPower Renewables, said: “The renewable energy industry in Scotland has seen billions of pounds of investment in recent years, and this creates highly skilled, long-term employment opportunities. The industry continually needs qualified technicians who can help to maintain wind turbines. We have been working hard to ensure that colleges can offer courses that deliver exactly what the industry needs in terms of skills, which in turn helps participants get employed in the industry on completing their course.
“We are delighted to see that the course at Ayr College is now underway, and we look forward to the launch of the further course at Dumfries and Galloway College later this year. The South West of Scotland has seen considerable investment in renewable energy, including some key projects by ScottishPower Renewables. We have 168 turbines in operation across six windfarms in this region, with a further 167 turbines in construction or approved. Courses like this will provide local people with the opportunity to be employed on the local windfarms. These are highly-skilled jobs that will be required for the lifetime of the windfarm.”
Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance MSP said: "Scotland’s renewable energy resource is unrivalled in Europe and demands a skilled workforce if we are going to meet our ambitious renewable energy targets.
“ScottishPower Renewables is among the many employers seeing the benefits of making young people their business and I am delighted to be able to meet the first of the Ayr College students beginning their training to become wind turbine technicians. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting more young people into work, and collaborating with Scotland’s key industries is creating even better opportunities for training, employment and long term careers.”
John Muir, Acting Principal at Ayr College said: “It is great to know that colleges in Scotland are at the centre of new developments and initiatives in renewable energy – and thus we are being so encouraged and supported in our work by both major industries such as Scottish Power Renewables and government. Ayr and Dumfries and Galloway colleges, in partnership with key others such as the Energy Skills Partnership, are delighted to be at the leading edge of new provision by offering this exciting new 18 month Turbine Technician course. We are sure that the skills and qualifications our students will develop will make them highly employable in this field and together we will all further contribute to making Scotland a greener and more sustainable place to live in.”
Jim Brown, Director at the Energy Skills Partnership, said: “The approach taken to develop this programme demonstrates excellence in partnership working. The approach taken to develop the local skills for local jobs to support the delivery of local wind projects is absolutely fantastic. It demonstrates what can be achieved when a true partnership approach is taken. I’m sure the students commencing on this programme will have long and prosperous careers based on a strong foundation of engineering skills.”
The 18 month course covers basic engineering skills as well as the underpinning knowledge element of the Turbine Technician Modern Apprenticeship (MA). The course consists of a City and Guilds Course in Wind Turbine Operation and Maintenance and an SVQ in Performing Engineering Operations. This approach will enable the wind industry to train and recruit turbine technicians more quickly due to the traditional 4 year college release programme being shortened into an 18 month full time course.
The course is being delivered as a pilot initially with 12 places in Ayr College and a further 12 places in Dumfries and Galloway College later this year.