1. ITV Report

Mind the gap: North East workers could miss out on boom industry

There's an cruel irony when it comes to unemployment. Thousands of people can't find work. But hundreds of our most ambitious employers can't find the right people for vacancies they're desperate to fill.

Nowhere is this more true than in the energy industry. Engineers and skilled technicians are in short supply, despite the long dole queue. The possibilities brought by renewable power - the industry of the future - are huge, but only if the North East can supply the people with the right skills to take advantage.

Shepherd Offshore last week announced plans to build new factories on the former Neptune shipyard in Newcastle. Credit: ITV

Companies including Freddie Shepherd's - which last week announced plans to build new factories on a former Tyne shipyard - are so concerned they're working with Newcastle College to train the next generation. Newcastle College's dedicated Energy Academy at Wallsend aims to give young people the skills to succeed in an industry which could create thousands of jobs in the next few years - and pays well to boot.

Chris Malley, 20, left school to become a joiner's apprentice, but couldn't find work during the recession, so is now retraining at the College, studying Renewable Energy.

"A lot of what we do in the Academy is give some of those additional skills that make people as job ready as we possibly can because there's a big expectation and a big requirement coming for a skilled workforce."

– Rob Storey, Newcastle College

Recent announcements on the River Tyne point to a bright future for renewable energy on Tyneside. In April, OGN announced up to 1,000 new jobs building 'jackets' for wind turbines.

According to SEMTA, the engineering skills council:

  • 8,500 engineers will be needed by 2016
  • 3,000 highly skilled engineers will be required by the offshore wind industry alone by 2019
  • 15,000 employees need to be upskilled to keep the region competitive
Osbit Power has created a stable step system for maintaining wind turbines. Credit: Osbit Power

Tony Trapp, who sold his renewables and sub-marine telecoms company EB for £30 million in 2008, believes young people need to be 'switched on' to engineering at a young age. He now runs Osbit Power, which creates safe access solutions for wind turbines.

Business leaders and local politicians believe renewable energy could generate a bright future for the North East. But there's little point if the next generation of workers can't benefit. If they can grasp the possibilities, they and the region could do very well indeed.