Highland training centre preparing renewable energy staff vital to net-zero targets

11/03/2024
Working at height training at Aurora Energy Services' Renewable Energy Training Centre in Inverness

THE HIGHLANDS’ first internationally approved wind turbine safety and technical training centre will train up to 1,000 workers each year who will be crucial to Scotland’s transition to a net-zero economy.

Aurora Energy Services (Aurora), with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), has invested £1.2 million to establish The Renewable Energy Training Centre in Inverness – the only facility of its kind serving the Scottish Highlands.

The centre will focus on retraining oil and gas sector workers and preparing new entrants for deployment in the UK’s nascent renewables industries and HIE funding of £174,000 has contributed toward the initial fit-out costs of the building.

Located close to Inverness Harbour, the 11,000 sq ft facility has been fully accredited by the Global Wind Organisation (GWO), the world’s leading safety training body representing wind turbine manufacturers, owners and operators; by IRATA, the world’s leading authority on industrial rope access and training; and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB).

Aurora will provide safety training, accreditation and advanced technical skills courses for more than 1,000 people a year, including a programme of inaugural and refresher courses which are needed to work in the onshore and offshore wind sector and other renewables industries.

A report by the Offshore Wind Industry Council in June 2023 claimed that to manage the UK offshore wind project pipeline, the industry needs to be able to attract and retain an average of 10,000 people per year, and forecast that by 2026 nearly 89,000 jobs will be needed – an increase of 56,000 on the current workforce.

David Duguid, Aurora Energy Services Operations Director UK North, said: “Wind energy project operators and developers are struggling to recruit staff with the prerequisite competency levels and that’s even before many of the recent successful ScotWind bids for fixed and floating windfarms get up and running.

“If Scotland is serious about meeting net-zero levels by 2045 we have to put in place the workforce to construct, maintain and service the vast wind-related infrastructure which is ongoing or coming down the line, and Aurora’s Inverness facility can play an important part in that process.”

Brian Robson, senior development manager with HIE’s Inner Moray Firth Team, said: “The renewables sector in the Highlands and Islands continues to grow steadily and the recent designation of the Inverness & Cromarty Green Freeport will support this. There will be a corresponding increase in demand for energy skills in the coming years and this latest project by Aurora will help meet this demand.”

Until now, prospective wind sector workers based in the Highlands, Western Isles and Orkney had to travel to Aberdeen, the Central Belt or north England to complete the required safety and technical training qualifications.

Aurora believes its Renewables Energy Training Centre will be an attractive proposition to individuals looking to transition into or starting out in a career in renewables, and to major renewables employers who can significantly reduce costs around staff safety and competency training.

David Duguid added: “As the Highland’s only triple-badged GWO, IRATA and ECITB accredited training centre, we expect there will be a lot of interest from experienced oil and gas workers who want to obtain the necessary qualifications which will allow them to transition into renewables.”

Employers who are active on projects in the north of Scotland and who rely on a Highland-based workforce may also prefer Inverness as a more convenient training location, rather than require staff to travel south to obtain certification, which generates higher transportation and accommodation costs.

Aurora’s Inverness facility includes modern classroom and audio visual assets, overhead craneage, working-at-height frame, rope access frames and a sea survival tank.

The company plans to double the number of training staff on its roster to 12 and its team include highly experienced IRATA approved professionals each with 20+ years of Rope Access experience.

In January, the Scottish National Investment Bank announced a £20 million investment package which will support Aurora’s domestic and international growth strategy which includes developing regional training hubs and workshop facilities to support the green energy supply chain.

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