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Suffolk windfarm apprentices ‘inspired’ by worldwide career opportunities

02/06/2022

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The newest apprentices on ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia ONE offshore windfarm believe their training in a fast-growing global industry will take them far while tackling the climate emergency.

George Browne, 17, and Bailey Woolston, 19, are months into the first year of their three-year training programme with the 102-turbine offshore windfarm in Lowestoft.

And already they are looking beyond their apprenticeships to long careers with opportunities to take their skills to new windfarms across the world.

They are among four apprentices training at the operations and maintenance base of the £2.5bn windfarm off the Suffolk coast that generates enough clean power for more than 600,000 homes.

Bailey, who lives at Acle, near Norwich chose an apprenticeship rather than university after his extended engineering diploma at the University Technical College Norfolk in Norwich.

“I knew I wanted to work in offshore wind after finding out about it at college. I would much rather be doing something practical and working on a career path, rather than a degree.”

Inspired by the worldwide opportunities ScottishPower Renewables offers, Bailey had a clear vision for his future.

“ScottishPower Renewables is part of Iberdrola, which is a Spanish company, developing offshore windfarms across the world and I hope what I learn and experience here in East Anglia will give me opportunities to  live and work in different countries.”

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George, from Blundeston, near Lowestoft, was studying electrical installation at East Coast College Great Yarmouth when he applied for the apprenticeship.

“When ScottishPower Renewables said they were looking for apprentices, I thought it was such an amazing opportunity and a way to work my way up the ladder.

“It’s not often opportunities like this come up locally, especially from such a big company, and I’m so glad I grabbed it with both hands.”

Like Bailey, George recognised the potential to travel and grow with ScottishPower Renewables.

“With so many renewables projects worldwide, it’s exciting to think about where I could end up.”

In five years’ time, George hopes to be working for ScottishPower Renewables as a high voltage technician.

He added: “I feel like I have a job for life, especially with plans for the East Anglia Hub – the industry is only going to progress. I can’t see myself anywhere else, I just love it here.”

ScottishPower Renewables’ East Anglia ONE apprenticeship programme includes on-the-job learning from the operations and maintenance team led by principal site manager, Steve Hodger.

“Being able to provide homegrown, clean, green electricity is more important than ever at the moment. It’s great to see the increased interest from people like George and Bailey who want a ‘green job’ and who want to work in an industry that makes a real difference for the planet as well as giving them a fantastic career. Across ScottishPower’s corporate apprenticeship programme, 2021 saw the highest number of applications in five years and that’s really encouraging.

“The training offers young people a fantastic career path as well as opportunities you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. And with work underway to deliver ScottishPower’s biggest-ever offshore pipeline – including some of the first floating wind projects in the world – those opportunities are just going to grow and grow.”

He continued: “George and Bailey are the second pair of apprentices we’ve taken on for East Anglia ONE. They’re both so enthusiastic and it’s great to find such talented youngsters locally. The skills and experience they are gaining will make them stand out from the crowd for years to come.”

Alongside on-the-job learning the apprentices take part in workshop and classroom studies at the East Coast College Energy Skills Centre in Lowestoft.

Both are looking forward to their offshore training to make their first trips to the turbines 43km from the coast.

Bailey said: “The first few months have been a real eye opener and have definitely confirmed this is the industry for me. I had no idea there was so much involved in running a windfarm. The number of different jobs – the health and safety aspects, and all the preparation that is needed to send a boat out in the morning.

“When I qualify, I will be a balance of plant technician working on turbines and the substation making sure all the assets are working. With the global expansion of the industry and working for an international company, this could be a career that takes me around the world.”

George, 17, is not old enough yet to go offshore: “At the moment I’m site-based and  trying to learn as much as I can from  my co-workers, get to grips with  all the terminology, so that when I do go offshore, I will have the turbine mapped. I can’t wait to take to the waters and get up close to the windfarm.”

East Anglia ONE provides enough clean, green power for more than 600,000 homes and 100 long-term skilled jobs have been created at the £25m operations and maintenance base in Lowestoft.

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