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Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, on the publication of the Green Jobs Taskforce report

In November 2020, government published its ambitious ten point plan for a green industrial revolution in the UK.

Focused on increasing ambition in emerging and growing sectors like offshore wind, low carbon hydrogen, and electrification, it cemented government’s aim to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic, support green jobs, and accelerate the UK’s path to net zero.

Announced as part of the ten point plan was the formation of a new Green Jobs Taskforce – made up of representatives from industry, trade unions, and the skills sector – which would set the direction of travel for the green jobs market.

On 15 July, the Green Jobs Taskforce published its first report to government, industry, and the skills sector, outlining the importance of investing in the UK workforce to ensure people develop the right skills to deliver the country’s net zero transition, and thrive in a green economy it creates.

The report is of particular relevance to the North East, where green jobs are poised to transform our economy. We are already one of the world’s leading destinations for offshore wind, and recent investments from Nissan and Britishvolt have put our region at the forefront of the electric vehicle market. Innovations in heat networks and other forms of low carbon heat – including mine energy – also position the North East to become the UK’s first low carbon heat cluster, which will see the region benefit greatly from the growth of the green economy.

So how do we plan to maximise on this unique opportunity and play a central role in helping the UK reach its net zero target by 2050? Working alongside partners in industry and academia, we’re mapping the current and future skills needs in the green economy to ensure sectors in the North East – particularly those with the biggest potential for growth – have access to the talent and expertise they need to scale.

As facilitator of the skills workstream for Energi Coast – North East England’s offshore wind cluster – the North East Local Enterprise Partnership is working with industry and the education sector to develop an action plan to meet the needs of the sector with demand-led provision. Central to this is the commitment to increase diversity and inclusion in the offshore wind industry, and the group is actively working with employers to review their current recruitment and retention processes to ensure opportunities are provided to all.

The Energi Coast skills group is also working on a series of case studies that will reflect the partnership approach adopted by the offshore wind industry, the education sector, and government, in ensuring green careers advice is available to people in all sectors and at every stage of the career journey; reinforcing the importance of reskilling and retraining in creating new green jobs.

The low carbon heat supply chain is another significant growth area for the region’s economy, and we’ve recently completed a piece of work to identify the opportunities that exist both now, and in the future, for supply chain businesses, and what this will mean for skills demands. Additionally, as outlined in our Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, we’re addressing the need for investment in skills and training around retrofitting by working with the North East and Yorkshire Local Energy Hub on a housing retrofit skills model.

The North East’s significant automotive cluster and hub of activity in the battery and electric vehicles sectors means it’s well placed as a UK centre to meet the global demand for electric vehicles, and help lead innovation in the sector. Nissan’s decision to open a new gigfactory battery plant at its site in Sunderland, and the news Britishvolt will open another gigfactory in Northumberland, demonstrates the industry’s level of confidence in the North East. To ensure we have the skills to meet the demand, we’re working with the North East Automotive Alliance to address skills development in electrification and electric vehicle batteries.

The North East LEP’s Skills team is working alongside the eight early adopter status T-Level providers in the region to help strengthen their links with the business community, ensuring the new vocational qualifications – which include a 45-day industry placement – meet the needs of employers, and help deliver the skills needed to meet the green jobs of the future.

The Skills team is also working with the North East Institute of Technology, local colleges, and major employers like Nissan and Esh Group, to highlight Higher Technical Qualifications in subjects like advanced manufacturing and other STEM topics, as skills in these areas will be central to delivering the green industrial revolution in the UK.

The green economies of the future offer a huge opportunity for the North East to grow its economy and create thousands of more and better jobs. But to do that, we need to invest in skills – both in our future workforce via schools, colleges and universities, but also in our workplaces, by re-training and re-skilling our existing workforce.

In doing so we’ll position the North East as a major destination for skills and talent in green jobs, helping attract more businesses to invest here, ensuring the North East is at the forefront of the UK’s green industrial revolution.

Read more about the North East LEP’s work to support and grow the North East energy sector.

Home / Green industrial revolution

North East leading on UK plan for a Green Industrial Revolution 

Globally significant work being carried out within the North East’s energy sector is leading the way on delivering the government’s Green Industrial Revolution plan which was announced in November, reinforcing the region’s position to lead delivery on the UK’s Net Zero agenda. 

The plan announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson includes 10 key areas of focus, which correspond with initiatives already being delivered in the North East and bring opportunities to create more and better jobs in the region. 

Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said: “The North East energy sector is already working together to deliver on national energy strategy while driving economic growth, and North East partners are collaborating nationally and internationally and investing £200 million over the next 10 years to deliver on energy opportunities.

“The announcement of the Green Industrial Revolution plan by the government further solidifies our ambitions and underlines our position as a leader in energy and clean growth, with pioneering work already underway across the plan.”  

The first of the 10 points in the government’s plan is offshore wind, a sector in which the North East is recognised as a global centre for the development of next-generation components, central to supporting the growth of the UK offshore wind sector. 

The North East’s offshore wind cluster is home to businesses that serve global markets and the cluster is growing, with the recent announcement that Equinor and SSE Renewables – two of the companies behind the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank – plan to create a new base at the Port of Tyne. The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, the UK’s leading research centre for renewable offshore energy, also has a base in the region, at Blyth in Northumberland, which plays an international role in test and validation of next generation turbine components. 

James Ritchie, chair of Energi Coast, the North East’s offshore wind cluster, said: “We know that there is the potential for the North East to support 9,000 jobs in the offshore wind sector by 2025, and we have the ambition and expertise to further grow our reputation as a world-leading cluster and international centre for innovation in offshore energy, working with regional partners and industry through Energi Coast to deliver on UK content and export goals.”  

The government’s plan also includes the aims to drive growth of low carbon hydrogen, and to develop a town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade. National research and demonstration of hydrogen as a zero-carbon fuel is taking place in the North East, with residents of Winlaton in Gateshead set to become the first users of a public UK gas network to receive blended hydrogen for heating and cooking through the HyDeploy project.

Keith Owen, Head of Systems Development and Energy Strategy at Northern Gas Networks said: “The North is ideally positioned to be at the forefront of emerging hydrogen and low carbon technologies and the North East Energy Catalyst will play a leading role in making this a reality. Through the HyDeploy project, based at our InTEGReL facility at Low Thornley, the community of Winlaton, Gateshead, will soon receive the first hydrogen blended gas delivered in a public network. In addition, at the InTEGReL site we’re building the UK’s first hydrogen house, which will be used to demonstrate hydrogen fed appliances and our innovative customer energy village will showcase the very latest hydrogen and other low carbon technologies, to demonstrate that a rapid hydrogen transition is possible.”      

The transition to electric vehicles – a field where the North East has capabilities unique across Europe, including multiple battery manufacturing facilities and a supply chain at the cutting edge of next-generation vehicle and battery technology – also features in the government’s plan.

The North East is also home to the national Driving the Electric Revolution Centre, headed up by Newcastle University, which will help propel UK manufacturing to the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change by enabling faster collaborative research and development of electric machines, including cars, planes and ships.

Paul Butler, Chief Executive of the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “Electrification is a huge opportunity to address decarbonisation and the climate emergency, and no other region in the UK can lay claim to the kind of capabilities we have in the North East when it comes to electric vehicle technologies.” 

Making homes and public buildings greener, more efficient, and moving away from fossil fuels, is another government priority and an area where the North East is driving forward economic opportunities associated with the development of low-carbon heating. 

Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East LEP, said: “We’re working with the government and other partners, through the Department for International Trade’s High Potential Opportunity Programme, to develop the North East as the UK’s first low-carbon heat supply chain cluster. We are home to pioneering delivery of low carbon heat technologies, including some of the UK’s most significant large scale mine heat projects, leading a national task-force on mine energy deployment, and a nationally-important trial of heat pump technology putting the region at the cutting-edge of testing the practical large-scale roll-out of heat pumps to homes.” 

The partnership between energy supplier E.ON and Newcastle City Council, funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has seen a large-scale demonstration and test of heat pumps, which extract energy from the air or ground to heat homes and businesses. 

Underpinning the government’s strategy is innovation and finance, and at the heart of energy innovation is the North East Energy Catalyst, a ground-breaking cross-sector partnership which unites the region’s unique base of innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities. Partners include public sector bodies, national agencies, private sector businesses and academia.

The Catalyst recently announced the launch of a new, multi-site £9m smart energy testbed, the Integrated Smart Energy Lab (ISE Lab) which will bring together the region’s smart energy capabilities to become the world’s first multi-site energy laboratory.

Tony Quinn, Test Facilities Director at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, said “The ISE Lab is a prime example of how the North East’s comprehensive energy innovation assets can be brought together to showcase solutions to global challenges. It will offer unique capabilities for commercialising smart energy solutions and it’s a project which speaks to the strength of collaboration within our region, combining assets from Newcastle University, Durham University and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in Northumberland.

“With networks like the North East Energy Catapult, we are poised to bring forward an ambitious contribution to the UK’s Net Zero innovation portfolio.” 

Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East LEP added: “We’re a region which is working collaboratively, not just within the North East, but with partners nationally and internationally, and we’re ready to use our strengths to help government and industry deliver the new plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.” 

The North East Energy for Growth strategy, which is led by the North East LEP, includes opportunities to build a pipeline of projects which align with national energy strategy. To find out more or to get involved, contact the North East LEP Energy Programme Lead, Andrew Clark, on [email protected]