New energy training centre opens in East of England

A new training centre has opened offering a variety of energy-related courses to help meet the increasing shortage of skills in the sector.

A ribbon cutting ceremony at the new OEA training academy.

OEA, a leading provider of energy training courses, launched East Anglia Academy this week, offering courses both for young people starting their careers and established tradespeople looking to upskill in renewable energy.

The academy, in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, was officially opened by Charlie Mullins OBE, founder of the multi-million-pound Pimlico Plumbers, alongside leading figures from trade, businesses, and the public sector, including Huntingdonshire District Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. 

A wide range of courses are on offer across gas, electrical, plumbing, oil, and renewable energy skills.  

Many tradespeople will benefit

During the official ribbon-cutting event, Charlie Mullins said: “I was inspired by a plumber at a really young age which led me to an apprenticeship. I then went on to build and run Pimlico Plumbers – a company that supported 1,500 apprenticeships, until I sold it for £145 million.  

“This is the first facility of its kind in the East of England region, and I am absolutely over the moon to be here today at the opening. To say I’m impressed is an understatement. So many tradespeople will benefit from this academy, whether for plumbing, gas, electric or renewable skills, and we hope to encourage many young people to follow this much-needed career path.

“The support from across the region has been amazing, and I hope this will be the start of something big.” 

The state-of-the-art, fully equipped academy is in partnership with Reed Environment, which was launched by Reed in Partnership in July 2023 to create an essential, specifically-trained green workforce to help the UK meet its Net Zero targets. 

Tom Hoines, energy services director for Reed Environment, said: “OEA’s reputation, experience and expertise makes them the perfect partner to be working with. We are delighted to be helping them scale while addressing the escalating skills shortage to create the next generation of talented and environmentally aware electricians and plumbers.” 

Pipeline of new talent urgently needed

OEA is already recognised for providing accreditation to existing trade workers from the original academy in Oxford. Dave Bendell, founder of OEA, added: “The industry urgently needs a pipeline of new and accredited talent if it is to keep up with demand. OEA is working to address this and promote the need for green skills, and to be supporting businesses locally.  

“Our Energy Academies are accredited end-point assessment centres which means that learning and assessment can be completed in the same place. To date, we have obtained a 100% success rate regarding end-point assessments and are thrilled to now be bringing Electrical Apprenticeships to the East of England. We are taking bookings for the first apprentices in September 2024, and upskilling for existing trades is available immediately.”  

Last year, the Trade Skills Index warned of a ‘catastrophic’ and increasing skills shortage impacting the UK’s trades and construction sector.  

According to the report, an estimated 937,000 qualified new tradespeople need to be introduced into the sector by 2033 to plug the void already exacerbated by dwindling apprenticeship interest, an ageing workforce, and a recent exodus of EU workers. 

With trade vacancies now at a record high, the need for a new, dedicated trade skills training has never been more important.

Image credit: Ian Olsson