New Academy will heat up region’s job prospects

Stoke on Trent College has announced it will open the UK’s first national District Heat Skills Academy, training workers to deliver the UK’s newest energy infrastructure.

Opening this September, the Academy will see Stoke on Trent College partner with national and international organisations and companies including Smart City Alliance, Nordic Heat, Öresundkraft, City of Helsingborg, Swedish Energy Agency, Logstor, Cetetherm and Noda. These partners will train staff and students to design, supply and install the £500 million investment in Stoke’s future energy system over the next six years. The program involves the first sections of a future city-wide heat network, new Energy-from-Waste installation, geothermal heat sourcing and storage solution, high speed internet connection, solar and energy efficiency solutions in buildings.

The Burslem-based Academy will offer apprenticeships, full time courses and part time courses in building services, engineering, electrical installation, welding, plumbing, groundworks, highways maintenance and heating and ventilation.

Stoke-on-Trent is one of the first cities in the UK to start work on installing what will over time become a non-fossil, city-wide  district heat network, with the first pipes laid last September. The low maintenance sustainable energy scheme will involve laying more than 18km of pipe to distribute heat from low or non-fossil sources, including industrial waste heat and deep geo-thermal.

Peter Anderberg, founder of Nordic Heat and Smart City Alliance, is one of the partners involved in the project. He comments: “The District Heat Network represents a huge investment in Stoke-on-Trent and a major step forward in the adoption of sustainable energy systems in the UK. Experiences from Scandinavia shows that this will also have a major impact on boosting the local economy and creating new “green” career opportunities for young people.”

“We will be working closely with the college, the city council and other partners to ensure that local companies in the supply chain can be part of this major infrastructure project. To do this, they will need to have the right people in place with the right qualifications, and this is where the District Heat Academy at Stoke on Trent College is needed. Stoke is in pole position to become a centre of excellence in district heating in the UK, thereby attracting further investments and generating opportunities to become a partner in similar projects across UK and beyond.”

Kevin Smith, Director of Apprenticeships at Stoke on Trent College, adds: “We are working with Peter and other highly experienced Scandinavian professionals who are have pioneered the district network energy supply, with more than 50 years’ experience.

These experts will pass on their skills and experience to college lecturers and teaching staff, so that we can train a whole generation of people in the skills needed to design, supply and maintain the new geothermal energy networks.”

He adds: “This brings huge opportunities for local people to work on the network not just here in Stoke-on-Trent, but throughout the UK and overseas.”

District Heat Networks are already popular in Nordic countries such as Sweden and Norway. The networks are intended to reduce carbon emissions and ultimately cut energy prices, as well as creating employment opportunities.

For more information, visit the District Heat Skills Academy web page or call the College on 01782 603626.

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