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Jobs for the Wind Industry

Meeting last month in Liverpool at the British wind industry's annual conference, leaders from the UK power sector business, government and academia signed up to a new sector training and skills route map to train up to 60,000 new technicians and engineers.

Opening the summit, BWEA Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said: "The task ahead of our sector is enormous, as are the opportunities if just half the manufacturing for the next generation of offshore wind farms takes place here in the UK then this industry will grow 10-fold from just 6,000 jobs today to 60,000 by 2020." She added, "But in order to attract the investment and build that industry we need to have a skilled workforce ready to work in the sector. However, today we are already suffering from a growing shortage of qualified technicians and professional engineers." "If we can get this right, we can create thousands of green collar jobs for the UK, and wind and renewables will power the green economy for a generation to come." Also announced at the conference was the prediction that UK wind power capacity will exceed nuclear power generation in the region by 2012.

The UK wind power sector may seem unstoppable; however the industry is facing major challenges at local council level. The BWEA State of the Industry Report shows that despite the strong growth in the number of wind farms being built, there is now an alarming drop in the number of new applications being approved locally.

Charles Rose, acting chair of the BWEA skills and education strategy group, said: "Lots of people are very interested in the sector and if we require 60,000 trained people in order to meet targets then it is our job to harness this enthusiasm and to equip people to be able to join this industry." Mark Andrews, national apprenticeships ambassador, also spoke at the summit about how apprenticeships should be championed in "this exciting area of the market", but claimed employers must have an active role in making it happen.

Promoting the benefits of apprenticeships, he said: "It is a great route for career progression that should be recognised alongside graduates. You don't have to re-build people like you often have to do with graduates.

"Some people are late learners and if you don't give them a chance you could miss out on some great talent. Also, from a business perspective, the return on investment with apprenticeships makes clear business sense." Labour party general secretary Lord Whitty said the government was keen to work with the industry to develop a new apprenticeship scheme.

"There have been real barriers to the rapid deployment of wind power and the skills shortage has been one of them," he said. "The skills summit demonstrated the determination of the industry and educational bodies to address this shortage by bringing in an apprenticeship scheme as soon as possible."