Northumberland College, part of Education Partnership North East, has signed a groundbreaking apprenticeship agreement with battery pioneer Britishvolt to provide skills training to some of the 3,000 people who will work at the company’s huge new gigaplant.
Work has already started on the Britishvolt site at Cambois, turning former coal yards at the old Blyth Power Station into an enormous factory manufacturing batteries for electric cars. The site is the size of 50 football pitches and the development will create about 3,000 direct highly-skilled jobs and more than 5,000 in the supply chain.
The college’s campus in Ashington is only four miles from Britishvolt’s site and won the sought-after apprenticeship contract after a thorough tender process.
Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive for Education Partnership North East, said: “As Britishvolt accelerate the electrification of our communities to support the UK’s decarbonisation agenda, it was important that we could integrate world class facilities into this ambitious and exciting new partnership.
“With Britishvolt’s arrival in Northumberland and the Department for Education backing a new build for Northumberland College, our unique partnership will not only see the alignment of industry to technical skills and apprenticeship training, it will also support increased access to jobs for local people, enhance economic productivity, energy transition and the race to zero. This really is a brilliant example of levelling up.”
The college will initially provide training for entry-level apprentices at Britishvolt – operators on the production line and engineering technicians. Ahead of the gigaplant starting up production, a pilot engineering technician apprenticeship programme will start this September.
It was announced earlier this month that Northumberland College had acquired a 5.7 acre site on the business park to relocate its award-winning provision. The Department for Education (DfE) will develop the new campus on behalf of the college.
Iain Nixon, Vice Principal Partnerships and Commercial for Northumberland College, Education Partnership North East, said: “Our new campus will provide the perfect learning environment for all of our apprentices and Britishvolt will help us shape those facilities as well as helping us determine what specialist equipment is required to ensure our provision is aligned to Britishvolt’s future skills needs.
“We’ll help Britishvolt recruit the apprentices – identifying suitable candidates for them. The development of the gigaplant is a fantastic opportunity for young people on our existing engineering courses, and for school leavers across the county.”
Commenting on the news, Minister for Skills Alex Burghart said: “The UK is leading the way in supporting cutting edge green industries and it is brilliant to see apprentices take their rightful place at the forefront of our green skills revolution.
“This deal proves what is possible when colleges and companies work together to meet the needs of learners, local communities and the economy, and I would encourage all colleges to follow Northumberland’s example.”
As well as training Britishvolt apprentices, Northumberland College will be working with the company’s foundation, The BV FutureGen Foundation, which aims to help build a better future in Northumberland and further afield.
Iain added: “We’re excited to be working with the Foundation – its ambition to raise aspirations and tackle socials issues is perfectly aligned with our own aims. We hope to collaborate in their outreach work and look at additional support including English and Maths teaching.
“There are other areas such as industry placements, guest lectures and ongoing help to shape our curriculum that we hope to work on through what we see as a strategic, long-term partnership with a major, important employer.”
Britishvolt has also signed a strategic partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry, a deal which will link the Northumberland site with the West Midlands.
Katie Sloggett, Head of Learning and Development at Britshvolt, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work within our local communities and help generate the skills required for Britain to play its part in the next industrial revolution. These partnerships will initially create opportunities for apprentices at levels 2-4, in time forming part of a wider electrification skills pathway towards higher-skills, up to and including level 8 (PhD).
“I’m very excited for the boost for Northumberland and the West Midlands. These agreements, alongside the broader technical training programme, will ensure we have the people and skills we need for the 3,000 direct highly skilled jobs (and another 5,000+ indirect wider supply chain roles). Building the batteries that will power our electric vehicles for a cleaner, greener future.”
Once at full capacity, which is expected to be towards the end of the decade, the gigaplant will have a production capability equating to approximately enough cells for well over 300,000 electric vehicle battery packs a year, intended primarily for the automotive industry. It will be the company’s first large full cycle gigaplant in the UK.
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