DONG Energy Allocates First Walney Extension Skills Fund

DONG Energy Allocates First Walney Extension Skills Fund

DONG Energy has revealed details of its Walney Extension community skills fund which will invest £100,000 a year for the next 25 years into equipping people to work in engineering industries in the coastal areas of Lancashire and Cumbria.

The money has been made available as part of the Walney Extension Community Fund in support of the 660MW Walney Extension offshore wind farm, currently under construction next to the 367.2MW Walney offshore wind farm, nine kilometres off the Cumbrian coast, near Barrow-in Furness. The wind farm will consist of 40 8MW MHI Vestas and 47 7MW Siemens wind turbines.

The first £100,000 Skills Fund allocation will channel £45,000 towards funding of scholarships for up to seven students to undertake specific engineering courses at Furness College. This annual funding will also in the future support students who would otherwise have been unable to afford to participate in the courses.

The first Skills Fund will also provide £35,000 to the Royal Academy of Engineering for the Barrow Engineering Project and the Furness Education and Skills Partnership, which is being match-funded by the Furness Economic Development Forum. This will allow them to recruit two locally based co-coordinators to work with primary and secondary schools, colleges and employers in and around Barrow-in-Furness.

The remaining £20,000 will go towards hardship grants being shared to support students facing financial difficulties at Blackpool and Fylde College, Furness College, and Lancaster & Morecambe College.

Brent Cheshire, DONG Energy’s UK Country Chairman, said: “DONG Energy is committed to large-scale investment and growth in the communities in which we operate. We want to ensure students leave local colleges with the skills, qualifications and aspiration to access the growing number of job opportunities being created in sectors like offshore wind in their own regions. Investing in education is part of DONG Energy’s long term strategy. We will be supporting a range of skilled jobs in the area over the coming decades in order to maintain and operate our windfarms. We want to ensure these opportunities are accessible to local people.”

Walney Extension is due to be completed in 2019 when it will become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, capable of meeting the electricity needs of 500,000 UK homes.

The £15 million Walney Extension Community Fund was announced last year which will support local projects with grants totaling around £500,000 each year. An additional £100,000 a year was ring-fenced for the Skills Fund.

Kate Coleburn, Head of Area for Technical and Build Engineering at Furness College, said the bursaries were designed for those who are not currently in employment or who want to retrain as engineers.

“Some people have the skills to be world-class engineers but they may struggle to finance themselves through courses that can help them realise their dream. For others, this could open up a career change where they take advantage of the growth in the engineering sector locally,” Coleburn said.

“Through this scheme DONG Energy has created a wonderful opportunity that breaks down financial barriers to achieving higher education qualifications including achieving a degree.”