A revolutionary project based in Ballymena, has received more than half-a-million-pounds of funding (£511,000) from the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund (CRF) to start a new Hydrogen Training Academy, which they say will help in the fight against climate change.
With hydrogen emerging as a leading sustainable energy solution, the first-of-its-kind project for Northern Ireland will enable and develop a dynamic, skilled workforce that can take full advantage of hydrogen and clean tech opportunities.
The Hydrogen Training Academy is one of 31 projects across Northern Ireland set to benefit from a total of £12million CRF funding – all focusing on skills, education, local business and employment.
Led by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, the Academy will be driven by a public-private partnership that includes Queen’s University, Ulster University, the University of Birmingham, Northern Regional College and Belfast Metropolitan College.
A consortium of key industry players also involved already includes Wrightbus, Energia, Translink, Firmus and EPUK with opportunities for other partners to come on-board as the project develops.
Professor David Rooney, Dean of Internationalisation and Reputation in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science at Queen’s University, comments:
“With COP26 taking place, sustainability is very much at the forefront of all of our minds. At Queen’s, we have been prioritising this as an area of research for many years and our world class experts have been working on many initiatives in the fight against climate change.
“Working in partnership with other institutions we will continue to use our expertise to develop cutting edge research and technology to drive forward change. I am also pleased that we will play an integral role in training our future leaders and the next generation of experts in the hydrogen economy.”
The development of the academy began earlier this year with the formal procurement of a new state-of-the-art training pod to support the practical training through the Hydrogen Training Academy. The training pod is being built by BSH Limited and will be delivered early in 2022.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, commented: “As all eyes around the world turn to COP26 and the urgent focus on environmental sustainability continues to gather pace, news of this funding really is very timely and very welcome indeed.
“Mid and East Antrim is uniquely placed in Northern Ireland in terms of the key strengths and assets we boast in energy and cleantech that align with zero carbon targets. Through this revolutionary Hydrogen Training Academy, our Borough will continue to build upon its reputation as centre of excellence and the main focal point of the emerging Northern Ireland wide hydrogen economy.
“I commend Council’s Elected Members and officers who, in collaboration with our public and private sector partners, have invested a huge amount of time and effort in bringing the project to this stage. I very much look forward to seeing the plans come to fruition in the coming months and witnessing the longer-term economic impact the Academy will undoubtedly have in the coming years.”
Graham Whitehurst MBE, Chair of Mid and East Antrim’s Manufacturing Task Force, explained how the Academy will play a “critical role” in training and upskilling both existing employees and new trainees to a recognised professional competence standard required for the hydrogen sector.
“The Hydrogen Training Academy will deliver a range of crucial entry-level introductory training for industry across a number of sectors, including energy, transport, gas, manufacturing and engineering,” he said.
“This training will be delivered via a combination of online, classroom and practical training with initial focus on two key areas of hydrogen – hydrogen gas basics and safety and hydrogen production.”
According to Mr Whitehurst, an initial pilot phase at the Academy will see 30 participants take part in a ‘Train the Trainer’ course, delivered by academics from the University of Birmingham, who have already successfully delivered their ‘KnowHy Training’ to over 1,000 participants.
Queen’s University and Ulster University will collaborate to develop a Level 7 postgraduate certificate in Hydrogen Power. Northern Regional College and Belfast Metropolitan College will draw upon the learning from participation on the Train the Trainer Programme to develop and accredit two Level 3 courses for delivery to young people and employees across the hydrogen industry.
“This Hydrogen Training Academy has been developed using a unique partnership approach involving Council, Further Education, Higher Education and industry. Their contribution has been, and will remain, critical to the overall success of the project and the future commercialisation of activity for the clean growth sector in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Whitehurst.