DONG Energy has revealed details of its Walney Extension community skills fund which will pump £100,000 a year 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 community benefit fund in support of the Walney Extension offshore wind farm, currently under construction nine kilometres off the Cumbrian coast, near Barrow-in Furness.
The first £100,000 Skills Fund allocation will:
Fund scholarships for up to seven students to undertake specific engineering courses at Furness College. The £45,000 annual funding will support students who would otherwise have been unable to afford to participate in the courses.
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 a locally based co-coordinator to work with primary and secondary schools, colleges and employers in and around Barrow-in-Furness.
Fund hardship grants with £20,000 being shared to support students facing financial difficulties at Blackpool and Fylde College, Furness College, and Lancaster & Morecambe College. Among other things the money will help student struggling to afford course books or pay for travel to and from 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.
"I am delighted that we have been able to ring-fence £100,000 a year for skills development from the Walney Extension Community Benefit Fund which will be available throughout the 25-year operational life of the in wind farm.
He added: "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.
"Through the Walney Extension Community Skills Fund and other initiatives, we are creating a journey for local young people to access our growing industry and develop the skills they need for a bright future."
Kate Coleburn, Head of Area for Technical and Build Engineering at Furness College, said the bursaries were designed for at those who are not currently in employment or who want to retrain as engineers.
She said: "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.
"Through this scheme DONG Energy has created a wonderful opportunity that breaks down financial barriers to achieving higher education qualifications including achieving a degree."
Lynda Mann, Head of 5-19 Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering said: "Dong Energy's generous support will help strengthen and expand the Furness Education and Skills Partnership, and the Academy's Barrow Engineering Project, which has worked closely with the local community since 2008 to help promote and develop STEM education.
"The Partnership performs a key role by bringing local employers and schools together to improve the STEM learning experience, help students obtain key employability skills and encourage them to pursue rewarding and fulfilling STEM careers in the local area."
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. A £15 million Community Benefit 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.
For full, details of the first allocation under the Skills Fund, please visit the website of national grant-making charity Grantscape who manage the Walney Extension Community Benefit Fund on DONG Energy's behalf.