Freeport East skills challenge

With the recent awarding of freeport status to the ports of Harwich and Felixstowe, ‘Freeport East’ will provide a huge opportunity to drive economic growth, creating thousands of skilled jobs in the East of England. Colchester Institute, which already operates the ‘Energy Skills Centre’ from Parkeston, is looking forward to expanding its operations in the town to meet increasing demand for vocational and technical skills.

On a recent visit to the Centre, Principal and Chief Executive of Colchester Institute, Alison Andreas, spoke in detail about this positive news.

“It will be a tough labour market for young people, and adults, in the coming few years, and many will be wondering about future employment prospects. But seeing more employers, including many larger organisations, and some in new innovative industries, establishing a base in and around the ports of Harwich and Felixstowe, will give them confidence that, with the right skills, they can secure and retain good jobs with good prospects, with good employers’’.

Having opened in 2013 following a £500,000 investment, the centre is committed to supporting local skills needs in engineering, focusing particularly, but not exclusively on jobs in off-shore wind. The Centre has enabled hundreds of adults in and around Harwich to take advantage of local opportunities, by gaining fabrication, welding, and other engineering skills, often complemented by short safety qualifications taken at the College’s Colchester campus, such as Working at Heights and Working in Confined Spaces.

The Government’s recent FE White Paper, ‘Skills for Jobs’, highlights the critical importance of Further Education Colleges in rebuilding the economy and levelling up, acknowledging that Colleges are most successful when working in close partnership with employers.

Alison explained, “From our campuses across Braintree, Colchester and Tendring, we have a very strong track record in working closely with employers to support their workforce needs.  This can be through co-developed and co-delivered bespoke training for the current workforce, it can be through our extensive apprenticeship provision, or through the strong pipeline of talent that employers can tap into as students leave our College or University Centre with the vocational and technical skills, the knowledge, and the qualifications – at all levels – to progress in, or start their careers”.

Freeport East will have a key focus on decarbonisation, and the College sees this as a particular additional draw. “The green agenda is so important to very many of today’s young people who are desperately keen to make a difference in this area.  Enabling students to gain the skills they need to take up jobs that will be created in clean energy – off shore wind, hydrogen and potentially new nuclear developments, will be so important.  But of course, the freeport is not just about green technologies; freeports will need everything, from the construction of new buildings, to business and administrative roles, and the whole supply chain too. As opportunities increase and individuals and families move into the area, demand for other roles will also increase”.

Sophie Jarvis studies on an electronic engineering programme at the college, and is delighted with the focus on renewable energy “I have always wanted to make a difference, making energy cleaner and more efficient, therefore reducing the carbon footprint, is the way forward”.

Alison said, ‘It’s great to think that those living in coastal areas might be the first to benefit from this investment and the job opportunities it will bring. Freeport East is good news for employers, it’s good news for us, and it’s great news for our current and future students. We really look forward to being part of its future success”.