National trailblazer for a smarter energy future

The UK energy market is experiencing a technological transformation with the roll out of smart meters across the UK now in full swing. Along with our partners, G4S Utilities, and Energy & Utility Skills, we are pioneering a new dual fuel smart meter apprenticeship to deliver the training needed to meet the high demand for an extra 6,000 smart meter installers and training to upskill 3,000 existing installers by 2019. 

Always at the forefront of working with business and developing flexible ways to address the needs of employers, Gateshead College is powering ahead, creating a specialist apprenticeship for 16-18 year olds with partners G4S Utilities and Energy & Utility Skills - an employer-led member organisation that is helping to futureproof the skills base in the gas, power, waste management and water industries.

Known as a Trailblazer Apprenticeship - where employers work with training providers to produce new apprenticeship standards for jobs in their sector – the bespoke course replicates real-life smart meter installation techniques. This fully prepares the apprentice with an industry-recognised qualification plus a broader set of technical skills.  And with the demands of the role requiring customer interaction to explain how the system works, communication and customer service training feature heavily in the course delivery.

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, explains: “Our enviable track record of working with businesses in response to the challenges presented by new and evolving technologies means that we have been able to provide G4S with a highly customised course that is working for them and giving its employees the skills and knowledge they need to get the job done.

“Our specialist and experienced business team is committed to providing innovative and bespoke training for employers and we’re proud to be the only college in the country proactively addressing the skills shortage in the energy sector through the 16-18 dual fuel apprenticeship, supporting G4S as they complete one of the biggest and most ambitious projects currently underway in the UK.”

James Fatherley, head of resourcing at G4S Utility Services, added: “The introduction of smart metering has meant that we need a workforce that can adapt to the demands of advances in dual fuel technology while also having the softer skills to provide exemplary customer care when carrying out installations in homes and businesses across the UK.

“Gateshead College has worked with us to develop a robust training course that gets our meter installers out in the field quickly and fully equipped to complete the job to a high standard.”

The partnership represents a national shift in training young people to meet the skills needs of the energy sector. A move welcomed by Energy & Utility Skills which spearheads the Energy & Efficiency Industrial Partnership (EEIP).

Sophie Wells, client insight manager at Energy & Utility Skills, said: “The energy and utility sector has historically struggled to provide practical training and work experience for the 16-18 age group. Our main focus is to maintain momentum and hone in on this valuable apprenticeship pilot to ensure its future sustainability while creating a steady stream of young talent to meet the demands of the smart meter installer workforce requirement over the coming years. 

“Thanks to a successful partnership with Gateshead College, G4S and ourselves, the apprenticeship has the best chance of being an award winning programme, delivered through the passion of all partners involved.”

Gateshead College’s status as an outstanding FE provider has been further cemented with the dual fuel smart meter installer (electricity and gas) apprenticeship achieving gold standard accreditation from the Energy & Efficiency Industrial Partnership - an organisation which is leading a radical new approach to recruitment and training to solve skills shortages across the energy sector. This, combined with employer endorsement, perfectly showcases how apprenticeship training can lead to a rewarding career in a skilled job. 

The funding for Gateshead College apprenticeship programmes is made available via the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The Skills Funding Agency are responsible for improving the skills of England’s young people and adults to ensure we have a workforce of world-class standard. The European Social Fund is transforming lives through better skills and better job prospects.