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Minister unveils National Grid skills centre


Skills minister David Lammy MP will unveil the first of two flagship skills development centres today. Built by the National Grid, the centre will specialise in practical, scenario-led courses for the company’s gas distribution workforce. Mr Lammy will open the multi-million pound building at Cadwell Lane in Hitchin, Hertfordshire as part of a major government drive to boost the UK’s skills base.

Joined by representatives from the Health and Safety Executive, Ofgem and National Grid directors, the minister will tour the state-of-the-art facility, meeting National Grid apprentices and viewing a practical assessment area where fledgling gas engineers hone their skills in emergency response and mains laying.

The centre is one of two brand new skills development centres – the second at Hollinwood, Manchester - built by National Grid at a cost of £5.5 million. Together with the company’s established facility at Eakring in Nottinghamshire, the trio aim to set industry-leading safety and competence standards for apprentices, new recruits and seasoned employees.

The centres simulate the real-life scenarios faced by National Grid staff, including a deep excavation pit at Hitchin, allowing apprentices to practise their skills before going into the field. Engineers undergo rigorous assessments before being deemed to have reached the required standards. Both the courses and the top-flight facilities at the centres have won praise from the Health and Safety Executive, which described them as ‘leading edge’.

National Grid’s Jon Butterworth, director of operations for Gas Distribution, said: “We are honoured to welcome David Lammy MP to our centre at Hitchin. As active supporters of the government’s strategy to create more apprenticeships, improve the UK’s skills base and promote life-long learning among existing employees we are looking forward to showing him the work we have been doing.

“In addition to investing £5.5 million for the new centres, National Grid invests £15 million a year in learning and development across the company – demonstrating our commitment to enhancing skills in the utility sector.

“We believe the greater emphasis on the practical, scenario-led elements of our gas distribution courses, closely linked to the actual job roles and made possible by the purpose-built facilities at our new centres, addresses two major challenges facing the gas industry – skills shortages and recruitment. Not only will we turn out apprentices who are quickly able to take up a wide range of frontline duties, but these courses should prove a real draw for people seeking a ‘hands on’ career in engineering, helping to feed our ‘talent pipeline’.

“And, of course, improved skills development for our employees helps us to achieve our ultimate goal – to be world class in our management and operation of gas networks.”

National Grid was among the first organisations in the UK to sign up to the Government’s National Skills Pledge, which aims to get all adults qualified to Level 2 (5 GCSEs A-C equivalent). The company’s Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme saw the company named a Grade 1 training provider by the Adult Learning Inspectorate for outstanding leadership and management.


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