EDUCATION and the search for engineers of the future was the theme of a highly successful business dinner held at Fylde Rugby Club.
The third annual dinner was a networking event for more than 100 educationalists, business chiefs and local authority representatives to learn about job opportunities and the need to fill a future engineering skills gap.
The competition, with a £12,000 prize fund, is jointly organised by Cuadrilla, Centrica Energy, Blackpool and Fylde College and Johnston Press.
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Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive, spoke of the requirement to nurture a skilled local workforce in preparation for the potential requirements of the shale gas industry.
He said: “At Cuadrilla we are working very hard on a solution to deliver the natural gas present in the shale beneath our feet here in Lancashire. Supplying cost effective, secure and safe energy for the future is a significant engineering and social challenge. There will be many other such challenges facing future generations. Having seen the talent that is being nurtured in Lancashire’s schools I am confident that our young engineers will rise confidently to address those challenges.”
Mr Egan also spoke of the need to inspire tomorrow’s engineers and launched Young Engineers 2015 – a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) challenge aimed to engage Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre school pupils, aged 13-15, in a fun and exciting way.
Greg McKenna, Centrica’s Director of Non-Operated Assets, said that Centrica was proud to be a part of the Young Engineer competition – and also looked forward to the development of students at the newly announced National College Onshore Oil and Gas at the Blackpool and the Fylde College.
Mr McKenna explained: “The North West is already a key region for us. We employ nearly 500 people in the area and have been active here for over 30 years with Morecombe Hub – the largest gas hub in the UK. Through our business activities we have existing connections with Blackpool and Fylde College, and the recent announcement of the new onshore energy college represents a big chance to further extend the training opportunities for local people.
“We currently face a shortfall of engineers and already Centrica has recruited over 1200 apprentices across the UK because the next generation are so critical to the success of our business. The Young Engineers competition is important as it will help to increase interest in engineering and contribute to ensuring the local area flourishes as a hub for the energy sector.”
Daryl Platt, Blackpool and the Fylde College’s Executive Director for Commercial Development, said that being a hub for one of the National Colleges was a privilege and a testament to the high quality skills training as well as their strong relationships with industry-leading organisations such as Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources.
“Crucially, it will drive long term investment in the region and meet the demand for highly skilled labour and secure local jobs. This is very positive news for Blackpool, the Fylde Coast and the whole of Lancashire. We will deliver a comprehensive range of advanced qualifications, up to and including honours degree programmes, aimed at producing the next generation of highly skilled engineers and technicians.”