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Drax and Selby College secure £272,000 to train workforce of the future

More than a quarter of a million pounds has been secured by Selby College and Drax to develop the workforce of the future for the energy giant.

A first educational programme in carbon capture will be rolled out for employees, ensuring they have the knowledge, skills, and practical experience, to operate the ‘vital climate-saving negative emissions technology’.

The £272,000 government grant will build on an existing £180,000 five-year partnership between the two.

Read more: Carbon capture sequencing success lapped up across the North

Those involved say it will help to protect jobs, plug the skills gap, and build a workforce with the vital skills needed in the transition to net zero.

Received from the Department for Education’s Strategic Development Fund, it will allow the College to develop a brand-new training course in carbon capture and storage technologies, supporting Drax’s plans to develop the vital negative emission technology BECCS at its power station.

Funding for skills: From left, Cameron Shipstone, Drax fourth year apprentice; Steve Butler engineering manager at Selby College; Liz Ridley, deputy principal at Selby College; Bruce Heppenstall, Drax plant
director and Lewis Marron, another apprentice.
Funding for skills: From left, Cameron Shipstone, Drax fourth year apprentice; Steve Butler engineering manager at Selby College; Liz Ridley, deputy principal at Selby College; Bruce Heppenstall, Drax plant director and Lewis Marron, another apprentice.

It is an anchor site for wider Humber plans to decarbonise heavy industry across both banks.

Bruce Heppenstall, plant director at Drax, said: “It’s critical businesses like Drax have access to a skilled workforce, with the knowledge and expertise to operate negative emissions technologies that will be vital in enabling the UK to reach its legally binding net zero targets. Through our partnership with Selby College, we are able to futureproof our workforce, ensuring we are at the forefront of the green industrial revolution, creating and protecting thousands of jobs here in the North.

Deploying BECCS at Drax will not only deliver for the environment, but it will also deliver for the economy. It could kickstart a whole new sector of the economy and be the catalyst for a post-covid economic recovery.”

The course will start next year and will equip both current and future Drax employees with the skills needed, ensuring the the region is at the forefront of the green industrial revolution.

Selby College deputy principal, Liz Ridley, said: “Selby College is committed to supporting businesses and industries to develop specific training programmes that support their current and future workforce development.

“Our ongoing partnership with Drax has enabled us to secure this funding to create tailored education plans that will equip its workforce and supply chain with the skills needed as we transition into a zero-emission future.”

The programme will also be available to other organisations and individuals interested in developing their knowledge and understanding about carbon capture and storage. It is being designed as an introduction to the subject, with the aim of adding more modules and units over time.

Minister for Skills Alex Burghart said it was “fantastic to see Selby College working with Drax to offer people the skills they need to progress in green careers in their area,”. He said: “Offering people the chance to upskill in the latest in-demand technologies is vital to plug skills gaps in our economy, and ensure we have a workforce fit for the future.”

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Through its transition from using coal to sustainable biomass, Drax has safeguarded hundreds of jobs at its power station, as well as more than 6,600 across its supply chain. It aims to go further by building BECCS, with the creation of more than 10,000 jobs at the project’s peak. The first unit could be up and running in 2027, delivering the world’s biggest carbon capture project, permanently locking away millions of tonnes of CO2 each year.

Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, said: “Electricity generated by Drax using sustainable biomass is key to expanding the wider economy of Yorkshire and the Humber. The transition from coal to biomass demonstrated how businesses can transform and thrive as part of our new “net zero” economy.

“To build on this leadership it is vital that businesses like Drax have the skilled workforce to operate the new green technologies and maintain their leading position. The ongoing partnership between Selby College and Drax will provide the essential facilities and courses for local people to develop their skills, and I look forward to seeing this partnership flourish and feed into the development of clean green industries across our region.”

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