Utility services provider G4S Utility and Outsourcing Services has invested further in apprenticeships through training partner Gateshead College to equip its workforce with the latest smart metering technology skills.
The move follows an investment by the college aimed at developing an intensive training programme specifically for G4S to replicate real-life smart meter installation techniques and test the skills of apprentices in electrical wiring and gas connection systems. This will lead to them gaining an industry recognised qualification, which can pave the way for a future career working in the energy and utilities sectors.
The college is the only provider in the North East – and one of only four nationally – to offer tailor-made smart meter training and will be working in partnership with G4S to deliver the apprenticeships required to meet its current and future workforce skills’ needs. The pilot project will see the college undertaking the training for the year-long smart metering installation apprenticeship, covering both gas and electricity at its Skills Academy for Construction on the Team Valley.
Gateshead College has invested £50,000 in a purpose-built facility to deliver bespoke installation expertise and skills for G4S, which is looking to up-skill its workforce and is now putting the first group of six apprentices through training. Hundreds more apprentices are expected to follow in the wake of a successful pilot scheme, including others from G4S, as the college looks to open up and further expand the scope of the training facility to other companies across North East England who need to retrain or up-skill their workforce.
The news comes as the Government announced in the Budget that the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers scheme (AGE) has been increased by £85 million in 2014-15 and 2015-16 to help businesses grow staff numbers. It also follows the announcement of plans to ensure that homes and commercial premises across the UK will be equipped with smart meters by 2020 in an effort to reduce energy consumption levels and cut carbon emissions. It is estimated that 30 million meters will need to be replaced over the next six years to achieve this target.
The responsibility for installing and commissioning these systems is falling to the energy suppliers who in turn are sub-contracting out the work to operators such as G4S which provide a range of utility and metering services. The company is one of only a handful of national operators currently undertaking installations on behalf of the main energy suppliers.
Smart meters measure the amount of electricity and gas a property uses and display in simply-to-understand real-time information the cost of energy consumption. They will also put an end to estimated fuel bills and pave the way for the introduction of more flexible financing options.
Managing director at G4S Utility and Outsourcing Services, Simon Best, said the company is committed to adding value to its business operations by employing apprentices as part of a highly skilled workforce. “We are very excited about working in partnership with Gateshead College who not only understand the issues we face but can deliver the intensive and specialist apprenticeship training we need,” he said. “Together, we are leading the way through the design and delivery of innovative training programmes that will guarantee that current and future sector skills’ needs are met and indeed surpassed.”
Josh Larsen, 20, from Thornaby on Teesside, is among the first six apprentices on the pilot G4S programme and is currently in his fifth week of training at the college’s Academy. He said: “I’ve already learned so much about the utility industry and gained lots of new skills in the few weeks that I’ve been at college; it’s really interesting and it’s definitely where I see my future career. Prior to applying for the apprenticeship I was working at a supermarket and feel I’m now on track to a rewarding and sustainable career that is much better suited to me. G4S is a really good company to work for and I look forward to becoming qualified.”
Mick Brophy, director of business, innovation and development at Gateshead College, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with G4S on this new apprenticeship. We’re the first college in the region to be able to offer this and have invested in the resources and expertise to meet the needs of G4S’ and others installing smart meters. This development is part of the college’s strategy to be the North East Region’s leading provider for smart metering installation.”