University responds to need for power engineers

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An engineering student at the University of the Highlands and Islands

The University of the Highlands and Islands has responded to the business need for more engineers in the energy sector in the region with the launch of a new BEng power engineering systems.
The degree, which has been developed with SSE plc, will initially concentrate on filling the demand for power transmission engineers in the Highlands and Islands and will be delivered from Inverness College UHI.

The university signed a strategic partnership with SSE in 2012 to help work with the company to deliver its anticipated £5 -10bn infrastructure investment in the region over the next 20 years.

“As part of the partnership, we discussed the training needs of SSE and their supply chain,” said Gary I Campbell, the university’s key account director. “We discovered that much of the training in this particular engineering discipline was being undertaken in England meaning that students had to travel south to gain the qualification. We’ve been working with SSE and our engineering staff across the university to respond to this anomaly and develop our new degree which will deliver qualified staff to SSE where they need it and also attract new students into our area.”

The degree will include training in a broad range of power system technologies including renewable generation and high voltage transmission and distribution systems.

“As well as meeting the needs of local employers in the Highland and Islands, this qualification should be of interest to power network providers across the world,” explained programme leader Billy Andrews, based at Inverness College UHI, which already runs a pre-apprenticeship course for SSE. “As an example, the Beauly to Denny power line upgrade was undertaken in some of the most hostile conditions possible and we can take students to learn in what is a real living laboratory.”

The introduction of the qualification was also welcomed by SSE’s director of transmission, David Gardner: “Much of SSE’s investment over the next few years will be in its transmission business where numerous projects are underway to upgrade and reinforce this network which stretches across the north of Scotland. All of these projects need employees with specific skill sets and the introduction of this degree will enable more and more people to develop these vital skills.

“Our upgrade projects are mainly based in rural areas of Scotland and we want those areas to benefit from the employment they bring; using local businesses and local skills wherever possible.

“Our legacy is not just the energy provided by the development of our networks, but in the jobs, skills and opportunities they can bring to the communities and those who live and work in them, and this degree will go a long way to helping us achieve that.”