Mel Higgins, principal and chief executive of the college, said it would create “opportunities for lifelong learning.”
Officially opened recently by Economics Secretary Gordon Lyons, the new Ballymena Academy will support the development of a skilled workforce to take full advantage of the new opportunities for hydrogen and clean technologies. It is led by Middle and East Antrim City Council, which has received a £700,000 public-private investment from the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund, the Communities Department’s Covid Recovery Fund and EP UK Investments.
Mr. Higgins explained how the College would be involved in teaching or the Academy, along with the University of Belfast, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster. He said: “Our staff are currently undergoing online training at the University of Birmingham and will then transfer their skills to level 2 to 7 trainees, allowing them to progress through a range of qualifications.
“This program will allow people to enter the labor market and improve their skills to be able to learn throughout life, as well as fill skill gaps in various industries.”
The consortium of key industry players participating in the Academy includes Wrightbus, Energia, Translink and Firmus.
Academy interns will have access to a new state-of-the-art learning pod located in the Silverwood Business Park. The H2 Gas Safe Lab is the first of two Academy training centers in the Ballymena area and is dedicated to the NI Gas Safe Register in the plumbing and heating industry to provide a space for proficiency testing in commercial grade equipment. This is the UK’s first mixed gas hydrogen testing lab for gas safety engineers with several systems to help reduce the carbon footprint of homes and offices.
The second training center, located at the Northern Regional College, will be engaged in the production of hydrogen using special training equipment. It will provide a technology learning space for all levels of green hydrogen fundamentals.
Speaking at his launch, Minister Lyons hailed the “revolutionary project” that he said would help develop a skilled workforce to take full advantage of hydrogen and clean technologies. He said: “The Hydrogen Learning Academy is a first of its kind project that will enable Northern Ireland to maximize the opportunities associated with hydrogen as the new cutting edge sustainable energy solution. Supporting our broader ambitions for a greener future through a series of important introductory entry-level trainings in several sectors… this is an incredibly exciting time to be able to be part of such an initiative.
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