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Solar powers a bright future for unemployed

More than 50 unemployed people are building sustainable careers on a construction site in North Tyneside thanks to training delivered by Gateshead College and renewable energy training specialist Group Horizon. The new recruits will work on social housing stock across the North Tyneside area, after securing employment through building services company, Optimal Systems.

Group Horizon’s Dennis Latimer (left) show’s Gateshead College’s Paul Gough the type of training that has secured more jobs for more than 50 people

The Yorkshire-based company worked with Ingeus and Group Horizon to recruit the new workers to carry out their contract for property group Kier.

Group Horizon and Gateshead College work with Job Centre Plus and welfare-to-work organisations, such as Ingeus, to identify candidates for the unemployed training programme. They then work with the trainees to provide them with the skills that employers demand, including solar PV installation, construction, engineering, security, IT and administration.

Paul Gough, Head of Commercial Operations at Gateshead College said: “We are at the forefront of low carbon training in the North East. The main purpose of this work programme is to develop ‘green skills’ for unemployed people who want to get back into the job market. We work closely with a wide range of employers in the region including manufacturers, installers, local councils and social housing companies, so that we can meet the local demand for skills that get people back into work and help the economy to grow.”

The new recruits spent two weeks training at Gateshead College’s Skills Academy for Construction at Team Valley, Gateshead.

Peter Behan, Managing Director at Group Horizon commented: “As a specialist in renewable energy training, we’re working with Gateshead College to provide unemployed people with skills that are increasingly in high demand. The current uncertainty over the future of the Government’s ‘feed-in tariff’ has lead to an unprecedented interest in companies looking to up skill in solar PV installation to fulfil orders before the scheme comes to an end.”

Group Horizon’s Dennis Latimer (top) with learners Paul Burke (left) and Kevin Evans who will be seeking employment in the renewable energy industry following completion of the programme

Optimal approached Group Horizon and Gateshead College when it was looking to recruit solar PV installers and electricians for a large project across the North Tyneside area to retrofit the social housing stock managed by Kier. The new employees will be working to install solar panels on over 3,500 homes over the next 24 months.

Behan adds: “The roles are temporary with the likelihood that many will be made permanent. The skills and abilities the employees are learning will provide key attributes that employers are currently looking for and will certainly help them remain in similar work in the future.”

Paul Stringer, Managing Director of Optimal Systems, said: “We have had immense support from Group Horizon, Gateshead College and Ingeus in supporting our recruitment needs and I would like to personally thank everyone involved for the invaluable help we have received. Kier is an incredibly important contract for our company, so we want the best. We have found that the North East workers come with a great attitude and, because the course has been developed with employers, the candidates have the specific skills we require for this programme to be hugely successful.”

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