Partners from the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council-led Hydrogen Training Academy (HTA) came together recently to recognise the successful pilot training project which has won five awards since its launch in 2021.
The Hydrogen Training Academy, a first-of-its-kind in the UK and Ireland, has been recognised for its innovation by landing five prestigious awards within the last year.
These included Highly Commended in the Business Eye Sustainability Awards in February 2023; Winner of both the Regeneration Project of the Year and Council of the Year categories at the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards in March 2023; Silver Award for Best Public/Private Sector Initiative at the APSE Service Awards in September 2023; and finally Silver Award at the All-Ireland Sustainability Awards for the Best Energy Initiative or Project of the Year in October 2023.
Mayor, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna said:
“I am immensely proud that the collaborative work behind the Hydrogen Training Academy has gained the recognition it deserves in receiving a total of five prestigious awards to date. The combined efforts of Council and its delivery partners has helped cement our Borough at the forefront of clean energy skills development.”
The Hydrogen Training Academy pilot project was established as part of Council’s post-covid Economic Recovery Strategy, which prioritised the clean energy sector, and in particular the hydrogen economy, as a key focus area for the Borough.
The Mayor added:
“In 2020, engagement with the Council-led Manufacturing Task Force and in particular hydrogen-powered bus manufacturers Wrightbus identified a gap in the provision of adequate skills training for the emerging clean energy sector. In early 2021, as a response to the demand for skills, and with almost £800,000 secured from several private and public sector funders, the Pilot Hydrogen Training Academy was launched with a range of upskilling and re-skilling initiatives on offer.
“This has been a truly innovative initiative which has helped build our Borough’s reputation as a Council that works in collaboration to develop and deliver training solutions to support our people and our businesses. We are looking at the next stages of development of the Hydrogen Training Academy to maintain momentum, maximise opportunities and support further economic growth in the Borough.”
Key to the project’s success was the role of the academic partners, specifically the Northern Regional College, Belfast Metropolitan College, Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Birmingham. These partners developed, accredited and delivered a range of hydrogen training from Levels 3 to Level 7 across several industrial sectors between December 2021 and March 2023.
Mr Alan Reid, Innovation Manager at Northern Regional College, highlighted the popularity of the new courses that have been developed by the Hydrogen Training Academy. He said:
“We have seen huge interest from across the UK and beyond in the OCN Level 3 in Hydrogen Technologies and Applications over the past year, even without formally advertising the course as part of the college curriculum.
“We comfortably exceeded the target numbers for trainees throughout the pilot period and we are now in the process of making the course more widely accessible, ultimately helping us to develop a skilled hydrogen economy and maximise opportunities for green jobs in Northern Ireland.”
The Hydrogen Training Academy partners also invested in two bespoke training labs to support delivery of the project: the H2 Gas Safe Lab and the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Skills Lab.
The H2 Gas Safe Lab is the first of its kind in the UK and Ireland. The mobile ATEX lab located at Silverwood Industrial Estate, Ballymena, is designed to support practical training in H2 Gas Safe and is aimed particularly at the NI Gas Safe Plumbing and Heating Industry. It provides a practical competence testing space for work with commercial H2 and CH4/H2 blend.
The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Skills Lab facilitates training and up-skilling which impacts a wide range of industries, including the energy, transport, manufacturing, engineering and construction sectors and is based at Northern Regional College, Ballymena.
Mr Paul McCormack, Innovation Manager at Belfast Met said:
“The areas of hydrogen and clean technology are rapidly growing and evolving sectors, with significant progress being made on the safety, production, storage, transportation and use of green hydrogen and the opportunities within the sector being earmarked as one of the most critical ways of reaching Net Carbon Zero and helping to grow the 10X Economy. Skills are the key foundation for securing a sustainable hydrogen economy and building a balanced pathway to Net Zero.”
The award-winning Hydrogen Training Academy project complements a range of key strategic projects in the Green Economy, CleanTech and Hydrogen sectors currently being developed and delivered in Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Projects such as the Belfast Region City Deal funded i4C Innovation and CleanTech Centre and the HyTech NI Hydrogen Test-bed and Accelerator project, being developed in partnership with Queen’s University and funded by the NI Complementary Fund, are helping to position Mid and East Antrim Borough Council as a leader in the emerging green economy.
The Council continues to lead innovative projects in this area with the support of the industry-led Manufacturing Task Force and a range of private sector partners, including projects such as the Innovate UK Fast Followers funded MEANZ Business project and the CleanTech Collaborative Growth Network, supported by Invest Northern Ireland and the Michelin Development Fund.
If you would like to know more about the CleanTech projects in Mid and East Antrim, contact: