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Northern Regional College: new hydrogen course a first in UK and Ireland

The Hydrogen Gas Safe Lab at Silverwood Industrial Estate in Ballymena is designed to support practical training H2 gas safety.  

 

Northern Regional College in Ballymena has launched the first accredited Level 2 and Level 3 courses in Hydrogen Applications and Technologies in the UK and Ireland.

 

The OCN NI Level 3 Award in Hydrogen Applications and Technologies qualification aims to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to work in hydrogen-related industries such as energy generation, storage and distribution.

 


Covering the operating principles of hydrogen, safe usage and transportation, as well as hydrogen fuel cells, generation, storage and distribution, the course is aimed at individuals who work or would like to work in the motor vehicle, plumbing and green energy sectors.

 

More than 50 students are currently enrolled in the course, while another 50 have already signed up for the next intake. The demand for the course is global, with interest coming from as far away as Australia. As a result, plans are underway to make the course available online.

 


According to Alan Reid, Innovation Manager at Northern Regional College, the training will result in a workforce that can embrace the emerging low-carbon sector.

 

“The course will undoubtedly support those sectors which are affected by the drive to net zero, allowing companies and personnel to pivot delivery in the new green economy,” he said.

 

“As well as playing a critical role in training and upskilling existing employees, new trainees will be educated to a recognised standard of professional competency for the hydrogen sector.”

 


He added: “Through its delivery, coupled with the interest we have received from across the world, Northern Regional College is cementing its position as a hub for innovation and commercialisation activity for the future of the cleantech growth sector and industry across Northern Ireland.”

 

The course itself has been developed as part of a wider pilot Hydrogen Training Academy which received funding from the UK Government's Community Renewal Fund and was supported by private sector sponsorship from EP UK Investments Ltd.

 

The pilot Hydrogen Training Academy, led by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, will help upskill the wider workforce to meet future industry requirements. Other key partners include Northern Regional College, Belfast Metropolitan College, the University of Birmingham, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.

 


The launch of the course aligns with the council’s wider economic development plans, having prioritised supporting the development of the hydrogen economy as part of its Economic Growth Strategy.

 

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams, said the introduction of the new course at Northern Regional College was “a significant milestone in the development of the hydrogen economy in the UK and Ireland”.

 

“The use of hydrogen gas and green energy is set to become a key growth driver in the future global transition to the net zero target by 2050, so it is a welcome and exciting development to see our local initiatives come to fruition,” he said.

 


“Council has teamed up with local industry and academia, including Northern Regional College, to develop a series of hydrogen economy initiatives that support the development of this sector.”

 

Wider plans for the Mid and East Antrim area include the development of an i4C Innovation and Cleantech Centre in Ballymena, which represents a capital investment of £24m, co-funded under the Belfast Region City Deal and scheduled to open in 2027.

 

Last month, industry leaders from across Northern Ireland gathered at Ballymena’s Ecos Hub for the inaugural board meeting and workshop of the HyTech NI project – an initiative aimed at supporting the development of Northern Ireland’s burgeoning hydrogen economy.

 

Chaired by Buta Atwal, Chief Executive of Wrightbus, HyTech NI will have a twin focus on the development of a hydrogen technology accelerator for Northern Ireland and the trialling of a series of testbeds in Ballymena across a series of core themes - including gas network blending, transport and mobility, and skills and training.

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