National Training Award Winner, 2007

A County Durham energy company grew its own linesmen, to help win a major National Grid contract.

It developed its own training programme, and created its own training centre in Darlington, and set about helping ground workers, the unemployed and even former young offenders, to scale the heights to a well paid career.

Bridging the skills gap has earned the AMEC’s UK Industrial Division at AMEC House, Yarm Road, Darlington, a place in the finals of the National Training Awards 2007.

AMEC is an international project management and services company that provides programme management, engineering services, technical consultancy, management of project delivery and asset support to the oil and gas, power and process sectors.

AMEC’s Peter Mattless, Business Acquisition Manager, explained that within the UK electricity transmission industry the company’s potential for growth was severely hampered by a lack of linesmen. They had 300 competent linesmen, but will need many more to meet the future requirements of the National Grid. They needed to train additional people for the role.

Said Peter: “The objectives of the training programmes were to provide a competent workforce by delivering training to recognised national vocational standards.”

Most of the trainees were new to the overhead line industry but with potential to become linesmen; some were ground workers, some the unemployed and some from disadvantaged groups such as the Young Offender Programme.

AMEC became the first company to set up an NVQ training programme to City & Guilds NVQ 2 and 3 levels, for linesmen.

The three-year course began in 2005. Delegates spend six weeks at the centre, in a mixture of class-based studies and practical work. This is followed by six months on-site training before returning to the centre to complete the intermediate and advanced training modules, including tower rescue training.

The centre, in Haughton Road, Darlington has four towers, ranging from 90 to 130 feet, one free standing climbing tower and a selection of wooden pole structures, where trainees can learn to work at height. So far 79 people have started the training, and within two years 17 have gained NVQ 3 and 30 trainees have achieved NVQ 2.

In March this year, AMEC was part of a consortium awarded a five-year contract with National Grid worth £500 million to upgrade the overhead power lines and underground cables across western England and Wales. AMEC share is £237.5 million!

“The training will benefit the individual, AMEC, our customers and the electricity consumer”, added Peter.