Cumbria is the prime location to find the next generation of engineers who will help protect and maintain the country’s power supplies.
That’s according to the chief of a leading overhead line firm which has created its first UK training academy at Newton Rigg College, near Penrith.
As well as classroom facilities, apprentice linesmen get work experience climbing to the top of 12-metre high wooden distribution poles that have been erected in a college field.
The centre, which was officially opened yesterday, will also provide additional training for SPIE UK’s existing army of 300 linesmen.
Steve Nanda, managing director of industrial services at SPIE, said: “Our relationship has formed with Newton Rigg because of the facilities it has and also because of its specialist land-based training in areas like agriculture and tree cutting.
"Things like that link closely to what we do when it comes to the work on overhead lines. Most of it is done on agricultural land.
“There is also the opportunity to recruit from the locality here too. You can imagine what we do, often working at height, is great on a beautiful day like today but those days are fairly infrequent in this country so we are looking for apprentices who know about being outdoors and adverse weather conditions .”
SPIE has key framework contracts with Electricity North West and Scottish Power.
Apprentices live on campus before they are sent out on placements to work with existing teams of linesmen around the country.
The centre has been developed as plans for a network of new lines along the Cumbrian coast are proposed to serve a potential new nuclear plant at Moorside.
Jack Baty, 18, of Harraby, Carlisle, is one of the first 20 apprentices on the three-year training programme.
He said: “I like the whole idea of working outdoors and learning something new.
“We were out on the poles last week when it was snowing and you may not think it is where you’d want to work when it is like that but it is great.”