Lancashire’s Colleges to deliver innovative programme in partnership with local employers

14 November 2023

The Lancashire Colleges Group (TLC) has been awarded £4.5m Local Skills Improvement Funding by the Department for Education (DfE). This additional investment will allow colleges from across Lancashire to build new training facilities, providing students with the opportunity to learn on the very latest technology and develop skills needed for successful careers. The colleges will continue their work with local employers, designing and developing new, flexible courses that align with needs identified in the Local Skills Improvement Plan ( which was published earlier this year.

The colleges will work with construction, energy, transport and farming businesses to showcase the latest low-carbon technologies and deliver skills programmes that prepare Lancashire for a greener future. Digital technology is also rapidly-changing and this presents opportunities for every type of business; the colleges will develop bespoke courses to grow the digital skills of Lancashire’s current and future workforce from programming and coding to artificial intelligence and robotics. Finally, colleges will work together with local hospitality, food and farming businesses to promote careers in these critical local sectors. They will create new, sustainable kitchens and a demonstrator farm to showcase the most sustainable practices and offer students ‘hands-on’ training to prepare them for exciting and rewarding careers.

Rosie Fearn, Director of the Lancashire Colleges Group said:

“We’re thrilled that Lancashire’s businesses and communities will benefit from this significant investment in skills. The additional funding will help our colleges to continue their work with local employers, to help prepare young people for rewarding careers and to provide the current workforce with the skills needed to embrace new technologies. Lancashire’s colleges will create new, responsive and flexible skills programmes working with local employers and industry specialists.

“By working together our colleges will ensure that state-of-the-art facilities and inspirational learning environments are available across Lancashire. Many of these will have added-value as demonstrator facilities, allowing the colleges to raise awareness of the opportunities that the latest low-carbon and digital technologies can bring.

“This builds on a long history of collaboration among our colleges who have been working together as The Lancashire Colleges Group for over 25 years.”

Geoff Mason, Lancashire LSIP Project Lead said:

“It is fantastic news that Lancashire’s LSIF proposal has been approved. Local colleges have been keen to work with the Chamber since the launch of LSIPs in 2021. These projects show how skills providers have listened to the needs of our employers.

“Through the LSIF projects the colleges are tackling some of the biggest issues employers have told us about. With a focus on digital skills across all sectors, green skills, and our food industry from farming to catering and hospitality, they are utilising the fund to respond directly to employer needs.

“We look forward to continue collaborating with the colleges in their delivery of the LSIF and work to ensure that employers continue to be involved in the development of these projects. I would encourage employers in all industries to get involved with the LSIP to help shape this funding.”

Lancs businesses go green as they embrace skills pilot

7 July 2022

Businesses across Lancashire have embraced a pilot project to help commit to a zero-low carbon future.

Hundreds of SMEs have taken their first steps towards reducing their carbon footprint with help from The Lancashire Colleges’ Strategic Development Fund (SDF) Pilot. At the same time, further education colleges across the county have created new training centres and courses to skill up the next generation of workers for careers in green jobs.

Working with employers of all sizes across diverse projects covering agriculture, construction, energy, advanced manufacturing, digital and automotive, the pilot is helping to create a skilled workforce for a future low-zero carbon economy.

Businesses, colleges and programme leaders across the county discussed the pilot’s success at a Skills for a Low Carbon Economy conference at Burnley College. The Low Carbon Hub at Burnley College has been supporting business to make the first step in becoming more sustainable, from identifying carbon emissions within the business and encouraging leaders to make steps to move towards net zero.

For ELE Advanced Technologies, which manufactures precision engineering components for the aerospace and energy markets from its headquarters in Colne, the support has helped begin the company’s journey to becoming carbon neutral in scope one emissions and under scope two, 50% carbon neutral by the end of the year.

Working with environmental consultants as part of the pilot, the company has been supported to improve the awareness of its senior directors about climate change, whilst also creating a plan which will make its new production facility fully powered by renewable energy. In the facility, all staff have access to free electric vehicle chargers and an electric vehicle salary sacrifice scheme is being introduced, along with green transport methods for logistics. Waste is also minimised and the company is working towards a plan to achieve a net zero supply chain.

David Stanley, Finance Director at ELE Advanced Technologies, said: “The SDF training has accelerated our understanding and capability to change alongside our ambition to drive the company to net zero. Engaging with the SDF support has provided ELE with a huge benefit.

“We have already introduced solar panels and an energy optimisation project with a target to reduce our energy consumption by 35 per cent and are looking at a plan to become completely carbon neutral. Our plans will sustain us for today and be efficient for tomorrow. We are a small business but we want to use our engineering talent to help make environmental change in the world.”

Another company benefitting from the pilot has been Burnley-based uPVC supplier VEKA UK. Working alongside the college, the company has provided its own climate awareness training to staff and is now aiming to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy to power its factory, plus creating and sourcing sustainable products and raw materials. It is also looking to reduce all non-essential travel and encourage more sustainable commuting and logistics.

John Marsden, SHEQ Advisor at Veka, said: “The Pilot gave us a real shift in mindset that action was needed now. Working alongside Burnley College has helped to understand the tools needed to begin the journey and bring the entire organisation on our net zero journey.

“We now have a dedicated group working towards reducing our emissions and a road map to become carbon neutral as soon as possible.”

The Lancashire Colleges was chosen by the Department for Education to deliver the SDF Pilot, exploring how education providers can work together more effectively alongside employers and other partners to respond to local skills and innovation priorities as well as tackling the zero-low carbon agenda.

College’s sustainability hub presents vision of the future for Lancashire

27 May 2022

A vision of a ‘building of the future’ is being created at a Lancashire college to meet the training and skills needs of the zero-low carbon economy of the future.

As part of the £8.4million Strategic Development Fund (SDF) Pilot awarded to The Lancashire Colleges, the construction of the Sustainability Hub at Lancaster and Morecambe College is well underway as a showpiece for the county’s carbon reduction initiative and due to be operational in September.

The new hub is part of the Sustainable Energy project – one of seven projects under the SDF Pilot and incorporates a range of sustainable features including kinetic-energy capturing flooring, a robotic room, CAD suite, and a state-of-the-art, 360 virtual reality (VR) suite with immersive headsets.

Maggie Cawthorn, Sustainability Project Coordinator at Lancaster and Morecambe College, said: “The new facilities will bring real practical benefits. The VR suite will allow learners to experience a range of work-related scenarios, such as working at height training for wind-turbine engineering and investigating the impact of global warming on our local landscape. We are also working with primary schools to support their science curriculum and careers provision.

“We’re introducing a culture of sustainability across the college and holding forums with students and staff on an ongoing basis to help improve knowledge and understanding of the issues.”

Once complete, the college will also arrange visits to the hub for community groups to share the benefits of how these technologies can work and is currently liaising with Lancaster City Council and Green Skills Group to help deliver the plan for retrofitting and improving people’s homes in the region.

The £670,000 investment in the centre has also enabled the development of a suite of new accredited environmental training qualifications, providing skills in retrofitting older homes to make them more environmentally-friendly, covering subjects such as insulation, ventilation, draught exclusion and air-source heat pumps.

Lancashire businesses to benefit from leading VR technology

29 April 2022

Businesses across Lancashire will be able to benefit from a range of virtual reality equipment designed to help local companies prepare for working in a future low carbon economy.

Two state-of-the-art low carbon virtual reality (VR) hubs are on site at Nelson and Colne College and Accrington and Rossendale College, while an additional mobile VR unit will be available to travel to local businesses, schools and events.

The VR hubs have been purchased as part of an £8.4m project, delivered by The Lancashire Colleges, to develop the skills of the region’s current and future workforce and help businesses to lead the way in low carbon technology. Funded by the Department for Education, the Strategic Development Fund (SDF) Pilot aims to increase joint working between colleges and employers to prepare Lancashire’s workforce for the move to a low carbon economy.

Each hub will support local manufacturers to benefit from immersive surroundings which allow employees to understand the location and setting that they are working with, in turn helping manufacturers to develop a process without having to travel long distances or enter high risk environments.

The VR setup allows multiple groups of people to remotely understand a process at the same time to increase collaboration and can also be used for remote presentations, demonstrations, risk assessments and design reviews.

In addition to being available to local businesses, students at colleges across Lancashire will also be able to learn in real-life environments without needing to leave the classroom, helping them become ready for the world of work once they qualify. Local schools will also be able to benefit from the technology for curriculum delivery, virtual field trips and special events.

Paul Barker, Head of Sales and Recruitment for Apprenticeships and Training at Nelson and Colne College Group said: “We’re determined to use the SDF Pilot to make a real difference, investing in alternative technologies and training so that companies and communities can thrive in a low carbon Lancashire.

“The VR suites allow local companies to lead the way in finding solutions to manufacturing challenges, while it means students and workers in Lancashire can learn using the best technology on the market, creating new opportunities to help local employees to become the best they can be without having to leave the county.”

The hubs are all equipped with Igloo Enterprise software which can display can display any kind of digital content, including immersive content, or anything on the internet into the virtual reality space, meaning businesses can access an existing library of material or create an environment bespoke to them.

Businesses can request access to the hubs either on site at the college or the 3m2 mobile unit can visit their company premises. For further information contact

Carbon reduction now a reality for Lancs farmers

13 April 2022

Farmers across Lancashire are starting to make carbon reduction a reality as a result of a new collaboration between the county’s colleges and employers.

As part of the Strategic Development Fund (SDF) Pilot being run by The Lancashire Colleges, some 10 carbon audits of farms across the region are helping with improvements in soil health, reduced reliance on purchased fertilisers and an increase in the use of farmers’ own nutrients.

Led by Myerscough College, near Preston, a number of carbon roadshows have also provided advice across a newly-created farmer network in the county on issues such as silage, the quality of cattle’s nutrient health and a reduction in the use of concentrates.

To date, a number of carbon farm roadshows have featured the use of drones for checking livestock, robotic silage pushers, and automatic calf feeders, and the restoration of peatland to improve carbon sequestration.

The college has also advised farmers about developing resource management in buildings including a calf house that improves animal welfare and a potato store built to deliver maximum efficiencies in drying capabilities which will enable 12 million packets of crisps made from British potatoes to find their way to the consumer.

Andrea Gardner, Head of Agricultural Projects at Myerscough College, said: “Every farmer has bought into the carbon audits and the benefits they bring. These practices will start to change the way they run their farms and address the issue of carbon reduction and will be in place long after this project finishes.”

With an investment of more than half a million pounds so far, the agriculture project – one of seven projects under the SDF Pilot – is also providing practical demonstrations including the use of a harvest lab to provide soil data, seed drills, a feeder and two high technology tractors. See more at

Baxi warms to green heating training

24 March 2022

A leading heating manufacturer has welcomed a Lancashire business pilot which helps companies benefit from training and advice on embracing low carbon technologies.

Baxi Heating, which manufactures heating and hot water solutions from its site in Bamber Bridge, is working with Preston College to train up local heating engineers on how to install and maintain air source heat pumps as part of the Strategic Development Fund (SDF) Pilot being run by The Lancashire Colleges.

The training is part of the Constructing Low Carbon Lancashire project – one of seven projects under the SDF Pilot – to increase the skillset of construction related businesses and workers across Lancashire, helping to ensure they can benefit from the move to low carbon technologies and production methods.

Air source heat pumps have been identified by the government as vital to reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and the plan is to install 600,000 a year by 2028. However, while air source heat pumps can lower heating bills and cut carbon emissions in the home, a lack of professionally trained installers means the average cost to fit one in Lancashire can still be as high as £10,000.

As a result of the Pilot, Preston College has expanded its training facilities, as well as purchasing air source heat pumps for training across the county. The training will be available to all heating businesses and installers across the area.

Steve Owen, National Training Manager at Baxi, said: “Having such high-quality facilities and technology at Preston College allows us to ensure that heating engineers can train and qualify on the best equipment, which will prepare them for the future challenges and opportunities in the heating industry, as we move towards a net zero carbon future.

“It is imperative that we increase the number of accredited heat pump installers as today’s MCS registered operatives will not be able to cope with the expected growth in demand without support like this.”

The college is also working to create apprenticeships and training programmes on installing low carbon, environmentally friendly heating systems, with a view to helping more young people to find work in the industry. A recent study found that over half of gas engineers were over 50. If we are to meet the UK government’s target for installing heat pumps, 50,000 new heat pump installers need to be trained to fill the skills gap.

Mick Noblett, Vice Principal at Preston College, said: “The SDF allows us to purchase modern air source heat pumps to ensure that installers can practice and qualify on the latest equipment, while the construction of our building skills zone will allow companies from across Lancashire to benefit from low carbon skills to make sure that they are prepared for the future.

“This investment in skills will also benefit young people here in Lancashire, creating opportunities for them to train on the best equipment so they can find permanent, high-quality work that allows them to stay in Lancashire and thrive.”

The Constructing Low Carbon Lancashire project is being led by Preston College, alongside partner colleges across the county including: Blackburn College, Blackpool & The Fylde College, Burnley College, Lancaster & Morecambe College, Nelson & Colne College Group, Runshaw College and West Lancashire College.

Moving to a low carbon Lancashire

22 March 2022

Sarah Kemp, Chief Executive of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said:

Lancashire has a compelling story to tell when it comes to the energy and low carbon economy. The county has a concentration of low carbon energy assets including nuclear, wind, marine and battery technologies.

There are 5,200 Lancashire businesses operating in the energy & environment sector. These businesses employ 40,000 workers, providing a plethora of high value job opportunities for Lancashire’s young people and adults. In addition to which, it is home to cutting-edge advanced manufacturers and world-leading engineering companies which provide the technical innovation and design expertise which contribute to a unique low carbon ecosystem. All businesses across Lancashire, big and small, will see the impact of the move to a low carbon economy and the opportunities it brings.

Research undertaken by the Work Foundation in partnership with the LEP and the Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub, highlighted a number of skills challenges that the network of Lancashire colleges is aiming to address through the Strategic Development Fund (SDF) Skills Accelerator Trailblazer. The collegiate approach adopted by the colleges is very much welcomed, with a hub and spoke model adopted, and aligned with the specific skills needs of our industry base.

The trailblazer is complementary to the Local Skills Improvement Plan, which is being driven by the Chambers and stakeholders. Together the trailblazers will identify employers’ specific skills needs and enable the colleges and wider provider network to use that intelligence to collectively meet our employers’ skills challenges.

Lancashire’s Colleges Are Delivering A Green Skills Revolution

A green revolution is taking place across Lancashire.

To address the skills needed in the low-zero carbon economy of the future, colleges and businesses are working together on a major ground-breaking scheme – and every business can benefit.

Through the Department for Education’s £8.4m Strategic Development Fund Pilot, the county’s colleges are addressing current and emerging skills needs by working in partnership with local business communities.

Through Lancashire’s Colleges, hundreds of businesses are already improving their carbon footprint, reducing consumption and identifying business opportunities. This includes training to upskill employees on the latest low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and low carbon heating systems and sharing practices on modern methods of manufacturing.

Businesses can access expert advice and support and use the latest technology in dedicated Skills Hubs. They can visit or contact their local college to discuss the support on offer and how they can benefit.

The support is available throughout Lancashire, whether a business is based in Lancaster or Leyland, Burnley or Blackpool. The Pilot offers opportunities for all employers to develop an understanding of the business opportunities, the need to become more environmentally aware and how to make the necessary changes to become more sustainable.

For example, the Low Carbon Hub is supporting all small and medium sized businesses to develop a low or net zero carbon plan, unlock new opportunities and markets and create a highly skilled workforce.

For manufacturers large and small, colleges are investing in virtual reality headsets and associated software which can provide immersive experiences and environments. The technology can be taken to businesses to better visualise designs before manufacture, particularly across more challenging manufacturing environments such as nuclear, aerospace or oil and gas.

Lancashire’s construction sector is one of the most affected from the move to low-zero, with the skills needed to meet the demand for green homes and commercial property. A new building skills zone will support Lancashire’s next generation of builders, offering opportunities for businesses to upskill employees on the latest technology. Similarly, energy efficient homes need clean heating systems and the purchase of air source heating pumps for training is helping create a new generation of local heating engineers.

The Automotive Skills Accelerator is working with employers to develop specialist training and qualifications to support the industry’s move into low carbon vehicles including electric/hybrid vehicle repair, motorsport, plant machinery, charging points and infrastructure. An Independent Garage Network for Lancashire mechanics has been established and a new high specification facility will open later this month with a demonstration event for businesses.

Lancashire’s green resources offer plenty of sustainable energy options, from solar energy to wind and tidal. The colleges are working with employers to conduct an analysis of the training needs and current skills gaps of businesses in the energy sector. At the same time, courses such as introductions to low carbon energy, principles of renewable energy and solar PV training are also being developed, and there will be a new Sustainable Energy Hub fitted with a Computer Aided Design (CAD) suite, robotics room and virtual reality studio.

For Lancashire’s farmers and growers, low-zero offers opportunities to improve efficiencies while reducing the impact on the planet. Ten carbon audits have already been completed with farms across Lancashire, while also helping farmers to use drone technology to check livestock, restoring local peatland and promoting net-zero farmers with buyers. Similarly, improvements on buildings efficiencies can also benefit farmers, from improving yields when drying potatoes through to improving animal welfare.

Support is also available for businesses to increase their digital skills. A Centre of Digital Excellence is re-shaping curriculums to support specific sectors with digital skills, such as manufacturing and aerospace including training in subjects such as software development, website design and CAD.