From education to employment

Lancashire businesses go green as they embrace FE skills pilot

Two Lancashire businesses 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.

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