The Generation Oldham community energy programme was originally conceived as a way of tackling Oldham Council’s carbon emissions reduction targets whilst achieving maximum social value. The name of the programme refers to the generation of renewable energy, but also to the next generation of Oldham’s young people, whose future is dependent on the development of a clean energy economy which will deliver a stable climate and also educational, training and employment opportunities.
A main focus of the Generation Oldham programme was the setting up of Oldham Community Power (OCP), a community-owned co-op whose mission is to install solar PV on schools and community buildings. OCP are currently developing Phase 2 of their solar programme, which should include community-owned buildings outside of the council’s own portfolio, embedding them as a truly community-based energy co-op.
The other aspect of Generation Oldham was to build opportunities for young people, and in consultation with Oldham’s Youth Council. An 18-month “Generation Oldham Young People’s Programme” was put together, which aimed to give participants the knowledge and leadership skills to become ambassadors for climate change action and renewable energy, and upskill them to take advantage of existing educational courses and employment opportunities already ‘out there’.
The pilot programme was a success, culminating in an ‘Eco-Conference’ which the young people organised and put on themselves using their newly-acquired leadership and project management skills. The opening of the conference was a video which the young people made themselves, which can be viewed here.
The course has now been adapted to be compatible with the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, and is available to take as a module.
During the course of delivering Generation Oldham, one key opportunity that was identified was the idea of a Community Energy apprenticeship standard. At the time, no apprenticeship standards existed for community energy, and after consulting a wide range of stakeholders across the country, it was evident that the community energy sector would benefit hugely from young people getting involved as apprentices. The council worked with the stakeholder group to build a new “Community Energy Specialist” Level 4 2-year apprenticeship standard and Assessment Plan, and this standard has now been officially adopted on a national basis. The standard can be found here.
The standard is still fairly new, and organisations specialising in training provision are still putting together their programmes. But there has been considerable interest in the standard not just from community energy groups, but potential employers across the public, third and private sectors. All consultees agree that the skill and knowledge sets acquired by a Community Energy Specialist apprentice are hugely transferable and useful to public, private and third sectors. It is hoped that once training and EPA provision is in place, the apprenticeship will be very popular with both young people and employers. Oldham Council hopes to take on the very first apprentice nationally.