Building the workforce for net zero

Two young men and stand in an engineering workshop with their tutor as they discuss ideas for a project. They are all wearing blue coveralls.

Supporting skills, talent and training across power electronics, machines and drives supply chains to ensure the UK has a workforce ready for a net zero future.

Funding announced today (21 October 2022) by the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge sees 16 projects share £4 million to help create the workforce of the future.

Delivered by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, the funding focuses on power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD) manufacturing and supply chains.

These projects will:

  • create and deliver course content and materials that build awareness of PEMD
  • fill gaps in the UK’s workforce talent and training capabilities

Game-changing interventions

This could be through:

  • supporting apprenticeships and internships
  • engaging with schools
  • delivering technical courses and vocational training
  • providing undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing professional development training
  • upskilling and reskilling an existing workforce

The 16 projects all deliver clear, game-changing interventions addressing a strong industrial need.

Innovative ideas

For example, the ProtoEV 4 Skills project, run by The Blair Project. This project will create an accessible and innovative augmented reality (AR) app.

The app, targeted at underrepresented youth aged 11 to 19 in Manchester and North Shields, will use gamification to train people in real world generative design and engineering.

Supporting industry

In the West Midlands, a consortium led by Coventry University is creating training bootcamps designed to meet the sector’s skills gap challenge at scale.

Along with training content tailored for industry, the project will establish a mobile laboratory asset designed to support learners develop applied skills in the discipline.

Conscious that knowledge can fade over time, aerospaceHV (aHV) is creating an on-demand training portal for engineers working in the aerospace and automotive sectors.

The portal is focusing on the design and test of insulation systems. This will allow engineers to have immediate access to current information on the design of safe, reliable and power dense high voltage electrical systems.

Diverse and inclusive workforce

Professor Will Drury, Challenge Director for Driving the Electric Revolution said:

The UK needs to be able to design, develop and manufacture our own next generation of PEMD technologies. To do that we need to invest in our current and future workforce.

We’ve chosen these projects because they have the potential to have a huge impact on the PEMD engineering sector and ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce fit for the future.

Further information

Full list of funded projects

Virtual manufacturing based power electronics design and manufacturing training courses

The aim of this project is to develop and deliver industry driven and compatible innovative courses and training programs to meet the needs of the UK power electronics industry and PEMD community.

It uses virtual power electronics device technology, design and manufacturing based on Synopsys technology computer aided design and design-technology co-optimisation tools in lectures and laboratories.

The course will tackle the lack of semiconductors trained staff in the UK and will enable the growth of the UK power electronics industry.

Organisations involved:

  • Semiwise Limited
  • National Microelectronics Institute
  • Synopsys

Scalable delivery of applied PEMD training (SD-APT)

SD-APT brings together a diverse collaboration of organisations with an established track record in PEMD and large-scale skills intervention to create training bootcamps designed to meet the sector’s skills gap challenge at scale.

Along with training content tailored for industry, the consortia will establish a mobile laboratory asset designed to support learners develop applied skills in the discipline.

The project aims to scale the UK’s talent pool in PEMD to enhance its international competitiveness by:

  • transitioning large volumes of experienced technicians and engineering staff
  • preparing a new generation of career ready PEMD graduates
  • helping to engage a new pipeline of talent for the future

The programme will have a strong focus on tackling equality, diversity and inclusion challenges through the creation of inclusive training content suitable for diverse learners.

Organisations involved:

  • Coventry University
  • Advanced Electric Machines Limited
  • Drive System Design Limited
  • FEV UK Limited
  • FluxSys Limited
  • GE Energy Power Conversion UK Limited
  • North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College
  • Resume Foundation
  • ZF Automotive UK Limited

Warwick electrification deployment (WELD)

WELD will use the University of Warwick’s expertise in the field of PEMD to support 4 delivery strands:

  • one-day industry workshops
  • outreach in schools
  • enhancing academic PEMD teaching provision
  • design of an IP-free eMachine, with active parts manufacture, assembly and testing on campus for hands-on learning

A portfolio of educational activities will leverage unique, open-access facilities to provide innovative hands-on training. This training will upskill the existing workforce and support the pipeline of future talent, helping UK businesses to develop and scale new PEMD technologies and manufacturing processes.

Organisation involved:

  • University of Warwick

Institute of electrification and sustainable advanced manufacturing (IESAM): building talent for growth of North East PEMD supply chain

The formation of the IESAM to lead development of flexible, high-quality PEMD training. This will foster industrial innovation by plugging the chronic skills gap across every training level and align the North East Institute of Technology and major higher or further education college providers across the region. This comprehensive, coherent PEMD skills development will provide flexible, modular, blended programme design.

IESAM will be a blueprint for national expansion, through a multi-regional focused upscaling. The proposed flexible delivery approach, enhanced by digital or online content, will be informed by industry and research, and aligned to the National Electrification Skills Framework and appropriate qualifications.

Organisation involved:

  • Newcastle University

Practical power electronics, machines and drives for all

Development of an innovative multidisciplinary practical training resource that provides relevant PEMD practical design exercises supported by dedicated laboratory activities, facilitating both hands-on and remote practical training.

It will feature bespoke, benchtop-sized, remotely accessible machine-and-drive sets, as well as an equipment loan scheme for further education colleges and higher education institutions.

The project aims to liberate access to practical PEMD skills training at a national level and beyond, across multiple educational levels. We envisage that this project will greatly contribute to bridging the skills gap currently existing in UK’s PEMD industry.

Organisations involved:

  • The University of Sheffield
  • Matrix TSL

High voltage PEMD training portal

Creation of a training portal to enable PEMD engineers to design safe, reliable and power dense high voltage electrical systems. The new training system will support engineers in safely extending product capability beyond what is catered for within existing standards as we move to bus voltages of 800V and beyond.

Through the use of a subscription based, online portal, engineers will have real time access to training and design tools when they need it. This is different from traditional classes, where knowledge is often forgotten by the time it’s needed.

Organisation involved:

  • aerospaceHV

Development of comprehensive and interactive training programme for thermal design of electric motors

The project will deliver a first-of-its-kind comprehensive thermal engineering education tool, targeted at electric motor developers and teaching institutions.

The need for specialist thermal engineering skills is increasing, and currently, the demand for this skill outstrips supply. This project addresses the talent shortage in 2 ways:

  • provide engaging, hands-on training to engineers in the workforce, equipping them with knowledge and tools for performing thermal analysis
  • improve the quality of thermal engineering education at teaching institutions for the next generation of engineers entering the workforce

Organisations involved:

  • Electrical Cooling Solutions Ltd
  • The University of Nottingham

ProtoEV 4 Skills

ProtoEV 4 Skills is a free-to-play immersive gaming app developed by The Blair Project and Fuzzy Logic to make electric vehicle (EV) skills training child’s play. Players aged 11 to 19 compete or collaborate to convert virtual petrol go karts into the fastest, most energy efficient and stylish virtual e-karts.

The app uses AR, virtual reality and gamification to teach vehicle design, EV propulsion and invention skills in a ‘hands on’ way. With global scale up potential, the app extends the reach of The Blair Project’s physical ProtoEV STEM Challenge. It engages a larger, more diverse pool of future innovators, providing links to EV career opportunities.

Organisations involved:

  • The Blair Project Ltd
  • Fuzzy Logic Ltd

High-reliability electronics for robust operation (HERO)

HERO is a project to provide unique training for engineers working, or aspiring to work, in the development of electrical and electronic systems for high reliability applications, including aerospace and automotive.

The cutting-edge teaching materials developed to support this learning will be designed specifically to ensure that the UK maintains its leading position in:

  • the electrification of aircraft
  • the development of high-performance electrical systems

Organisation involved:

  • Nascent Semiconductor Limited

Toward building skills and awareness in embedded digital control of power electronic systems

This project aims to set a curriculum framework in collaboration with the industry that can reduce the knowledge and skills gaps in digital embedded control in power electronics. The project will enable academia and industry to collaborate in the development of learning contents in emerging industries at level 6, 7 and 8 to address industry skills needs.

Organisations involved:

  • Teesside University
  • Sheffield Hallam University

Power electronics packaging training and upskilling 2

The project builds on a power electronics packaging training course previously funded by:

  • adapting and completing the intermediate and advanced level modules
  • establishing access to practical hands-on training facilities
  • creating viable accreditation for schools, colleges or universities training courses and personnel involved in the design manufacture testing of power electronics modules

Organisation involved:

  • International Microelectronics Assembly and Packaging Society: UK Chapter
    (IMAPS UK)

Accelerating the adoption and benefits of nodel-based control in PEMD Applications

Control algorithms are what operates many systems, and many applications work well with relatively basic control. However, for complex, multi-faceted systems, like an EV vehicle, advanced control offers significant benefits, such as greater range or extended battery life.

It does that by having control actions that maximise regenerative braking or minimise the rate at which the battery is charged or discharged during driving. Advanced control strategies have been used widely in other industries but are rare in automotive or general electrical machinery applications. This project will develop training materials that will help UK PEMD companies adopt advanced controllers.

Organisation involved:

  • Industrial Systems and Control Limited

Building training and awareness platform for future engineers in power electronics market

Creating a platform to increase awareness among students at Queen Mary University, London about the growing skills shortage in the UK. The platform will also encourage them into pursuing their careers in the power electronics sector.

The project will fill gaps in the UK’s workforce talent and training capabilities in power electronics and related PEMD areas.

This project will create and deliver industry-compatible technical course contents and materials and vocational training that will support skills, talent and training across the power electronics manufacturing and supply chains sectors across the UK. This will inspire early stages undergraduate students of the extensive and growing career opportunities in power electronics within several sectors within the UK PEMD industry.

Organisation involved:

  • Queen Mary University of London

EV at Bridgwater & Taunton College (BTC)

The aim of BTC’s project is to support its staff in offering electric and hybrid vehicle repair training to students on their automotive apprenticeships and programmes. They are combining this with an outreach programme dedicated to encouraging more young people, young women in particular, into the area of PEMD skills. The project aims to reach and train 150 people each year by 2025.

BTC’s rollout of this programme could be a trailblazer in the approach to addressing the EV skills shortage. And they will work closely with other training providers to share best practices and improve outcomes.

Organisation involved:

  • Bridgwater and Taunton College

Industrial Cadets PEMD pathway: Midlands and UK wide

The Engineering Development Trust is developing a structure of targeted schools engagement to increase awareness of PEMD. The trust will also attract talent into the sector, as a major part of the mission to tackle the skills shortage.

It will take students through the different Industrial Cadets awards from one-day PEMD Workshops to large groups through to intense mentoring programmes and PEMD apprenticeships.

Organisation involved:

  • The Engineering Development Trust

Lotus Technical Training Centre (LTTC) PEMD

The development and implementation of an high voltage system and PEMD training rig at the LTTC, and a course developed to use the rig for upskilling industry colleagues.

LTTC has been set up to develop and deliver EV related training for Lotus’ staff and the broader industry, who are facing similar challenges.

The PEMD rig will enable significantly improved training delivery through:

  • hands-on learning, in which the PEMD components can be seen inside the broader system they operate within
  • the interactions between system sections can be explored

Organisation involved:

  • Lotus Cars Limited

Top image:  Credit: SolStock, E+, Getty Images

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