North East Scotland College has joined forces with national partners to launch a new project designed to inspire apprentices across Scotland to develop innovative low carbon solutions to issues faced by industry.

The Fuel Change initiative invites apprentices to tackle carbon challenges set by representatives from a range of industries. Alexander Dennis Limited, BAM Nuttall, Scottish Power Energy Networks, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) and Spirit Aerosystems are the first five companies to sign-up.

The aim is to create practical solutions which can not only be implemented by the partner companies but potentially be implemented across the world in the effort to combat climate change.

Challenges will be focused around barriers to a low carbon economy or opportunities to create a product or service which could develop a low carbon market offering.

Apprentices will bring a unique practical perspective to solutions, different to many other innovation challenges before, and expert insight into the operations and processes of an organisation and how their ideas could be applied in the real world.

The initiative is being funded by the Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland and is being widely backed by Scottish Colleges with four hub colleges driving participation and encouraging their partner employers and apprentices to get involved. NESCol is joined by Forth Valley College, Fife College and Ayrshire College.

Up to 40 teams of between four and eight apprentices, either from an individual employer or comprising of individuals from different employers, are expected to participate from all over the country and from a wide range of sectors and industries.

The challenge will take place over a series of three to four week sprints and will culminate in a national showcase, which is expected to take place in February.

Sprint one launched this week and teams have been asked to explore all the challenges before deciding which they want to take forward. There will also be an opportunity for a second cohort of teams to participate in sprint one from September 21.

Sprint two will then take place in November and will be an opportunity for teams to develop their concepts and present their ideas. Sprint three will take place from mid-January and will involve the partner employers working with teams to help them refine their ideas and get them ready for the national showcase.

That gala event will be attended by the partner organisations, where they will consider each submission and select all those which they feel could be taken through to the implementation phase.

The aim is not to find a sole winner but to take forward all ideas worthy of implementation. Prizes will be awarded to successful teams.

Neil Cowie, principal of NESCol, said: “Energy transition and the drive for a low carbon future are both central to North East Scotland College’s ambitions. As the region’s College we have an important role in providing the education, training and reskilling that will support the North East in developing the green economy.

“Fostering a spirit of innovation in low carbon technology is something we’re passionate about and Fuel Change is a fantastic project for encouraging fresh thinking and collaboration with industry partners. We look forward to supporting our apprentices to develop their concepts and to joining teams from throughout Scotland for what is a unique approach to tackling issues that are fundamental to the country’s prosperity.”

Gordon McGuinness, director of Industry and Enterprise Networks at Skills Development Scotland, said: “Both the drive for a greener economy and work-based learning are at the forefront of economic recovery plans. Apprentices bring fresh ideas, creativity and initiative to thousands of businesses across Scotland day-in and day-out, and will bring the same qualities to this initiative.”

Karen Watt, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “I’m delighted we are jointly funding this initiative with our partners Skills Development Scotland. This is an imaginative initiative that meets an important national objective for climate change. The response from both apprentices and industry has been fantastic and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the challenge develops.”

Further information can be found at www.fuelchange.co.uk . Apprentices, employers and companies interested in taking part should contact jruncie@nescol.ac.uk