students in County Tyrone will be among the first in the UK to train on a hydrogen fuel engine rig.

The first institution of higher learning to implement the technology in its automotive programmes is South West College in Omagh.

It comes at a time when fresh research has revealed a skills gap for emerging technologies required for the shift to a zero-carbon economy.

A low-emission fuel like hydrogen has the potential to lessen the carbon footprint of industries like transportation.

In order to be ready for students starting classes in September, college staff have been receiving training on the rig.

James Brady

“This is a very exciting development for South West College and for training in Northern Ireland to allow our students to experience technology that isn’t even readily available on the road.

“This is a technology that all the main manufacturers are moving towards.”

Pat O’Hanlon, the head of automotive and electrical at South West College, said it was a natural step for the college after investing in hybrid and electric training blocks.

“We see this as the future. For example, in Germany they’ve a hundred hydrogen fuelling stations, Holland they’ve 20 or 30, Belgium 20 or 30.

“So hydrogen infrastructure will come here eventually. It’s only a matter of time before students will have to learn about it.

“These cars are already in production.”

Pat O'Hanlon

Additional hydrogen courses are being developed by the examining bodies and have already been offered at several further education colleges.

One of the eight industries reviewed in the Department for the Economy report by Energy & Utility Skills is transportation.

It was determined that there would need to be alternate routes to certification in all areas in addition to higher education.

It also recommended that adults of all academic backgrounds be given targeted promotion of training and employment possibilities in green industries.

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