Case study – Burton College Hydrogen qualifications

How Burton College and City & Guilds are helping to build a greener future 

Burton college image

With consumers and governments both looking for lower emission transport solutions, the automotive industry is under pressure to find answers to the carbon question. One emerging option for eco-conscious businesses and individuals is hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), also known as hydrogen cars. 

There are currently only two models of hydrogen car available in the UK, the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo SUV but manufacturers don’t expect this to stay the case for long. Oliver Zipse, CEO of BMW, who are currently testing their own hydrogen car, was quoted by The Guardian as saying, “Hydrogen is the missing piece in the jigsaw when it comes to emission-free mobility.” And referencing the current prevalence of battery powered cars in comparison that “One technology on its own will not be enough to enable climate-neutral mobility worldwide.” 

Burton college imageIf hydrogen-powered transport is set to meet or overtake battery-powered then as well as investment in research and development from leading players in the industry there will need to be widespread commitment to creating a sufficiently skilled talent pool for businesses to draw on. There are still significant skills gaps facing the automotive sector and for the green transition to succeed employers, providers and industry leaders must find ways to produce and deliver training that supports both experienced professionals and those at the start of their careers.

Developing the skills needed to meet hydrogen fuel cell demand

When it comes to training and upskilling, awarding organisations and training providers have a responsibility to put meeting the needs of learners and their current or potential employers at the centre of any skills development project. For City & Guilds’ work in the green skills space this has involved the creation of a number of qualifications that have been designed to help colleges and training providers prepare learners to be part of the push to reach net zero and sustainability goals. 

These qualifications are then delivered by colleges and training providers who select options that suit their learners, local business and community needs, existing curriculum and their own green or sustainability targets and goals. One qualification recently developed with these targets in mind is the City & Guilds Level 3 Award in Knowledge of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles and Components (7290-53). Designed to teach the skills and knowledge that will empower learners to work safely and efficiently on FCEVs and their components and in line with the National Occupational Standards set by industry experts, it is approved for learners aged 16 and over and is one of many Automotive Maintenance and Repair qualifications available for centres from City & Guilds. 

Hydrogen is the missing piece in the jigsaw when it comes to emission-free mobility.

- The Guardian.


Planning a more sustainable curriculum

For training providers and colleges looking to keep up with demand from businesses and governments, it’s important to build green skills into their training offering at every level. At Burton College the decision to offer more sustainability focused training was based on multiple key factors including aligning with Local Skills Improvement Plans and preparing learners for career progression as Lisa Taylor, Strategic Development Fund Manager at Burton College explained “Sustainability is one of our strategic goals and funding from the Department for Education played a big part as did the Skills Development Fund project which involved employers looking at their skill gaps to give us some direction. Working with employers has really fuelled us to embrace new technologies to educate young people into the workplace.” 

Burton college imageLearners who complete these qualifications gain an understanding of the regulations and safety requirements around new vehicles and technologies that sets them up for success in their careers. With learners who complete the Level 1 to 3 courses able to progress onto apprenticeships and then into full time careers in the automotive industry, the Motor Vehicle department at Burton College is seeing the value of these green skills to employers who increasingly expect their teams to have knowledge of the latest cutting-edge technologies.

With positive feedback and outcomes around the green qualifications already on the curriculum and an important relationship with locally based Toyota Manufacturing UK, adding a hydrogen fuel cell qualification to its offering was an easy decision for the college. Jon Wright, an Apprentice Trainer for Motor Vehicle, added “It’s vital that we deliver training that helps our local area. Toyota is a leading manufacturer of Hydrogen vehicles, and we work closely with them to support our manufacturing apprentices so the relationship with Toyota has been a significant factor in our decision.” 

Choosing City & Guilds qualifications

When it came to venturing into the green vehicle space with electric and hydrogen vehicle qualifications, working with City & Guilds was the obvious choice for Burton College. Jon Wright commented. “As a college we have a long-standing relationship with City & Guilds within the Motor Vehicle department and across the college. The motor vehicle department has used City and Guilds for some time now, moving more recently to the 7290 qualification suite (Automotive Maintenance and Repair).” 

The team also highlighted both the support that the college receives from City & Guilds and the recognition that the brand name carries in the industry as key considerations. “I am qualified from the 90s with City & Guilds, everyone recognises the name.” Jon explained while also referencing the strength of the City & Guilds customer support. “Paul Tunnicliffe as a Tech Advisor has been excellent, he is on hand and responsive to needs, particularly in the new World of qualifications. We also have our Business Manager Jon Price who supports across the wider college with reforms and support with current qualification delivery.”


Delivering hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle training

Burton college Toyota imageThanks to the college’s work with Toyota, the Motor Vehicle department is in possession of a Toyota Mirai and two hydrogen tanks which can be used for demonstrations. This is something that provides a critical advantage to staff delivering training and learners looking to gain valuable practical knowledge. Jon explained the difference this access makes “We have confidence to explain what the hydrogen cars are actually like to drive and work on rather than referring to a brochure. Filling up is so different to regular fuel that emergency services will require training. Having a vehicle onsite helps with secondary school engagement, open days, green direction and to educate future students and apprentices. It has opened doors to people who want to learn.”

By imparting practical as well as theoretical knowledge throughout the course, Burton College is able to help learners to develop skills that car manufacturers need. For young learners in the local area where Toyota is a significant employer, having direct understanding of the technology that they would be working on now and in the future is a valuable difference maker when looking to progress in their career. 


Maintaining commitment to a greener future

Burton college Toyota imageFor Burton College this new qualification is just one part of a push towards a more sustainable offering. The college is currently preparing for the opening of a new Green Centre for its learners in the Motor Vehicle department with staff upskilling already underway. This is in addition to a wider sustainability hub which will include solar power, energy heat source, electric vehicle and hydrogen vehicle qualifications. 

This active approach also extends to involvement in improving the skills development landscape in the area. Lisa Taylor commented “Our CEO, Dawn Ward CBE DL and principal John Beaty sit on all the boards and local enterprise partnership panels and steering groups in the regions and are massive influences. We have excellent and pro-active leadership and partnerships and we’re always giving our input to organisations to meet the needs of the future.”  

Find out more about the courses on offer at Burton College

Learn about City & Guilds Hydrogen Automotive qualification